Q&A With Assistant Head Coach Mike Rooney
Dec. 10, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Assistant head baseball coach Mike Rooney answered several questions about the 2004 Arizona State Baseball team in a Q&A format. Rooney is in his sixth year as an assistant at ASU and his first as the assistant head coach under head coach Pat Murphy.
The Sun Devils are quickly approaching the opening of the 2004 season with a three-game series against perennial national power Florida State (Feb. 6-8). ASU is coming off an impressive 54-14 season in 2003, falling one game short of a 19th trip to Omaha and the College World Series.
While returning only two pitchers from last year's squad, preseason All-Americans and national player of the year candidates Jeff Larish and Dustin Pedroia highlight what is promised to be another exciting year of Sun Devil Baseball.
With a young team, what players are you expecting to step up as leaders:
'Obviously, Dustin Pedroia, Jeff Larish, Travis Buck and Tuffy Gosewisch are the leaders of this team. The younger players look up to them and they just have that ability to lead on the field and in the clubhouse. Pedro, Larish and Buck are three great position players who have achieved a lot and are great players.'
How will the youth of 2004 squad (22 newcomers) be a factor:
'I think you will see some real inconsistencies early, hopefully you won't, but that is what you get when you have a young team. My thought is that we may be inconsistent early, but in the end the team will be hungry and have a lot of heart. I think there will be more comeback wins than in years past because they are going to be in that position.'
Talk about the newcomers:
'Forget the rankings, we are really excited about who showed up. We are really excited that we were able to pull in such top players and such great young men. They are true Sun Devils and that is what is going to push this program towards excellence.'
Talk about the tough schedule early in the season:
'I think it will be great to face such a tough early schedule, because win or lose you really build confidence. To be on the field and compete with the likes of Florida State and Rice, it really builds confidence. A great thing will be that the newcomers will realize that it is OK to be nervous to play Florida State, but it is not OK to play nervous. You are going to be nervous, but you still have to compete. You can't play teams of that caliber and only play six good innings. You have to play all nine innings and that will be a valuable lesson for our younger players.'
Talk about looking back at last season and what is left to prove in 2004:
'We had a great season last year, no question about it. But if you were to talk to any of our returning players, they would look you straight in the eye and let you know that it was not a good season because of the way it ended. They were right back on the field a couple of days later after that loss to Fullerton ready for this year. They definitely have a huge chip on their shoulder and they have a lot of unfinished business to take care of on the field. It is a great motivating factor.'
What are the goals of this team:
'One of the great things that we were able to learn from fall practices is that the kids aren't sitting around talking about going to Omaha or any individual goals. They are really intent on solidifying the team and the program and competing everyday. There are a lot of motivating factors that drive this team and they have the mindset that they will not be denied.'
Have the younger players learned what it takes to play Sun Devil Baseball:
'One of the neatest things that happened is that the younger players had a little meeting and talked about what it meant to them to be a Sun Devil. Every one of them said that playing for ASU and being a Sun Devil means that you play hard every time you step on that field and you take your game to a new level as far as competitiveness goes. Some of our older players learned from guys like Willie Bloomquist and Brooks Conrad, and now it is Dustin Pedroia, Travis Buck and Jeff Larish teaching the younger players. More than anything right now, our team has an aggressive attitude to play to bury your opponent and to fear no one.'
What younger players will be a factor on the field:
'Pitching wise, Jeff Mousser, Jason Urquidez, Zechry Zinicola and Pat Bresnehan will have to play a big role. Guys like Ladd Hall, Ty Marotz and some younger pitchers will also have to step up. We have a lot of youth on the mound, but also a lot of talent.'
'There are a bunch of position players that came away from fall practice proving that they will be a factor. Joe Persichina will be a solid infielder and Colin Curtis is as talented as they come in center field. A couple of junior college guys, Chris Cook at first base and Josh Asanovich at second base also have a real shot at being big contributors this season. We also have a lot of role players that will be put into games in crucial situations and we are confident they will win us games.'
What style of play will this team exemplify:
'It is a true Sun Devil style of baseball. Lots of heart and lots of guts. This team really has a chip on their shoulder entering the season and has some great leaders. Our goal every season is to play for the national championship and this year is no exception. I think we truly expect to be playing for the national championship when it is all said and done. Players like Pedroia, Buck and Larish won't have it any other way.'
Talk about the catching position:
'Tuffy Gosewisch enters the season as our starter behind the plate. He has really come into his own at the plate and has one of those work ethics that you can't teach. He has improved greatly behind the plate and does a great job handling our pitching staff. He is a key component to this team. If there is a better backup catcher in the country than Joel Bocchi, I would be shocked. He has really made great strides in the last year and by no means is he just a backup. He will win us some very important games and will be a factor as a designated hitter, catcher and even an infielder. He had a great fall practice and has really improved each year in the program. We also have a real talented freshman in Brian Walker. He is a big, physical catcher who has great arm strength and power from the left side of the plate. He has really bought into the system and is constantly learning from Gosewisch and Bocchi.'
Talk about the infield:
'Our infield is centered around the shortstop with Dustin Pedroia. There is not a better college baseball player in the country in terms of what he bring to the field every day. The double play combination pairs Pedroia and junior college transfer Josh Asanovich. Asanovich really has a chance to surprise some people and is very talented.'
'The corner infield positions are really interchangeable with a corps group of players. Joe Persichina can play either third or second and also can play the outfield. Junior Frank Mesa can play all four infield positions and will be on the field every day. Then you have Chris Cook and Nick Cadena at first base, both are power hitters and both are great competitors. Senior Nick Walsh is also a proven player that will be in the mix and is just a great clutch player. There are a lot of options for our infield and that will benefit this team. It could be a different player stepping up each day.'
Talk about Frank Mesa:
'Someone is going to have to go up and grab Frank Mesa for him to not be in the lineup every day. He really benefited from coming in last year after only one year at a junior college and quietly had a great year. He had a tremendous offseason in the weight room and has got a lot stronger. He is still quiet off the field, but has gotten more vocal on the field and will lead by example. He has been really committed and has a chance to be a heck of player.'
Talk about the first base position with Jeff Larish moving to the outfield:
'There are a lot of options with the players that we have on the field, and Chris Cook, Frank Mesa and Nick Cadena are all in the mix at first base. Cook and Cadena provide a lot of power and will be very important to help protect Larish in the lineup.'
Who will be the designated hitter:
'The designated hitter position will be a melting pot of who is not on the field that day. We have so many options with some real talented offensive players. Joel Bocchi, Nick Walsh, Nick Cadena, Zechry Zinicola, Joe Persichina... you name it and you will see them there this year. A key to this team is going to be how each player excepts their role and then flourishes within that role.'
Describe what type of player Dustin Pedroia is:
'He is a complete player. He's added some strength. He is just one of those kids that is the best player on the field at all times. He has tremendous confidence and every player on the field likes their chances of winning because Dustin Pedroia is out there. He is one of those players that won't be denied. One of his best qualities is that he is really aggressive and has great swagger.'
Talk about the transition from the infield to left field for Jeff Larish:
'The transition has been great. Jeff is a true baseball player and student of the game, so it was an easy transition for him. He gives us a lot of offense in the outfield and also opens up a lot of possibilities with the depth we have in the infield. He has added some strength and is just a complete player.'
How does the rest of the outfield shape up:
'Colin Curtis is as talented as they come and right now is penciled in to start in center field. Travis Buck is coming off a great freshman seasons and really added some strength in the weight room during the off-season and is really going to turn some heads this year. We have a lot of athleticism in the outfield.'
'We also have a lot of players that can push for some playing time. Ryan McKenna is a guy that has been in the program for three years and is solid in the field and at the plate. Taylor Holiday is a utility player that can play anywhere and is very comfortable in the outfield. We also have a freshman named Eric Williams that really brings a youthful approach to the game with great speed and instincts. We have a lot of guys that can play multiple positions and that will help give Murph a lot of options.'
Talk about Erik Averill:
'Erik Averill has gotten a lot stronger after last season and really brings a lot of confidence out to the mound each game. He is a true competitor that learned a lot from his freshman season and is hungry to go a progress into an even better pitcher. He doesn't throw 95, but he knows how to get batters out'
Talk about transfer pitcher Jeff Mousser:
'Jeff is a veteran pitcher who knows how to pitch at the division I level and is a great competitor. We expect Jeff to be a winning pitcher and to stay in games and win games late. He is going to be a work-horse for us and is really going to a guy that will have to come into his own in 2004.'
Talk about the progression of Brett Bordes into a starting pitcher:
'Bordes is a guy with electric stuff. If there is one pitcher that our team doesn't want to face, it is Brett Bordes. He had a great fall attacking the strike zone and really worked on being aggressive. He is a guy that is still coming into his own and is still learning how to pitch. He is a great competitor and never backs down from anyone. He is still trying to figure out how good he is.'
What about the bullpen:
'We lost a lot of our top pitchers from last year and we are really going to have to count on some inexperienced pitchers this year. We have a lot of talent though within that inexperience and are very excited about the possibilities of this pitching staff. Guys like Jason Urquidez and Pat Bresnehan are really exciting young pitchers that have the potential to dominate. We also have some situational pitchers that can come out of the bullpen and help this team win some games. Guys like Ty Marotz, Pat Cassa, Josh Blake, Quentin Andes and Travis Webb all have really bright futures.'
How would you rate the schedule for 2004:
'From top to bottom, it is a really packed schedule. We are excited to be taking on some of the best teams in the nation and look forward to the challenge. Every one of our teams from past years that had a tough schedule has flourished. It brings out the best in you. We feel like out team isn't going to back down from anyone and a tough schedule is going to bring out the best in our players.'