I'll start with sophomore Gavin Collins. What are your thoughts about him?
"First and foremost, Gavin is a tremendous competitor. He is very intense, very competitive, incredibly passionate about being great. He demands greatness out of himself. The Big Leaguers that I have been around have that inside of them. That alone will allow him to excel, not only at our level but beyond.
"Offensively, he is a little ahead of where he is defensively. But, in the same breath, he is a really special player offensively. He does a tremendous job with his strikezone awareness. He is very in control of every situation in the batter's box. He has a lazer like focus. Something that I have talked to him about is being able to extend that focus behind the plate. It is in there but the short burst of an at-bat is easier for him to concentrate compared to an extended time behind the plate during an entire ballgame. We have to have him excel behind the plate the most. We also have to have him hitting in the middle of our batting order and being a great defensive catcher at the same time.
"I think he is going to be a really great player for us this fall. I've said this several times this fall, he's a Big-League type guy if everything goes right and he stays healthy. I think he is a really special player."
Cody walker is a senior catcher for you. He was hurt a little this fall but still did some good things before he had to sit due to his injury.
"Cody was battling through a thumb issue this fall, which I really think set him back a little bit. Hopefully, we are getting that worked out. He is a tremendous kid with a great work ethic. He has a great makeup. And he wants to serve our pitching staff. That is important because he has to be able to manage the game and help get our pitchers through the ballgame. He has a little way to go from the receiving end but I think the injury set him back.
"He's athletic and has a strong arm, which gives him the ability to throw out base stealers. I think his best tool behind the plate is his arm. Offensively, he swung the bat well during the fall. He showed more aptitude to get the ball on the barrel this fall than he did last year, based on what I was told about last fall.
"He's a competitive guy who, once we get him back healthy, will be able to help us. He will do everything that he can to get on the field."
Zack Randolph, another senior, didn't get to catch in fall games but did show that he had really improved his hitting.
"Yeah, he didn't get much action behind the plate due to a banged up knee but he really swung the bat well. He provides us some headiness, some baseball awareness, and really handles our pitching staff well. Like with Cody, he has to get healthy to play behind the plate. Once we do that, then we'll see where we go from there."
I was very impressed with junior college transfer Josh Lovelady.
"He is a winner! He led us in innings caught this fall. He led us in catchers ERA. He received the ball extremely well, blocked the ball extremely well. Is there room for him to get better? Absolutely. But he is a guy who shows up the same guy everyday and is a winning baseball player.
"Is he as talented as Gavin Collins from the offensive side? No. We made adjustments to his swing, spread him out a little bit, and kind of got him to be more competitive in the two-strike approach. I think that helped him shorten his stroke up a little bit. He ended up hitting with a little power at the end of the fall, with a double and a home run.
"Defensively he is holding his own. In fact, he has done a really nice job behind the plate of being a complete catcher. He receives, calls the game, blocks the baseball, throws the baseball with accuracy. He is kind of the whole package."
You have the potential to have very good depth at the catching position with those four guys.
"If everybody gets back to being healthy, I think we will have good depth. It is a work in progress for all of them, but we will continue to get better. I tell my guys this all the time, my job is not to worry about who starts but to make our decision tough by making sure we have four guys who can start. Obviously, from an offensive standpoint, Gavin is going to be in the lineup. But I feel good about the depth at that two-spot and even the one-spot, if something should happen to Gavin."
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