DP-How many years have you been in coaching? What got you into the business?
This is my 8th year overall and 5th year at The Citadel. I got into coaching because I couldn't picture myself being away from the game. Coaching was the natural choice when playing was no longer an option.
DP-What is the most rewarding thing about being a baseball coach?
Seeing the sense of accomplishment that players feel when they are rewarded for all of their hard work, both on the field and in the classroom, is very rewarding.
DP-What does the term "coach" mean to you?
At the college level a "coach" is much more than a teacher of the game. A coach is also a friend, academic advisor, role model, motivator...a guardian to all the players whose parents have put their trust in you to look out for their son's well-being while he is away from home.
DP-What is something you wish everyone knew about your profession?
If for no other reason than just so I don't have to answer the question so often, coaching is a full-time profession...all year long. We have to work just as hard, if not harder, during the parts of the year when we aren't playing as we do in the spring when we are in the middle of our schedule. There is always something that needs to be done, whether it's recruiting, scheduling, practicing, ordering equipment, checking up on players' academics, fundraising, etc.
DP-We all know there is very little money in getting started in coaching at the college level yet the time involved is mind-boggling, why did you do it?
Like I mentioned earlier, I just couldn't see myself without baseball in my life every day. There is nothing in the world quite like the feeling of being part of a team with a common goal in mind. Quite honestly, when you've never made any money in the first place you don't realize how little you are making so it's not a big deal starting out. I felt very fortunate to be given my first coaching opportunity by Mike McGuire, who has become a very good friend of mine, at Lander University and his generosity in paying me through camps gave me more than enough to pay the rent and put food on the table...and I even had enough left over to make sure I had the MLB Extra Innings package every year. Haha.
DP-Describe your coaching experience at The Citadel, from how it began to some of your highlights while there.
I have had so many great experiences here at The Citadel and developed so many close relationships. I was lucky to be given an opportunity to become the volunteer here by Coach Jordan in August 2005 and then a full-time position in the summer of 2008. There have been so many great moments during that time, from multiple wins against opponents ranked in the Top 5 in the country to some great runs in the Southern Conference tournament to seeing many former Bulldogs play professional baseball, but the highlights to me have been getting to know the incredible people that have come through this program and getting to be a part of The Citadel family.
DP-You chose a military school to coach at. What is the benefit of obtaining a degree from a military school?
There are many benefits of a degree from The Citadel. This degree carries an incredible amount of weight in the "real world." It will open many doors for you and present you with many opportunities. It's up to you to take advantage of those opportunities but they will be there for our graduates. Many of our players have very good jobs waiting on them when they finish.
DP: How do you balance the time demands of coaching and a personal life?
Well, truth be told, I haven't really had to figure this one out yet. I just got engaged about two months ago, and luckily for me, my fiancée, Sara, is a college volleyball coach so she understands what goes in to the profession. Up until this point I have never had to balance the two. Check back later and I'm sure Sara will let you know how I'm doing.
DP-When you hear the expression "old school baseball", what does that phrase mean to you?
Old-school baseball is usually winning baseball. To me, it is putting the importance of your team's success far ahead of the importance of your line in the box score. It is finding a way to compete and win on a day when things aren't going your way. As a team, can you find a way to score when you can't seem to buy a hit? Can you keep a team off the scoreboard when you don't have your best stuff on the mound? That's what sets the men apart from the boys.
DP-What is the definition of a "student-athlete"?
A "student-athlete" is someone who has a desire to put in the work that it takes to excel in both academics and athletics. There is enough time in the day to accomplish both. The best "student-athlete" is the one who can manage his time in a way that he doesn't have to sacrifice either. If you prepare yourself you should never have to give up something on one side to achieve something else on the other.
DP-What MLB feat in history do you wish you'd been inside the stadium to witness and why?
I have to pick two here, one that is very well-known and another that is not. I am a huge New York Mets fan as anyone that knows me is well aware of. The first moment is Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when the Mets were down to their final out before staging one of the most miraculous comebacks in World Series history concluding with Bill Buckner's error on Mookie Wilson's groundball up the first base line. The second was on September 21, 2001 in the first game in New York after the 9/11 attacks. The Braves were visiting the Mets at Shea Stadium and leading by one in the 8th inning when Mike Piazza came to the plate and blasted a go-ahead 2-run home run to centerfield. The home run was so symbolic of the spirit showed by the citizens of NYC in overcoming possibly our nation's greatest tragedy. It's just one of the many instances where sports become so much more than just a game.
DP-What is your most memorable experience as a baseball coach?
My most memorable experience as a coach came on March 1, 2008. We were hosting Louisville, who was coming off an appearance in the College World Series, and that day we were honoring the "Charleston 9", the firefighters who passed away fighting a fire the previous summer. The impact of this tragedy was felt throughout our ballclub because not only did we know some of these men but one of our players, Trey Thomas, was the son of the City of Charleston Fire Chief. I knew our players wanted to win this one for the Thomas Family and for the families of those brave men. We won the game in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 10th inning, 1-0, but you can't tell me that we didn't have a little help that day. In a game dominated by remarkable pitching performances by Justin Marks of Louisville and Matt Crim of The Citadel, no one could produce anything offensively. With two outs in the top of the 6th, Chris Dominguez, one of the most feared power hitters in the country, drove a pitch deep into right-center that we were all sure was gone. It seemed to get to the warning track then hit a wall and come straight down into the glove of our rightfielder Sonny Meade. I have to believe there were nine firefighters up there that day pushing that ball back into the field of play.
DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a baseball coach and why?
I have learned so much from so many great coaches starting with my high school coach Paul Lombardo to my college coach Rusty Stroupe to some of the great coaches I have worked with including Fred Jordan, Mike McGuire, David Beckley, Chris Lemonis, Stuart Lake, Chris Cook, and Bob Fenn. I try to take something from every one of them because they are all great at what they do.
DP-Who are the best three players you have ever coached against?
The first one is easy, Justin Smoak-South Carolina. I'll use my other two to recognize two hitters I felt were two of the toughest outs I've seen that maybe didn't get the same recognition being from mid-major programs, Jacob Dempsey-Winthrop and Chris Campbell-CofC.
DP-What does it mean to be a good teammate and is that important?
A good teammate is someone who puts team goals ahead of personal accomplishments. It is very important that everyone has that mindset because you can put as many guys as you want in a boat but if they are all rowing in a different direction you aren't going to get very far.
DP-What do you see as the biggest difference in high school-aged players today versus when you played?
There are so many more players today that choose to focus on one sport and work at it all year long. There are very few two and three-sport athletes anymore.
DP-What is your greatest high school thrill?
Scoring 8 runs with two outs in the last inning to defeat Silver Creek 8-7 in a game we had to win to reach the playoffs.
DP-What is your greatest thrill, or two, beyond high school?
Reaching #9 ranking during my junior year at Lander University and setting school record with 33 wins and 18 conference wins.
DP-Who were the three best players you played against?
Brad Bouras-Columbus State, Matt Incinelli-University of North Florida, Grant Reynolds-Kennesaw State
DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a person and why?
Definitely my dad. I have learned so much from him in my lifetime. He has overcome so much and sacrificed so much for his kids. If I can be half the man that he is, I will do alright. He has taught me most of what I know including the game of baseball.
DP-Who is you favorite athlete outside of baseball?
DP-Who is your favorite MLB pitcher and position player and why?
Position player-David Wright. I just love the way he plays the game like it's supposed to be played.
Pitcher-Johan Santana. He is the ace of my favorite team so he wins by default but I love watching him make guys look ridiculous on change-ups that they know are coming.
DP-What is your favorite sport to play other than baseball?
DP-What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball?
DP-What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoying competing in about anything, basketball, golf....you name it.
DP-What is your favorite movie?
The Natural, Bull Durham, Major League to name a few
DP-Who is your favorite actor? Actress?
Tom Cruise or Kevin Costner and Kate Hudson
DP-What is your favorite meal?
DP-What is something people don't know about you?
I took a chance and walked-on at a school where I had no guarantees.
DP-If you could have dinner with three people in history, who would they be and why?
Mike Krzyzewski, John Wooden, and my dad, because they are three people who I really respect and can learn a great deal from. They have made the commitment to do things the "right-way" and have achieved success that way.
DP-Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully being the best man I can be for a family of my own. I try not to look that far ahead because I don't want to lose focus on the present.
DP-What is your opinion on the new rules that the NCAA recently adopted in regards to roster limitations, the APR and the 25% scholarship rule?
I like the roster limitation rules and APR because I feel that it holds coaches and programs accountable in the recruiting process. You can no longer offer a boatload of kids "books" and then pick and choose which kids you want to keep around once they get there. I think the 25% rule is overkill. If you limit a roster and how many kids can receive scholarship money then let the coaches decide how they want to break it up.
DP-Tell us something about The Citadel and the baseball program there:
We have a very proud baseball tradition at The Citadel. We are the only military school to ever participate in the College World Series in Omaha. We have won an awful lot of Southern Conference championships and many of our players have received an opportunity to play professional baseball, including 6 from this past season. We get tremendous support from our school, our alumni and our fans and it allows us to have things that we are very thankful for. We have facilities that are second to none. Our players travel and eat like kings on the road. They are provided with top of the line equipment from Louisville Slugger. In other words, we are fortunate to be able to provide a first-class atmosphere for our players so that they can have a great experience.
DP-Why should kids consider coming to play at The Citadel?
The Citadel is a place that teaches you the importance of preparation, organization, and leadership. These skills lead to success in everything that you do and that includes baseball. When you combine the prestige of our degree with what we can offer from a baseball standpoint, it is a combination that's tough to beat. When you attend The Citadel you will know that you will realize your potential both academically and athletically.
DP-Give a high school player who is reading this article one piece of advice.
You are going to come across an awful lot of people who want to tell you all the reasons why you will never realize your dreams. The only regret you'll ever have is if you listen to them and give up the pursuit.
DP-Thanks Coach, great responses! Best of luck to your club in 2010!