Andy Cannizaro took over as LSU’s hitting coach and recruiting coordinator this past summer. He’s spent the better part of the last months spanning the country trying to build the highly rated signing classes LSU brings in annually.
But now that Opening Day is only a few days away, it’s time to focus on the season.
We caught up with Cannizaro to get his thoughts on how his time at LSU has gone. How successful has he been on the recruiting trail? What are his thoughts on the 2015 signing class and the impending MLB Draft?
And what are his expectations for this year’s lineup?
All that and more in this Q&A with LSU’s hitting coach:
Q: You’ve been on the road recruiting LSU for more than half a year now. How has that experience been and how receptive are kids to you as an LSU coach?
“It’s been great, a lot of fun, enjoyable, exciting. You’re able to get out there, calling kids and talking to kids. LSU baseball’s a national brand. Kids all over the country, from the East coast to the West Coast, recognize LSU baseball. They’re excited to take your call. I’ve had great conversations with kids. You have to do very little explaining of the program, and whether they’ll decide to come to LSU or not, they’ll take your call right away. It’s a great product to sell.”
“I’m a Louisiana guy. Born and raised here, I love the state. I love the baseball in Louisiana. It’s great to have the opportunity to represent LSU and this program with all the national championships and things that have come along with it. It’s something I’m excited about, and I really look forward to continue doing it.”
Q: When you were scouting for the New York Yankees, you were focused solely on the South. Now with LSU, you’re recruiting nationwide. Has that been an adjustment for you?
“Regardless of whether guys are from the South or any part of the country, you’re still looking for tools, ability to play the game hard. The requirements to play in this program are the same regardless of where guys are from. You have to have the ability, the makeup must be there, you’ve got to have instincts. There are hotbeds for baseball all around the country, and those are the places we’ve really focused on.”
Q: Paul Mainieri has limited your defensive coaching responsibilities so that you can devote the majority of your time working with the hitters. How beneficial has that been for you?
“I’m excited about it. It’s an opportunity to be around our hitters full-time. I love being around this group of guys. I’m in the cage with them, on the field with them. It’s an exclusive opportunity to be with the hitters, and it’s a really talented group. I’m looking to maximize their ability.”
Q: You do work with the players on base stealing. There’s a lot of speed on this team. How much of an advantage is that?
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can really run. Our lineup has a chance to be really dynamic. We’ve got some speed guys at the top, guys that can hit, power and some table setters in the back. We have a chance to have a relentless lineup for opposing pitchers. They’ll never be able to take their breath. Our guys will have quality at-bats. That’s what we’re looking for, constant pressure on the defense.”
“The more talent you have, the more things you can do with them. You’re not just pigeon holed to a bloop and a bomb. You’re not just hoping for guys to hit the ball out of the park. We’ve got some guys that can really run, that don’t strike out and keep the ball out of the air. They’ll be high on-base percentage guys and they’ll be on-base when you’re thump in the middle of the order comes up to hit.”
Q: In November, you wrapped up your first signing class with LSU after taking the reins from Javi Sanchez in June. What are your thoughts on the signing class as a whole?
“It went really well. We were able to add some quality guys, touch in with the junior college ranks and find some high ceiling, immediate impact guys that can come in here and have success right away. We identified some high school hitters on the national scene that can come in here and have a chance to be offensive for us right away. It was a really good group, being able to continue stockpiling the quality of players that we have here right now.”
Q: You’ve tackled the MLB Draft from the professional side. Now this summer you’ll be on the college site of things. How different will it be for you to try convincing kids to go to school as opposed to when you were encouraging them to go pro?
“Now I’m on this side of the fence. Professional and college baseball are the same sport, but it’s a completely different game. Kids grow up wanting to play in the big leagues. Hopefully the right opportunity is out of LSU, that they can come here and continue to get better. Not just enter professional baseball, but having played here, they’ve played in high-pressure situations, they can have success at the professional level right away. They can fly to the big leagues and bypass those lower levels. That’s the main thing we can offer those kids, an opportunity to play on a big stage and let the pro evaluators watch them play. The professional organizations will have a better idea of what they’re buying in the draft. They’ll be more prepared for professional baseball after they leave here than when they got here.”
Q&A: LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro
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