Sept. 17, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech Baseball.
The thought of it just warms the heart and gets fans thinking of spring, sunny days and comfortable nights at the Rusty C. It also harbors dreams of winning and building off last season’s ACC Championship.
The first steps on the road to turning dreams of another conference title into reality were taken Monday afternoon, as the Yellow Jackets began fall practice. Over the next 45 days or so (counting Monday), the Jackets will hold 27 practices, leading up to the annual White and Gold World Series, which will be held in late October.
Even though a flash rain interrupted the first practice, head coach Danny Hall was still in sky-high spirits afterward as he took a few minutes to chat with Sting Daily.
STING DAILY: How would you assess the first day of Fall Practice?
COACH HALL: Everything went well. The weather got us a little bit but we got most of the things in that we would have liked to have done. It’s just good to see everybody out there. Particularly some of those guys that were hurt last year, it’s good to have them back out there and healthy.
[Junior pitchers Matt] Grimes and [DeAndre] Smelter were probably the two of them. I know both of those guys threw bullpens today and they’ve been throwing bullpens and seem to be very healthy. [Junior left-hander] Devin Stanton, obviously is going to take a little longer because he had surgery. But to see Grimes out there throwing again and seeing DeAndre throwing again, that’s great.
STING: Didn’t Smelter played some outfield in the summer?
HALL: He did play some outfield. I think he’s only going to pitch this year. It’s kind of his decision. He really wants to try to concentrate on the pitching and get back to where he was. So right now, in the Fall, he’s just going to pitch for us.
HALL: No question about it. You’ve got two guys that are seniors, one’s a great pitcher and one’s a great player. So to get those two guys back really, in my mind, makes our team very strong.
STING: What do you look to accomplish during these practices?
HALL: You really want to integrate your freshmen into your program. So you do a lot of teaching and a lot of integration with those guys into things that we’re trying to teach. You kind of want to see how they compare to upperclassmen that are coming back. We’ll spend a lot of time kind of switching some guys into different positions or making them play multiple positions in intersquad games so it gives us more depth. If we somehow hit a deal like we did last year, where guys get hurt, it just helps us prepare for the unexpected. See where the upperclassmen are, see how our freshmen fit in and then do some teaching. Try to make the individuals better but also do things to make our team better.
STING: This is Assistant Coach Jason Howell’s first official practices as pitching coach. What are your expectations for him in these practices?
HALL: I think teach his system. We hired him because he is a good pitching coach and has great knowledge. He has to use the fall to teach everything that he believes in to our pitchers. Part of it is he has to get familiar with our pitchers. He’s had those guys going for a good three weeks already, so he’s getting to know them, they’re certainly getting to know him. I’ve been very impressed with his organization, his knowledge, his teachability, everything that I had hoped for. He’s hit the ground running.
STING: Who are some other guys that built off good summers that you’re eager to see?
HALL: I think [sophomore outfielder/1B] Charles Sheffield is certainly a better player, [sophomore catcher] AJ Murray is a better player. I think [junior right-hander] Dusty Isaacs really improved a lot this summer. That’s just a few of the guys. I think I probably can say that about almost all of them. They just seem better than they were when they left us.
One of [junior centerfielder] Kyle Wren’s big goals in the off-season was to get a lot stronger. He’s gained 12 to 15 pounds. He is a lot stronger and seems to be running just as good as he ran prior to gaining some weight. So, from that standpoint, even though he didn’t play this summer I fully expect the strength gains that he has made are going to help him.
STING: Following last year’s ACC Championship, have you noticed the team has higher expectations?
HALL: I think my team’s expectations are a lot higher. I think that they proved to themselves down the stretch that they’re definitely capable of playing at a high level. The fact that we got Buck Farmer back and got Brandon Thomas back just increases everybody’s anticipation of us having the opportunity to have a big year. So I think their goals are going to be very high. Even prior to today, just watching some of the individual workouts and things of that nature, everybody’s working very hard. I think they’re very focused on getting better and working hard every day to get better.