Feb. 5, 2013
HEAD COACH Rick Jones QUOTES FROM MEDIA DAY
"I appreciate everybody being here. This is my 20th season being here. I am really looking forward to this season as we always are, but certainly when we are returning the number of players we are from last year when we won 38 games. We have seven returning starters, position wise, and a vast majority of our pitching staff is returning. Again, nine seniors and two redshirt juniors, so that gives us a lot of experience, and the bulk of those guys are everyday players or have been consistent performers on the mound for two or three years now. That's a real positive for us. "
"Having said that, we are going to count on some real young guys that we are very excited about. It was not a huge recruiting class for us under Coach Jake Gautreau's first year as recruiting coordinator, but it is a talented group. The reason it was not as big of a class is because we have so many upper classman. Next year's class is going to be a huge class, and we are already underway with that, having signed 12 or 14 guys in the fall already. We are going to count on some (young) guys on the mound and at different positions throughout the season."
"Looking at some of our returning players, obviously Garrett Cannizaro coming back at third base is one of the more talented third basemen in the country, if not the most talented. Brennan Middleton had a real good year both offensively and defensively for us last year at shortstop. Bowen Woodson played a ton for us at second base last year, and he is a really fine defensive player. Sean Potkay at first base had a really good year for us offensively and defensively in his first year as a junior college transfer for us. Blake Crohan will be the incumbent behind the plate. He caught quite a bit for us and he put up good offensive numbers, but he can also play in the outfield, and he will do so quite a bit, along with Brandon Boudreaux who was a Preseason All-Conference player. Andrew Garner had an outstanding summer, and a great fall, and he is coming back in his junior year. Briggs Barrios has had a tremendous fall, and this is the first time - knock on wood - that he has really been healthy since he has been here, and it has reflected in his play during the fall and preseason."
"From a pitching standpoint, we return all of our staff, with the exception of D.J. Ponder, who had a great senior year for us last year with 12 saves and two wins. But, we return Kyle McKenzie, who has had a real great preseason for us. We return David Napoli, a Preseason All-Conference player. Andrew Reeves, who pitched on the weekends during the second half of the season, is back. Alex Byo got nine wins for us last year. Again, Andrew Garner had 21 appearances on the mound for us and he is back in that kind of role for us. Tyler Mapes had an outstanding fall and preseason. Randy LeBlanc is back. And then two pitchers who won't be 100% healthy for opening day, but we do expect to contribute quite a bit once they are healthy, are Alex Massey,- a sophomore who had a really good year for us last year and is close to getting healthy - and Alex Facundus - who has been a setup and closer for us who should be ready to go pretty soon after opening day."
"From an underclassman standpoint, we are really excited about three position players who will play a lot for us. Timothy Yandel out of Atlanta is a tremendous prospect, in my mind. He is a throwback to some of those players that we have had in the past that stood out. He can play in the infield, outfield, can catch if he has to, but he has been swinging the bat well and we expect him to be in our lineup. Richard Carthon, who is also a football player, is the fastest player we have had in our program for quite some time. He is playing catch up right now because he missed the fall. But, (Tulane football) coach (Curtis) Johnson is going to let him concentrate on baseball in the spring. We expect him to play a lot in the outfield and maybe hit in the leadoff spot. He may not hit there opening day, but we want to try to get him 50 to 60 at bats before the season opens. The more at bats he gets, the more he is coming around, and he is a great bunter. He can really run. The best catch-throw catcher we have had in the last 15 years is Cameron Burns. He is out of the same high school in Houston that produced (former Tulane catcher) Jeremy Schaffer. Cameron is really starting to come on with the bat, and he is really starting to come on behind the plate and he can really throw.
"The freshman arms that you are going to see right off the bat are Emerson Gibbs, who had the great career at Jesuit. We have been very careful with Emerson by minimizing his pitch count as much as we can. He is going to have a role at some point in time. What it would be, I can't define that yet. Daniel Rankin, a right hander out of Texas, features a fastball in the 90s with a really good breaking ball. I think he is going to have a real prominent career here. Ian Gibaut has a chance to be in the closer role for us. He features three good pitches, with a fastball in the low 90s and a changeup. He has mound presence. In the backend of the bullpen, I really believe that you have to have someone who can get an out at the plate, a strike thrower, and someone who has that mound presence, and I think Ian possesses that, but he has never played a college baseball game."
"We have two transfers that we are really excited about. One is Brady Wilson - a left handed pitcher who was 24-2 in two years at LSU-Eunice. He doesn't throw that hard, but he is really competitive, and obviously, you don't win all those games without the ability to throw strikes and make pitches, and we see him in a prominent role. The other is Tony Rizzotti - a high draft pick out of high school that went to TCU, had double knee surgery and did not play last year. He got healthy, and we had seen him out of high school. He got better and better this fall. He has a fastball in the low 90s with a slider, and if everything goes right, he `ll have a major role for us.
"So, we have some pitching depth and some experience. We have some depth, as far as positions are concerned. If you look last year, we led the conference in hitting. The bulk of that returns. We were 19th in hitting in the country last year. We led the conference in team defense last year, as well as 11th in the country. When you return your whole infield and two outfielders, you feel that should be a constant. We led the conference in slugging percentage and on-base percentage, so those are a factor in scoring runs. At the back end of that, we had the lowest ERA in 32 years at Tulane. We had a 3.38 ERA, which is the lowest of my tenure, and we've had some great arms. Coach (Chad) Sutter did a great job with the guys who are returning this year."
"From a scheduling standpoint, the RPI was what the NCAA Committee looked at more than anything else, so you are at the mercy of that and who you play. Our league was ranked as one of the top five leagues in the country, and it's hard not to play a good schedule in the middle of the week in the state of Louisiana. Again, you cannot control some things. But some you can. So what we are doing is going on the road more than we have in a long, long time. In the south, with the fan base we have, we need to generate revenue, which you don't do when you are on the road. And it's costly when you go on the road. But, the RPI dictates that we go on the road more, and we are going to. We are opening on the road in Texas at a tournament with three teams who are projected to be at the top of their leagues which should help us. We are going to ULL for the first time in a decade. We are going to Nicholls State. We are going to ULM. Obviously, we are going up the river, and we are going to Southeastern. I am thankful to our fan base that they know what we have to do to give ourselves the best opportunity come selection time."
"Shooter Hunt is back with us. He is assisting with the pitchers and outfielders, and we are really excited to have him back. I think he has a really bright future as a coach."
ON THE CLOSER ROLE...
"Gibaut has really stood out, and so has Andrew Reeves. Alex Facundus has been in that role quite a bit, but he isn't healthy yet, so that has set him back a bit. You never know how it is going to evolve. D.J. Ponder was not our closer at this time last year, so you never know. You could have someone like Tyler Mapes who could close. I think Brady Wilson is going to give us a lot of options as both a starter and reliever. We hope to have it defined by this weekend.
ON THE STARTING ROTATION...
"We have a lot of options. We are going to be playing five games a week more often, simply because we have more pitching depth. If we have five guys in that rotation, I would say Kyle McKenzie, Tony Rizzotti, David Napoli, Alex Byo and Tyler Mapes. Those guys have sort of stood out a little. Brady Wilson had a good fall too. He is a little behind though, because he tripped and strained his elbow, so we were cautious with him. He hasn't had as much mound time. "
ON WHEN THEY WILL PUT THE STARTING ROTATION TOGETHER ...
"We will have that squared away by this weekend. We have to look at it different for the first weekend because we aren't playing the same team all weekend. We are probably going to face three really good arms. We may look at matchups in that first weekend. We are just now getting the scouting report in."
ON THE POWER GAME ...
"Power numbers are not something that you will see a lot of from many clubs. We are returning seven starters and a lot of those guys put up really good offensive numbers. We also have those three freshman that I think will do well. I feel good about our club. I think we'll put up some great numbers."
ON THE LEADOFF SPOT ...
"Brennan has a chance to do well in a leadoff role because he can steal some bases. If we started the season today, he would be in that role. Eventually, if Richard Carthon continues to come on, he can be in that role. Brandon Boudreaux has done well there too, but we project him in the three hole."
ON Emerson Gibbs...
"He is going to benefit from the fact that we have so much pitching depth. There are many other years that if he were here, he would have a little more weight on his shoulders. Having said that, we didn't throw that until the latter part of the fall to protect him as much as we could because we can be. Emerson can command the strike zone as good as anyone can. He has a high level of rhythm and pace. That's while you will see he is able to hit his spots. He isn't going to knock the bat out of anyone's hand, but he will have a role for us. I coached Emerson's brother, Brian, and he had a tremendous senior season for us. But he worked into that role. Emerson is such a solid guy, and he understands where he is (coming from Jesuit). He will be competitive in whatever role we put him in."
ON THE PRESSURE THE ATHLETES WILL FEEL HAVING NOT MADE THE POSTSEASON ...
"After what happened last year, we have dealt with this so many different ways. When you have as many seniors as we have, there is no question that will be a positive for us. However, I know that we haven't been in the NCAA. There is some pressure and some expectations there. They want to be able to match or exceed our history. My job is to not reflect on the past, but to involve them as much as I can in the decisions that our important to our club."
"I meet with the seniors regularly because we have so many of them. Not only that, but we more solid citizens in the program than I've ever had. These parents have done a great job with these kids. In 38 years of doing this, I can see the difference. These kids have been through some adversity, but they are still solid citizens. One of the things I ran by them was having the (Baltimore) Ravens logo stay on our field to remind them that we are playing on the field where the Super Bowl Champions practiced. That was the their decision."
ON HAVING THE PASSION TO CONTINUE COACHING ...
"I would never, ever want to feel like I am taking advantage of this program. I worked 18 years to get this job. I've invested 19 years in it because I love this place, I love the kids I get to coach and I love New Orleans. The last thing I would ever want to do was feel like I was cheating it. I wear a loss the same way as I always have. I still get excited about practice, I still get excited about practice plans. If I didn't, you would be able to tell. I have talked to other coaches about knowing when it is time to stop, and they all say `you know when you know.' I don't have any of those feelings. Last year when we didn't get in still hasn't washed out of me, but you have you use it as a motivator. I am as invigorated as I ever have been. I can't wait to get started."
ON A TEAM SLOGAN ...
"The middle of the field in the middle of the country in the middle of June. That's what everyone aspires to."