Tony Sanchez, BC Baseball Seek To Step It Up

The ACC is perennially one of the strongest conferences in the nation, and BC's limited baseball facilities – including the much-maligned Shea Field – make for a difficult road to success. But under the leadership of third-year manager Mik Aoki, the baseball program has grown quietly but steadily, with the goal of building a roster that can compete in the ACC.

Of all the BC teams to make the jump to the ACC four years ago, the baseball team faced perhaps the most unique challenge.

The ACC is perennially one of the strongest conferences in the nation, and BC's limited baseball facilities – including the much-maligned Shea Field – make for a difficult road to success. But under the leadership of third-year manager Mik Aoki, the baseball program has grown quietly but steadily, with the goal of building a roster that can compete in the ACC.

Junior catcher Tony Sanchez, who was named to the preseason watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award, given annually to the nation's best collegiate baseball player, discussed the 2009 Eagles as they prepare to kick off their season this weekend with a 4-game series at Stetson University in Deland, Florida.

JG: What's the mindset of the team heading into the new season?

TS: We've got an all new team. We're young, we're excited. Everyone's confident. Our goal is to make the top 8 in the ACC and make it to the conference tournament for the first time, and we think we can do that.

JG: You're a veteran on this team, and you've been able to see for yourself how the program has transitioned to the ACC. What are some of the things you've noticed?

TS: It's mostly the way we work. Our mindset in the gym and in the bubble over the winter has completely changed as we've gotten acclimated to the ACC. We've gotten more ACC-quality ballplayers – actually, this year is our first roster of entirely ACC players. It makes a big difference.

JG: Who are some freshmen to look out for?

Mike Dennhardt [Oradell, N.J.] is going to be an impact guy in the rotation. We expect him to go out there and compete for us right away.

Brad Zapenas [an infielder from Nashua, NH] is another guy; he's going to have a chance be in the lineup right away. As long as he works hard at the plate and earns his spot, he's a guy who can really help us out. [Anthony] Melchionda is another guy who might crack the lineup too.

All of our freshmen are true ACC caliber baseball players and we expect them all to make an impact on our team.

JG: Last year, your team's strength was definitely the lineup; do you feel like you have the same offensive power you did last year?

TS: Absolutely – the lineup is going to be a lot stronger, I think. That's one problem our coaches are going to have, but it's a good problem – we have a lot of guys who are good enough to get into the lineup, and they might have to work guys in and out.

Our rotation is looking pretty good, and with our offense we know we can give them run support.

JG: What are some of the things that the team emphasized during off-season workouts?

TS: Mainly our bullpen – they need to come in and throw strikes. As a team, we worked a lot on cutting down on strikeouts, which we didn't do a good enough job of last year. Also, the [pitchers and catchers] have done a lot of work on controlling the opponents' running game.

Overall we also put a heavy emphasis on conditioning. It's a long season.

JG: How excited are you guys to leave behind the cold and snow and head to Florida for a while? And how do the matchups look for you… aside from the Red Sox game, of course [laughter]…

TS: Everyone's really looking forward to the warm weather. We go down there for the weekend, then come back for Monday, then head back down. It's going to be really nice to get into the warm weather and start playing again.

The Red Sox game is always a blast. Everyone gets so nervous playing against them, but it's a lot of fun – it's just really incredible to play against those guys.

The rest of the games, they're good early measuring sticks. At the end of the trip [March 6-8] we have our first ACC series at Florida State. FSU will be a good series to tell us how we match up in the conference.

JG: The stadium situation at BC has been talked about a lot ever since the university purchased the Brighton Campus land, but it's evident now that there won't be a new stadium for some time. As a team, do you discuss the facilities issue often, or is this something you just try to put aside?

TS: We all realize that we're probably not going to see a stadium during our time, other than maybe the younger guys. Me and some of the other upperclassmen will be donating to the new stadium construction, it'll be after we're gone.

But I can tell you that I have no regrets at all. I love it here. I love the coaches and my teammates, and it's a great school. I've gotten great opportunities here that I wouldn't have gotten elsewhere, and I wouldn't give that up regardless of the stadium.

We have some good facilities [in the bubble and in Yawkey] to train in and prepare for the season. And even though we won't see a stadium, we might at least see the groundbreaking before I graduate… maybe. [laughs]

JG: What are the long-term goals of the program?

TS: We want to make an impact on the ACC with all of the young talent we're bringing in. We want to be able to compete, and get up to the middle of the pack, so we can compete with the best. We want to be able to get NCAA regional bids. Once you get into regionals, anything can happen.

Obviously it all starts with being more competitive in the conference and making the ACC tournament.

JG: Do you have any personal goals? Do you think about your long-term future?

TS: I just want to play well, and have the team play well. If we're doing well as a team, we're probably all doing well individually… then, my own stuff will take care of itself.

The BC baseball team opens the 2009 season on Friday night at 7 PM in the first of a four game series at Stetson. The Eagles play the Red Sox on Monday before playing nine additional NCAA games in Florida over spring break. BC's home opener is not until March 27, when the Eagles will take on Clemson at Shea Field.

Eagle Insider Top Stories