Archive for the 'Baseball Coach Interviews' Category

What To Ask Coaches?

In January & February I hope to interview a number of Northern Sun Conference coaches to ask them about the upcoming 2010 college baseball season along with topics regarding the state of NCAA Division 2 baseball.

The comments section at this blog have never been more active.  I’ve already started a list of questions that I want to ask but I’m giving readers a chance to chime in as well.  So, with that in mind, what questions do you have that you think would be interesting and informative to ask the coaches?

NCAA Division 2 College Baseball Season Just 2 Months Away

NCAA Baseball Logo

The weather is starting to get much more winter like in the upper Midwest but in reality that signals the onset of another season of NCAA Division 2 College Baseball.  For teams in the Northern Sun Conference the first games start February 4th when Concordia, Minnesota Duluth and Southwest Minnesota State all play at the Metrodome.  The official start date of NCAA Division 2 College Baseball this year is once again February 2nd.

In fact, while there’s a lull in activity around the Christmas break, teams will be starting up their practice sessions in just a little over a month as most of the players will be cutting their holiday break short to head back to campus for the official start of the practice season on January 10th:

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Upcoming Features:

Between now and the start of the season the Northern Sun Baseball Blog will be gearing up in the following ways –

  • Team Previews – Throughout December and January you will see me go into some depth on each of the contending teams in the Northern Sun Conference (not sure I’ll do them all).  My plan is to especially focus on interesting statistical factors from the 2009 season and discuss which key players are no longer on each team and how that might impact their success going into 2010.  Look for the kickoff article on Augustana in the coming week.
  • Coach Interviews – In January & February I’m hoping to hold live phone interviews with Northern Sun’s head coaches to discuss the upcoming 2010 season and broader questions about the state of Division 2 college baseball.  This will hopefully provide a better set of responses than our first set of e-mail interviews produced last February.  We’ll see how many coaches can make time for this but I know a number of them are following the blog so hopefully they can spare 15 minutes for this new segment.
  • Predictions – Right around the first anniversary of this blog (February 1st) I will issue my prognostications for the upcoming season.  Of course, that said, I did predict that Minnesota State would win the Conference last year and while they did well, I’m 0-1 in picking the top team.
  • NCAA D2 College Baseball Happenings – While my focus remains on the Northern Sun Conference I will certainly report on topics of interest all around Division 2 College Baseball.
  • New Design? – One thing I’m also considering is a new look and feel for the blog using a different WordPress template with a wider format.  Same great content – new bold look?

As is usual, I’m certainly open to feedback and suggestions from readers on content or questions they’d like to see on this blog.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Pat Dolan

stcloudstate_logo

This is my 9th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Entering his 2nd season as coach of the St. Cloud State Huskies is head coach, Pat Dolan.  Dolan finished his inaugural season with a 27-23-1 record which was the most wins at St. Cloud since 1999 and good for a 3rd place finish in the now defunct North Central Conference.  He came to St. Cloud after spending 7 seasons at Dakota State where he took over a team that had become a perennial loser and built a team that was ranked in the NAIA polls for 5 consecutive seasons.  By 2003 he turned around a 1 win team to a 33 win team that advanced to the NAIA Regional Tournament for the first time ever.  Dolan’s roots are in Central Minnesota as well as he was a 10-time letter winner at Cold Spring – Rocori High School.  Pat Dolan Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

Our biggest area of weakness last year was giving up big innings.  In the majority of our wins we didn’t give up crooked number innings.  I guess this is standard in baseball, but for us to continue to improve we are going to have to limit these big innings by not giving teams more than three outs to work with.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

Our coaching staff thought long and hard about redshirting our freshmen position players and decided to go that route to keep them all in the same graduating class.  Freshmen pitcher Logan Birr should be right in the mix of things.  We expect all of our transfers to fill in for the holes we lost last year to graduation.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

I think this varies from year to year depending on needs, but ideally we would like to continue to bring in around 75% high school student athletes and the rest transfers.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Only being back in Minnesota one year and this being our first year in the NSIC that is a tough question.  With that being said I remember going to the Husky vs. Mankato games as a high school player. Skip Lorsung and Coach Bowyer had some great games.  They obviously have a great program with great coaches.  Without anything even said to our players last year you could just sense a different energy level when we played them, which I think makes for a great rivalry.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

There really is too many people that have been such a positive influence on my coaching career to single anyone out.  I’ve been truly blessed to be coached by great coaches in high school and college and coach along with many others at the college level.  Our current staff at SCSU with Coach Pratt, Kampsen, MacLean and Picha really keep my energy level high.  They are all high motor guys that have loyalty towards the program, a great work ethic and caring attitude towards all of our players.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Pat Dolan for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – John Manganaro

Wayne State1

This is my 8th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

John Manganaro has been head coach of the Wayne State Wildcats for the past 17 seasons.  He has a lifetime record of 461-294-1 but even more impressive is his Northern Sun Conference (NSIC) record.  The Wildcats joined the NSIC in 1999 and since that time Manganaro’s team has a .774 winning percentage against conference opponents, has won 5 regular season titles, 5 NSIC Tournament titles and have made it to the NCAA Tournament 6 of the past 8 years.  In 2008, his team was 40-13 marking the 3rd time the Wildcats have amassed 40+ wins.  Pitching has been the hallmark of Wayne State’s success as 7 of the past 9 NSIC Pitchers of the Year have been Wildcats.  Coach Manganaro’s team has once again been picked to finish first in the preseason NSIC coaches poll.  John Manganaro Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

Defense and Baserunning

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

Catcher : John Plasha  Infielders: Brandon Polk, Eric Bond, Jake Ritzdorf  Pitchers:  Josh Voth, Austen Wisroth, Trenton Lee, Eric Schwieger, Matt Meier John Bothwell

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

We like to have our squad made up of 75% high school recruits and the other 25% JC Transfers 

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Every team on our schedule is our rival … my personal rival is my buddy; Coach Kyle Poock 🙂 from somewhere in MN

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

The guy who hired me to be his assistant .. Lenny Klaver, Lenny made it clear, ” the only way to be successful is to try to do and teach the right things all the time”  and all of my current and former assistants coaches and players. 

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank John Manganaro for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Kyle Poock

Winona State

This is my 7th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Kyle Poock is entering his 7th season as head coach for the Winona State Warriors, where he also served as assistant coach for 9 seasons prior to that.  He has guided the Warriors to 5 straight winning seasons as well as 5 consecutive appearances in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) postseason tournament.  He was named the Northern Sun Coach of the Year for his efforts in 2004 and helped lead Winona State to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007.  He will try to make it 6 straight winning seasons in 2009 as his squad is picked to finish 4th in the NSIC preseason coaches poll.  His team kicks off their season this weekend by traveling to Warrensburg, MO for games against #26 ranked Nebraska – Omaha and #18 ranked Central Missouri.  Kyle Poock Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

We do not usually look to improve on last year’s team.  Our focus is to become the best team possible this year determined by the talent and strengths of this year’s squad. 

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

We have several red-shirt freshman pitchers, John Wenker and Kodey Simon, who we expect to pick up significant innings for us.  Also two true freshman, Zack Rickaway and Tony Mueller,  should get playing time as well.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

At WSU we like the high school athlete as someone we can work with throughout their college career both athletically and academically. 

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Wayne State and Coach John Manganaro.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

My biggest influence on my coaching career has been my Dad followed closely by Legendary Coach Gary Grob who I was fortunate to play for and replace as the coach here at WSU.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Kyle Poock for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Paul Blanchard

SW MN State

This is my 6th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

One of the most successful coaches of not only the Northern Sun Conference but of Division 2 as a whole is Southwest Minnesota State’s Paul Blanchard.  Entering his 13th season as head coach of the Mustangs, Blanchard has had only 1 non-winning season.  He is the winningest coach in school history and has led them to 1 regular season conference championship and 3 post-season tournament championships.  As a player he competed for Creighton University for 2 years before transferring to the University of Minnesota where he played both football and baseball – a modern day Eric Decker.  He has also participated in helping develop players for USA Baseball.  Paul Blanchard Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

Pitching is the area we need to improve on the most.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

Matt Bauer, Jr.,  (3B-DH);  Doug Mead, FR. OF; Tyler Paulson, Jr., RHP.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

We recruit mostly High School players. We will recruit J.C. players if we have an immediate need.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

I would say our biggest rival is Wayne State.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

The biggest influence on my career has been my father and mother. The other has been Rob Fornasiere (Asst. at the University of Minnesota)

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Paul Blanchard for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Tim Huber

Augie Logo

This is my 5th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Augustana College features a new, first year head coach in Tim Huber.  Huber came to the Vikings after completing 4 seasons as head coach of Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) in Rosemount, MN where his teams improved every year.  The year before his arrival, DCTC had finished 5-30.  In his first season, Tim lead the team to a 19-20-1 record and by his last season they were 1 game away from advancing to the Community College World Series with a 31-16 record.  He also has strong ties to the Northern Sun Conference having been an Assistant Coach at Southwest Minnesota State from 2003-04 and having played his collegiate baseball career with Minnesota State.  During his career as an outfielder for the Mavericks (1997-2001) he was named All-Conference twice and helped the team to 4 conference titles.  Tim Huber Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

My first year its so tough to say but overall our pitchers need to walk less guys and give us a chance.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

None

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

At Augustana we have a very high academic profile.  Quite often junior college players have a difficult time with grades (if I can generalize).  So quite often the best type of fit for us will be high school students with a good academic status.  With that being said I was a head coach at a junior college for 4 years and have developed some connections at that level, so I am sure we will bring in a junior college player or two each year to help with immediate needs at certain positions.  Bottom line is we want players with talent who can help us win at a high level who are also looking for a great academic experience.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

At this point none.  I’m sure one or two will develop.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

There is not one single person who has influenced the way I coach and my career.  There are several people who have been big factors and who I owe a ton of gratitude to.  First is Barry Wohler, my high school FB coach, who showed me what it was like to have passion for coaching and how to get the most out of your players.  Second was Dean Bowyer, my college coach at Mankato State.  I learned so many things about the game of baseball from “7”.  Like Coach Bowyer, I hate to lose and work very hard to make sure my teams are successful.  Yet respecting teammates, other players, coaches, and the game; having good character, playing hard, and developing relationships that last a lifetime are just a few things I learned that are even more important.  Probably the most important thing I learned from “7” was how to teach and coach in the fall and winter and then when the spring season starts, let the players play the game.  In my short time with Matt Parrington at Macalester I was lucky enough to be able to really teach and help players develop.  Parr helped me understand some important organizational aspects as well.  The last person who influenced my coaching career was Paul Blanchard at Southwest MN State.  Coach Blanchard is a “baseball guy” through and through.  From him I learned a lot about teaching the finer points of the game.  How to make sure your team was prepared for every situation that could come up.  I also learned from Blanch what it was like to work hard and commit countless hours to scouting and recruiting.  To these men I am eternally grateful for helping me get into the great profession of a college baseball coach.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Tim Huber for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

College Baseball Miscellaneous

Stepping Into Box

Later today I’ll be publishing the Northern Sun Players of the Week as well as the 5th in my series of interviews with Northern Sun Conference head coaches.  For the time being, I would point you to the following items of interest –

  • Ping!Baseball normally publishes their Division 2 National Rankings on Monday but delayed it a day with the President’s Day holiday.  Their rankings are quite different than the ones from College Baseball News CBN Feb 16 rankings.  Southern Arkansas is atop the Ping rankings followed by Ouachita Baptist and Central Missouri.  Lynn, who was ranked #1 in the CBN poll, is ranked #5 by Ping.  Mesa State, a team we have interest in watching, is ranked #5 by CBN but #16 by Ping and there are no teams in the Northern Sun Conference that make Ping’s Top 30 – Ping!Baseball – Top 30
  • As a part of our series with Northern Sun head coaches we got to hear from Minnesota State coach Matt Magers yesterday – Matt Magers Interview.  Today the Mankato Free Press newspaper came out with their season preview article on the Mavericks which focuses on senior second baseman Jay Bresnahan, one of the leaders on a team that is expected to compete for a conference title – Bresnahan Poised To Lead Mavericks
  • Finally, the college baseball Division 1 season is about to kick off and Rivals has published their pre-season All-American team.  For those that are interested in following players that have a good chance to be drafted high and have the potential to have an impact in Major League Baseball someday, these would be names to keep an eye on – Division 1 Preseason All-American Team

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Matt Magers

Minnesota State

This is my 4th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Matt Magers is entering his first year as head coach of the Minnesota State Mavericks.  He had been the pitching coach for the team since 2001 and was named Associate Head Coach by previous coach, Dean Bowyer, in 2007.  Similar to my previous interview with Mark Gulseth (Northern State), Magers comes from a distinguished career on the diamond as he was named All-Conference 3 times while playing for South Dakota State as a pitcher, was drafted by the Cubs in the 16th round of the 1997 MLB draft and played 2+ seasons in the Cubs minor league system.  Matt Magers Bio  The team has also posted an in depth Q&A with the new coach on their website –  Q&A with Matt Magers

I caught up with Matt just after he came off a strenuous teaching session of the Bowling class he teaches at Minnesota State –

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

We’re looking to become more consistent this year. Last year we started the season 0-6 and still were able to finish 28-25 along with making an NCAA Regional appearance. We only lost 3 seniors from last years team and have 8 this year so I would look for the seniors to lead this team since they have the experience and have been through the big games before. 

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

We expect transfers junior left-handed pitcher Josh Castanza, Hillsborough CC, junior right-handed pitcher Brett Fratzke, College of the Sequoias , and junior outfielder Mark Moriarty, Cerro Cosso CC, to give us depth throughout the season. We also look for freshman right-handed pitcher/third baseman Ben Kincaid, Eau Claire WI, right-handed pitcher Blake Schwartz, Rosemount MN, and second basemen Lucas Skjefte, Eden Prairie MN, to contribute right away.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

Recruiting both a high school and transfer player has its pro’s and con’s. It’s appealing to have a player for 4 years that you can develop however certain years we look to pick up a transfer where a hole was left due to graduation or injury. I don’t think you can solely rely on having all of one or the other, it needs to be a good mix.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

I would consider St. Cloud State to be our biggest rival. We have played them since we were both members of the NCC and have had some good battles together. We are excited to join the Northern Sun Conference as the majority of these teams we have played in the past and have rivalries established already .

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

Growing up I was fortunate to have been surrounded by many good people both on and off the field. From little league and high school ball in Gaylord, to college ball at South Dakota State University, I picked up techniques and philosophies that drove me to where I am today.  Playing professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs humbled me and gave me an opportunity to understand the business aspect of baseball. Former Maverick Head Coach Dean Bowyer has most impacted my baseball coaching career. Being around him the last nine years has been a priceless experience both on and off the field.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Matt Magers for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Mark Gulseth

northern state

This is my 3rd entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Mark Gulseth is entering his 2nd season as head coach of the Northern State University baseball team.  In his first season he led the Wolves to a 15-28 record which was just the 3rd time in the past 10 years that NSU has cracked the 15 win barrier.  He comes from a strong track record of coaching at the amateur level and an impressive career as a baseball player himself.  He was a 1993 NCAA All-American for the University of New Mexico, a 19th round draft pick in the MLB draft and spent 7 years in the San Francisco Giants minor league system.

The loss of 2008 NSIC Player of the Year, Adam Kampsen, will certainly be felt by the Wolves are picked to finish 12th in the conference for 2009.  They are off to a 1-3 start for the season.  Mark Gulseth Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

We really need to improve as a pitching staff, specifically throwing more strikes, walking and hitting less batters.  We also need to improve defensively if we are going to win games in the conference.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

We have a young team with a lot of new faces.  Freshman Michael Gardner will make in an impact for us on the mound.  Dillon Talley will add speed to our outfield.  Kai Alexander will add quickness and is a slick fielding infielder.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

We go after the kids that will have a chance to help us immediately, sometimes that is a high school kid and sometimes it is a junior college transfer.  We get both.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Our biggest rival will probably be Augustana because of their proximity to us.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

My athletic director Bob Olson has helped me tremendously in my first 2 years as a college coach.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Mark Gulseth for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Chris Vito

Golden Eagles

This is my 2nd entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference. 

Entering his first year as head coach of the University of Minnesota – Crookston Golden Eagles is Chris Vito.  Coach Vito previously served as an assistant coach at Mesabi Range Community & Technical school – Chris Vito Bio

Coaching at Crookston is certainly a challenging endeavor.  In 2006 the team finished 0-29.  In 2007 they finished 0-39 with a team ERA over 17 and a team batting average of .161.  In 2008 there was some signs of improvement as they were 3-36 with a team ERA at 11 and batting average of .245.  One of Vito’s biggest challenges is going to be getting enough quality players to compete with the larger, better established, better funded programs.  His 2009 squad is made up of almost 50% new players to the program and is off to a 0-4 start to the season.

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

I look for us to make our biggest improvement in the area of being competitive…I think that we are more talented and athletic than we were a year ago…hopefully, this will result in us being in every game…in our first four games, I have already seen improvements in the areas of pitching and defense.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

Newcomers that will make an impact include Teddy Gutman (Jr, IF, Burlington, Iowa – Transfer from Southwestern Community College), Devin Croal (Fr, IF, Coon Rapids, Minn.), Casey Woodside (Fr, C, Albert Lea, Minn.), Steve Schroer (Fr, RHP, Coon Rapids, Minn.), P.J. Zwach (Fr, 3B/C, St. Paul, Minn.), Andrew Gunderson (Fr, RHP, Oakdale, Minn.), Kyle Kovnesky (Fr, LHP, Coleman, Wis.) and Paul Myers (Fr, RHP, Arden Hills, Minn.). We have five other freshmen that I feel will be solid contributors in the future. They are Mitch Daly (Fr, 1B, Donnelly, Minn.), Erik Nockleby (Fr, IF/OF, Roseville, Minn.), Mitch Thompson (Fr, IF/OF, Amery, Wis.), Chase Boen (Fr, OF, Karlstad, Minn.) and Ben Lazzari (Fr, RHP, Shakopee, Minn.).

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

My philosophy with recruiting is that I like to bring in mainly freshman as opposed to junior college transfers. That said though, I still look at junior college transfers to fill an immediate need as well as to provide leadership to a young team.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

I do not know if we have developed a strong rivalry with anyone as of yet…if I had to say anyone, it would probably be Bemidji State…they are right down the road from us…they are a very solid and well coached program that we enjoy playing.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

I have taken my philosophy from many different coaches…whether it was high school or college coaches, I learn from everyone I come in contact with…Bob Kochevar, the long time head coach at Eveleth-Gilbert High School (MN) was and still is a major guiding influence for me…he not only taught me the ins and outs of the game…but more importantly how to treat the kids and how to run a program with class and integrity.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Chris Vito for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Mark McKenzie

Concordia

This past weekend I sent out a short questionnaire to the coaches of the Northern Sun Conference.  My intent was to introduce this blog to each coach as well as get some content that might be of interest to readers.  I asked just a few questions as I hoped a shorter list of questions would lead to more responses. 

I received an almost immediate response from Mark McKenzie, the head coach of Concordia University in St. Paul.  Mark is entering his 10th season as coach of Concordia and became the Golden Bears’ all-time winningest baseball coach last year with a 191-136-1 record.  He also led them to their first ever appearance in the NCAA Baseball Tournament in 2008 and has his team off to a 5-1 start in 2009.  Finally, the list of assistant coaches he employs is quite likely the most impressive in the Conference.  Mark McKenzie Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

We look to improve in all areas of the game. We are looking for more consistency in all aspects of the game which will lead to overall improvement.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

SS Bryan Lippincott, 2B Chase Brown, OF Logan Bouts, RHP Ben Lemke, RHP Chris Peterson, C/IF Troy Dubay.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

We are looking for good people, students and players at all times regardless of age or background.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Our biggest rival is the team we are playing that day.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

Several people have influenced my coaching philosophy and my career. Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, Rod Carew & Jim Wiesner for sure and John Wilkens got me involved with USA Baseball 10 years ago and it basically changed my life and led to coaching becoming my full time job.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Mark McKenzie for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.


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