June 19, 2011
Compiled by Matt Winkeljohn
It took a while, but as I wrote a couple weeks ago that I would, I finally got a chance to sit a spell with baseball coach Danny Hall to ask some of the questions you, the readers, sent in after the season.
Matter of fact, I’m holding a few questions to run in a part II of this since I appended some of coach Hall’s questions with questions of my own that piggy-backed the topic some fans had in mind.
Read along. Part II will probably run here later this week or early next.
Question: Did you ever consider moving Kyle Wren out of the leadoff spot down the stretch when he appeared to struggle?
– Larry Fulghum
Danny Hall: We thought about it. But at the end of the day, I still thought he was our best option to lead off. He did struggle down the stretch. Whether it was fatigue, or just one of those deals where he had a hard time getting a hit . . . I do think there were times when he hit the ball hard for outs. In baseball, if you can get two or three of those to go somewhere, you’re really not struggling.
Matt Winkeljohn: Correct my if I’m wrong, but Kyle led off every game, right? If that’s the case, wouldn’t moving him in the lineup just in time for the NCAA regional run the risk of upsetting the apple cart so to speak?
Danny Hall: We did lead him off every game all year. The flip side of that is any time you take a guy who led the ACC in hits and you move him somewhere else in the order, what does that do to his mental makeup, and your team’s mental makeup when you have done this the whole year and been successful with it? All of a sudden, you make a change, you worry about how that affects not only Kyle but your team mentally. I think definitely it would affect a freshman more than it would some older guys.
Question: Do you hold freshmen less accountable than juniors and seniors?
— Andrew Fenton
Danny Hall: I think we hold everybody accountable in our program, including me. We hold them accountable for everything they do whether it’s their schoolwork, or how they prepare, how they practice, how they play. Do we make a freshman less accountable than a senior? I don’t think so.
I think when it comes to playing time, if a freshman is close to an upper classman and they’re competing for the same job, maybe they get more opportunities to fail because you [as a coach] haven’t seen them play as much and you think maybe with more opportunities the better [a freshman is] going to get. An older guy, maybe you think he’s pretty much where he’s going to be.
Question: Is there a way to get a team to peak at the end of the season?
— David New
Danny Hall: That’s the million dollar question right there. I haven’t found a way to peak at the perfect time. I’ll use last year’s team as an example of one I felt could really do some damage in the postseason, and we win the first two games in the regional and then lose twice to Alabama. I thought we had that team peaked at the right time. We were healthy, and still didn’t win. I don’t think there’s any magic formula.
Matt Winkeljohn: I’ve long been of the belief that a team’s collective psyche is more important that whether everybody is healthy, or on a hot streak, etc. Am I onto something, or nuts?
Danny Hall: One of the better teams that we’ve had, in 2006, the team that went to the College World Series… we were beat up [in the postseason]. Jeff Kindall was hurt, Wes Hodges was hurt, Mike Trapani was hurt, but that team more than any other team just had a will to win. That’s probably what you hope you have when you go into postseason play, a mentality that we are not going to lose; I don’t care who we’re playing, we’re going to win.
That’s easy to say, and I think as a coach you know when you have that group of guys who have that mentality but that’s not an easy thing to achieve. I think ultimately, that’s what you’re looking for. You want talent, but you’re really looking for the mindset.
I think no doubt about it. When you look at a Jeff Kindall, Mike Trapani, [Matt] Wieters was on that team. Wally Crancer I thought was a senior that had that mentality. There were a lot of guys, older guys, who had that mentality. They had been close a few times, and they were not going to lose.
I’ll be honest, the first team I had, they had been close, and they had a lot of talent – three first-round draft choices. Finally, my first year they won the regional, advanced to the World Series, and played for the championship.
I think that team, because of their failures and the fact they were all juniors and seniors, they had the mentality that we’re good enough to win and we’re going to win.
It was razor-thin with pitching; our top three or four were pretty good, but we had nobody after that. We had great position players, particularly up the middle when you can stack a [catcher] Jason Varitek, [shortstop Nomar] Garciaparra and [center fielder] Jay Payton. And they had some great college baseball players on the perimeter of those guys. It was the mindset of Varitek, Garciaparra and Payton that we were not going to lose.