Around the Bases with Jacob Stallings

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- When asked earlier this week about Jacob Stallings, UNC head coach Mike Fox raved about his junior catcher's work ethic and the results that have been evident both on the field and in the weight room. Therefore, Inside Carolina decided to catch up with Stallings for an interview ...

Coach Fox mentioned that you were able to put on a significant amount of muscle in the offseason …
"I don't know how many calories it was but I sure was eating all the time. Golly, I would make an 11:30 p.m. Wendy's run just about every night. So it was just being hungry and working out with Coach Gatz -- I mean just busting our tails. Everyone was and I was just able to finally put on some weight."

How do you and Coach Forbes work together during a game in terms of calling pitches?
"Me and him have been working together for three years now so I think we have a pretty good feel for what the other one thinks and rarely do we disagree on a certain pitch. Me and Coach Forbes are usually on the same page and if we are not we will get on the same page fast because either I will call a different pitch and he will get mad at me or it will work out. We have really good chemistry."

Can you give an example of a situation where you and the pitcher had to compromise on what pitch to throw?
"[On Tuesday] Cody [Penny] shook to a change up. For our two strike defense we kind of move our outfielders to the opposite field and Cody shook to a change up and I saw our defense like that and I did not want to give the hitter a chance to just get lucky and hook one down the left field line and get a double or triple. So I went out there to talk to him and basically said, ‘I don't think we want to do this...' Well, I might have been a little nicer just then but I told him 'Let's throw a curveball or a fastball away.' I asked Coach Forbes what he thought and I wanted to throw a curveball and that is what Coach Forbes wanted too."

How do you earn strike calls for your pitchers defensively by the way you frame pitches?
"I think when it really clicked in for me was when I read an ESPN the Magazine article last year. It was about Yadier Molina, the Cardinals catcher, when he stated that he tried to steal 10 to 12 strikes a game for his pitchers by the way he catches the ball. So for me I always felt like I have been a pretty good receiver but I think that I took it for granted because if he is tricking major league umpires perhaps I could do a little more to help our pitchers out. Well, for me, I am fortunate enough to have long arms and so I can try to go out and get the low pitch so it looks higher and with like a high breaking ball I try to catch it as deep as I can so it looks better to the umpire. Those are really the two where you can't frame width but you can frame height."

Having now worked a couple starts by freshman pitcher Kent Emanuel, what's been the key to his success and what can he do to continue to improve?
"He is a long lanky dude so it is hard to pick up his ball. I would say the difference [between his first and second outing] was fastball location and we actually used his fork ball [Tuesday] which we did not use against Missouri. The thing that Kent needs to do to take that next step is to develop a harder breaking ball. Obviously he has a lot of talent and he shows it, but with Kent he has a great curveball and a good forkball but if he is able to add a slider type pitch he will really become one of the great pitchers in this league. Kent has an attitude that I have never seen before in a baseball player. He hardly throws any warm up pitches. He throws four fastballs and he is ready to go. His demeanor is something as a baseball player I really admire. He is really care free. He is really mature for his age and I am excited to see how he is going to do. Kent is really advanced for a freshman and I think he showed that [Tuesday]."

The bullpen appears to be a strength this season, highlighted by Greg Holt and Cody Penny. What are your thoughts on their performances and roles in the bullpen thus far this season?
"Think about the difference between this and last year. Golly, we held leads this year and we did not last year - that basically what it comes down to. Greg, I mean out in California he was great and Cody has been great - three times he has come down and shut the door. Our bullpen is something that we feel is a strength of our team and it has been a strength so far."

What's been your impression of the new bats?
"Well I think the new bats - the biggest thing was Levi's ball that was hit off the wall [Tuesday] - I mean that ball was just absolutely crushed and it did not get out. So they are definitely playing a big role. Home runs are really down and you have to find the barrel with these bats -- they are definitely playing a big difference this year ... From a pitching perspective does this open up the inside of the plate for the pitching staff?
"Definitely, as a pitching staff I think that's what Coach Forbes has preached. With these new bats you have to get a hold of it to for it to go out and I think that it is something that we have worked on in the offseason and probably every team has. These bats are a lot different than last year's bats."

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