Jim Morris Q&A - Part II

Jim Morris enters his 11th season as the head coach of the Hurricane baseball team. This year's squad has high expectations after returning all of the starters from a team that finished fifth place at the College World Series last season. In part two of a two-part interview Morris talked about the schedule, joining the ACC, and the new stadium.

Do you consider your schedule your typical tough schedule?

This is our last great home schedule. It wont be like that when we join the ACC next year. It really is a great schedule. We got Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Long Beach State, and Florida State. It is our typical schedule that is generally in the top 3 for RPI. We will play that same type of schedule in the future, but this will be our last time playing all of those games at home. We did that on purpose because we knew this was our last year before the ACC. Starting next year we will have to play 20 games on the road and 36 at home will be our normal schedule. Before that, we averaged about 40-42 home games. I will miss that personally.

Will you continue to play schools like intersectional schools like Long Beach State?

Yes, every other year we will continue to go to California and play either Long Beach State, Southern California, or Cal-State Fullerton. We do that because it helps with recruiting. We want to continue to get guys from California, guys like Ryan Braun, Bobby Hill, Pat Burrell, and Charlton Jimerson.

Will you still have the flexibility with your schedule like you do now?

The hardest thing about our schedule now is that everybody in April and May is in the middle of conference play so it is very tough to schedule teams. My connections with the ACC allows me to schedule some of those schools. I deal directly with the office in scheduling games. Every year I want to play home-and-home with the upper echelon teams. A lot of the times I don't even talk to the coaches about scheduling, I just deal with the office.

Will you still play Florida State six times or just three?

We will play Florida State just three times. The year we play Florida State three at home, we will play Florida three times on the road. The year we don't go to Florida, we will go to California and we will play one of those schools out there.

Having all of the guys back from last year's College World Series team, how would you describe the team?

Confident. Maybe too confident which scares me. They read the rankings and I tell them to remember that we weren't ranked last year. The same poll that didn't rank us last year, ranked us number one this year. So the rankings don't mean anything. We have some good players and we have a chance to be good. We have to work and get better every day to get where we need to be.

Has anyone from fall practices evaluated their level from last season?

The guy you are going to like is Brendan Katin. He is a junior college transfer and will be in the lineup Saturday night. He is a big, strong guy, right-handed hitter. He can hit it out of the park anywhere. He can play in the outfield and catch. The ball really jumps off the bat better than anyone else on our team. He is a very strong hitter. Jon Jay had a great fall and in the spring. He has the chance to move in and really play a lot for us. Those are the two new guys, but as far as the other guys go. I really think Paco Figueroa has come along good. Joey Hooft led our team in hitting last year and he had a solid fall. Ryan Braun is doing what we thought he would do with the bat. Gaby Sanchez has been playing good defense and swinging the bat good. Jim Burt got hit in the mouth last week. Typical Jim Burt, when he got hit he went down to the ground. I thought he was out cold. He looked at the pool of blood on the ground and then jumped up and sprinted to first base. He really is a football player out there. We took him in the training room to get stitched up, but he wanted to get back out there for the intrasquad game. The last thing he told me was ‘Coach, I just wanted you to know that if this was a real game, you would not have taken me out.' We had to take him to a plastic surgeon to get five stitches. I think we have a chance to be good, that's the thing. We have a lot of guys in the lineup with experience. We just have to keep working hard and nobody has a job for sure.

Would you switch your batting order around just to mix things up, to keep guys on edge?

I would say last year of the 65 games, we had about 55 different batting orders. I am not superstitious like most coaches, as long as I put my left sock on first and making sure I put my left sock on my left foot. I am kidding when I say that, but the fact is that I am going to get guys in the lineup that are hot. If they are hot, I will move them up in the lineup and if they get cold I will move them down. You will see a lot of changes in our lineup during the year, but I think the main thing is to keep guys consistent on defense. At the end of the year we would like to have a more consistent lineup because the bottom line is that you want to be ready for the end of the season.

How much does it mean to the team that Jim Burt returned to the team for his senior year after being a low-draft pick last year?

I think it is great to have a leader like that on a team. He busts his butt whether its weight training, running sprints, or playing on the field, or having a 4.0 in the classroom. Whatever it is he leads by example. He got hit in the mouth last week and the doctors wouldn't let him practice for a couple days. We are looking for a strength coach, but I thought we had one because we had Jim Burt out there in shorts and a t-shirt leading sprints. It is very important to have guys like that, that have been through things. When I first came here, a lot of the guys told me what its like to be in Omaha. Now I feel like I can teach the kids about Omaha.

Alex Rodriguez contributed $4 million to the baseball program, where has that money gone?

We haven't spent any of it. What we are doing right now is collecting the money for a stadium. We are up to $6.5 million for the $11 million stadium. We are trying to get the money in hand before we start this project. I had a facility meeting with Paul Dee and we will probably not start building the stadium after this year. It will start at the end of the 2005 season. When we start the project, I want to start it after the last pitch is thrown and make sure the bulldozer doesn't run anyone over trying to get out. Alex has given money over years as opposed to one lump sum. He gave $4 million to the university, but $500,000 went towards an endowed scholarship for the Boys and Girls Club, not necessarily a baseball player. And then $100,000 went towards the basketball arena and getting a box. And he needs a box; he can't go anywhere to watch a sporting event. It's not as easy to be Alex Rodriguez as you would think; now I would like to be Alex Rodriguez. Everywhere he goes people want to shake his hand and get his autograph.

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com.

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