"We don't put much stock into the pre-season rankings. We feel like we are going to have a great season. No one expects coming into a season that they are going to have a bad season. And everybody wants to finish first, of course. We may be young but we have 3 or 4 guys who start who are sophomores. We may not have any superstars like Paul Maholm, a first-round draft pick, but we have some very good players."
Did it surprise you when you saw that you were ranked so low in the SEC?
"Like Coach said, it's all about who you have coming back. We lost Paul, Paps, lost our shortstop and first baseman. People look at that and think we lost a lot. But we haven't really thought about it that much. The coaches did a great job recruiting. Plus, the guys we have will be successful."
Talk a little more about the younger pitchers.
"Andy Wilson, Jesse Carvery, Josh Johnson; you can tell after going through a fall here they are no longer high school baseball players but division-1 baseball players. We have a great 4 on 1 program where we lift weights and throw in the bullpen. You can tell that they have matured as pitchers. They pitch now and don't just throw. They have an idea of what they want to do with the hitters now."
Did you do anything differently in the off-season since you have a new weight and conditioning coach?
"The weight program changed a little bit, but I think the guys liked it a lot more. Now, it is more like partner work. Instead of having someone watching you all the time, he had us doing workouts ourselves."
Senior third base/shortstop Steve Gendron
"We do have some superstars, me and Jeff (laugh). We are really excited to be out here. This past week there has been beautiful weather. I think we are going to have a real good team. I know it doesn't bother me that we aren't picked very high. I do know we will come out and play hard. We have a lot of young guys and Jeff and I will have to lead them. Jeff, Tyler (Scarbrough) and Jeff are the old guys on the team."
What was your reasoning behind coming back for your senior season?
"I evaluated the entire situation. The Padres picked two shortstops ahead of me and I didn't want to go into an organization where I would already have two guys ahead of me and that didn't invest a lot of money in me. Plus, I didn't want to leave a great place like this and miss out on my senior year and go play for 1 or 2 years, then be out of baseball. I am glad that I came back. I wouldn't have made the decision in any other way."
How much do you think it will help the five sophomores to have gone through the league one full season?
"It helped me a lot. My freshman year I hit like .260 and struck out about 50 times. Our freshmen last year really impressed me. I expect them to have some great, great years. But it never gets easier. The longer you are in the league, the harder it gets because they know your tendencies. But I think they are up to the task."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.