Q&A with Jack Leggett

CLEMSON - Don Munson recently sat down with Clemson head baseball coach Jack Leggett to talk about fall baseball practice and expectations for next season.

Talk to me about fall so far and how it has been going.
Leggett: Well fall has been going pretty good. We started off a little slow because in the first week we are doing a lot of team work. We are working on fundamentals, trying to teach them about run downs, pick-offs, first and third situations, bunt defenses, cut-offs and relays, pop-up priorities, base running, bunt offense, first and third offense. There is just so much thrown at these young kids that it takes them a little while, they start thinking too much early but, they have come on strong they have been practicing real well the second week of practice. The first practice of this third week has been real good and I like what is ahead of us. We have a real strong infield, we have put together a couple of pieces in the outfield with Chalk on either side there and put together a catcher and put together our pitching staff after the fall and I think we will be in good shape.

Let's talk about the returning infield. You get everybody back and that has got to be a huge plus for you.
Leggett: Well it is. You got that experience factor where you go out in the first ball game and know that these guys have been in the trenches for three or four years. You got D'Allessio back and Harbin back and Widmann and Marquez Smith and that is a good feeling going into the spring. I am not sure that I have had it like that for a long period of time to have four guys in the infield coming back that have three to four years of college baseball experience under their belt. That is unusual. Then you have got a center fielder who is as good as anybody in the country in Brad Chalk. We have got some catchers who are competing back there. Doug Hogan I think has looked real good this fall. Alex Burg is coming along a little bit. Buddy Munroe, our incoming freshman who is going to be real good, has been hurt with a shoulder so we haven't been able to see him real much. Addison Johnson, a freshman, has had a little bit of a hamstring and is going to be a real good player for us. Will Boyd and DJ Mitchell are two players coming off last year that look strong too. Our pitching should be pretty well intact and we are trying to put the pieces of that together. With Moskos at the end of the ball game and then you have got Kopp and Zocchi, Hinson, Sean Clark if he comes back if everything works out, so we got some pieces of the puzzle with some young guys to make it work.

Everyone is wanting to know what the word is on Sean Clark. Has it been worked out or do you even know yet?
Leggett: Well there is nothing that is finalized. Sean has got a great job. He is in the financial business and is excited about it and doing very well with it. He has the opportunity to come back to school next semester and take twelve hours towards another undergraduate degree because he has already graduated, so if he can work it out with work and if we can all work it out together, then I think he would like to come back. But, it has not been finalized yet. It is not something that we are not definitely sure of and right now his first priority is keeping a job, doing well in it, making some money and getting set up after a couple years of college here where he has had to pay back a lot of loans. He had to pay a lot of money to come to school, so it is not like he has been sitting here on a full scholarship for two years and hasn't had anything to pay back. We have got to look after his welfare first and if it works out great, and if it doesn't it will be because Sean feels like the job is something that is too important for him right now and he just can't get beyond taking six months where you don't get all the work done that you need too.

Let's talk a little bit about the pitching staff. It was a focal point last year and there is some thought that you may have a better staff this year than you did last year and that may be a little scary.
Leggett: Well it always hurts a little bit when you lose a great pitcher like a Josh Cribb, a Stephen Faris, and a Jason Berken. Those guys are tough to replace but, I do see a higher level of maturity in David Kopp, Zocchi is going to be a year better, I see Ryan Hinson being a sophomore instead of a freshman and that makes a big difference experience wise, Moskos has had the experience of being on the USA team and pitching against some of the best competition in the world, and we have got some young freshman coming back and we have some other experienced pitchers coming back. I see us, we haven't put all the pieces together to be able to brag, but I think we could be as strong as we were last year but whether we can be better or not depends on the guys keeping to work hard and some guys to step up.

Last fall you fooled around with letting Brad Chalk do some pitching. DJ Mitchell did some pitching this summer that opened some eyes. Do you have plans for DJ maybe using him like you used Tony Sipp a couple of seasons ago?
Leggett: Yeah, I think DJ has got a chance to pitch for us. He has got a good arm and the ball moves a lot, but I have got to figure out what his best position is in the long run whether he is going to be a pitcher or an outfielder for someone. He certainly has improved a lot in his pitching aspect, but we are not moving Chalk on the mound any more. He is staying out in the outfield because we have enough left handed pitching. That was one of our concerns going into the season last year because we had Fidrych and Bond out with injuries and Alex Martin was an unknown and Hinson was a freshman, so that is why we experimented with Chalk last year. Now we have Hinson, Bond, Fidrych, Alex Martin, Matt Zoltak in as a freshman, so we have enough left handed pitching now to not have to worry about Brad Chalk pitching for us.

The batting order, I know you do not want to move Brad Chalk out of the two spot, so let's start at the beginning. What are you thinking about the one hole and going from there?
Leggett: I really like Chalk in the number two hole. I like Harbin in the three hole. I like D'Allessio in the four or five hole with Marquez Smith in the four or five hole. Stan Widmann is having a better year offensively in the fall, it looks like he is a lot better. We have got some strong guys. Doug Hogan is going to help us out, Alex Burg could hit six or seven in the line-up, Addison Johnson I think can lead off for us, Will Boyd could be a good seven hitter, he is a good left handed hitter, DJ Mitchell could even lead off for us. We have got some options I think. It is just a matter of us getting to the spring time and seeing who is hot and trying to piece everything together.

The ACC, once again, is going to be very tough from top to bottom.
Leggett: It is a good league. It is very similar to the way it is in football, basketball, and soccer. Last year I think at one time we had four teams in the ACC that were in the top five in the country with us, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Florida State. Then we had four teams in Omaha, half the field was from the ACC, so it is a very strong and tough conference. It is going to be similar to that again this year. I look at Florida State as being a team that is going to be improved from last year. Georgia Tech has got tremendous capability and talent. North Carolina again with great ability and talent, they lost some pitching but they have the Woodard kid who we saw in Omaha and some other good young arms. Wake Forest I think is going to be much improved as is Virginia who has some great athletes coming back with a great infield and the Doolittle kid on the mound, so they are going to be a team to be reckon with. NC State always plays us very tough. Virginia Tech has a new coach who coached Boston College last year and hence Boston College has a new coach and they have got those two closing guys at the end. I don't know, there is nothing easy in this conference. Maryland has maybe one of the best closers in the country. This is a very, very talented conference and it will be a great challenge for us.

Your expectations are to play for a national championship in Omaha. You know what the expectations of the fans are. What does it take for this team to get back to Omaha?
Leggett: We are going to have to have a catcher step up for us and play real solid behind the plate and handle our pitching staff. We are going to have to have two guys on both sides of Chalk step up and play for us and we are going to have to hit. I think if we can do that and put balls in play and play our game, I think we will play good defense and I think our pitching will be pretty good. We have to have our pitchers step up and figure out what our roles are. We have to have David Kopp be the pitcher we thought he was from the very beginning. We have to have Moskos be nails every time at the end of the ball game. We have to have Zocchi step up for us and Hinson step up for us. A few of these freshman like Josh Thrailkill, Graham Stoneburner, Matt Zoltak and some of these guys have to step up for us. Some of the guys who are sophomores, who have been waiting in the wings, have got to step up and play a prominent role like Matt Vaughn or William Bond or Chris Fidrych, or Alex Martin, somebody has got to help us out. We have got some choices they just have to all come through and get themselves a little better and keep on improving between now and January.

You had such an advantage last year with Adrian Casanova behind the plate with his ability to call the game and handle your staff. With him gone, does that create a little more work for you in the dugout or do you let whoever is behind the plate call the game?
Leggett: That is a good question. We have been talking about that up in the office. If Sully feels that he has got to help whichever catcher is catching for us call a little bit of a better game then we will call it form the bench. But, I don't like to do that, personally I like to that responsibility on the catchers shoulders to teach him what he has got to do and make good decisions. Pitchers know what they want to throw and the game goes quicker and faster that way. If the catcher is looking to the dugout all the time I think it hurts our concentration. We have to make sure we are throwing the right pitch in the right situation. When our catchers can prove to us they can do that then we will we let them run with it. We have a thought process on how we want to call a game, but it still has to go quick because our pace is quick.

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