The Diamond Heels are coming off of their final exam break and are now headed into the final portion of their regular season slate. Only two home games remain for the Tar Heels this mid-week and their last two ACC series are on the road in Raleigh and Chestnut Hill.
The Tar Heels are near the top of the various projections for host sites for the NCAA Regional and Super Regional competition. Two of the most useful sites - boydsworld.com and warrennolan.com - both have UNC atop the RPI heading into this week. The Tar Heels would have to have a losing record for the remainder of their regular season schedule to drop out of the top 8.
Of course, we are still in the middle of it - exams do not end until Thursday. We have a very long exam schedule here at Carolina. We usually kind of split it in half, so we gave the guys the first four days off last week - Monday through Thursday. We got some practices over the weekend around their exam schedule. So we had some good practices and we will go again this afternoon and be prepared for tomorrow night.
How was the week for Coach Jackson and Coach Forbes, who hit the road recruiting?
Bless their heart, they took off and went everywhere from St. Louis to West Palm Beach to Kansas. They criss-crossed the country just trying to see some of our committed recruits. It was good, bless them for that. Our players enjoyed the time off - I think their bodies and minds needed a break away from baseball. I think it was good for everybody. I think that the players, when they came back on Friday, were fresher. We had a great practice last night with a lot of energy and it was a beautiful night to be out at practice last evening.
A hypothetical question for you … If you could change the date of the Major League Rule 4 Draft (which falls in June, during the college baseball postseason) or the Major League Baseball signing deadline (which is in mid-August), which one would you change and why?
I would change the August 15th signing deadline to 24 hours after the draft - [laughs] - so that I would only have 24 hours to sweat. I would put the two of those dates as close together as possible - very little time to negotiate.
How difficult is it dealing with the deadline being so close to when the student-athletes report to college?
It is problematic. It is certainly the worst thing that we have to deal with by far. Again, probably the most frustrating thing about it is that it is completely out of our hands. We do everything we can to talk, educate and communicate. I think at the end of the day the pro people have a job to do and we do the best we can to provide the best information we can about the experience of college baseball and the development that can be made here in our program. Then you just hold your breath. That is what we did all week. We went to see Jacob Turner, we went to see Cody Stiles and we are recruiting these guys for the third or fourth time, which is fine and we do everything we can to educate and promote college baseball and go from there.
What plans do you have for the Elon game and the Thursday makeup game against Longwood?
That will be a little different. We will start Patrick Johnson against Elon and see how far he can go and then start Jimmy Messer against Longwood. The Longwood game, I did think about that, but I felt that it was more important to play a couple of game and get our hitters a few more live at bats before we get back into ACC play. School will be out by then and exams will be done, so the guys will be really charged on Thursday. Their finals will be done and there will not be any more school work.
Do you have any concerns about Mark Fleury catching potentially four games in a row?
I am hoping that the break has helped him and kind of recharged him a little bit. At the time I rescheduled this game I did not know that we would only have Mark. I will try to get Mike McKee in there a little bit to get Mark a break at the end. Mark will just have to do it and just get some rest in between games. He is young he can handle it.
A lot of the projections of postseason seedings have Elon coming to play again in Chapel Hill. Can you discuss your background with Mike Kennedy and the Elon Phoenix?
Mike has done as good a job with that program as any coach in the country. It is amazing to me to see what he and his staff have been able to do year in and year out. They have as good a team as you will find - Elon is a great school. I think that they get after it and they work very hard. I think Mike is a terrific coach. He does not get the credit that I feel he deserves with what he has done with that program. We always enjoy playing them. It will be a great game and they have had a terrific season. We will have to see how we play against them after an eight-day break.
Your next ACC opponent, NC State, has had a lost season, struggling with errors and tough losses. What kind of mindset do you have facing a team – especially a rival - that has nothing to lose?
It is always a battle over there. The old cliché that you can throw out what has happened up to that point when rivals meet and it will be probably very true of this series. We will have to go over there and manage the crowd and their emotion and just play up to our capability and relish being in that environment and people pulling against you - sometimes that can bring out the best in you. We will have to pitch well against them. We can not control how other teams play against us. If you start looking for when they are going to make an error and open the door for us, that may never happen. So we will look at that weekend when it gets here. No matter what it will always be intense over there and a great environment and we will have to go over there and play our best to have a chance.
Do you have any update on how Bryant Gaines' surgery went and how Jacob Stallings is recovering from his injury?
Bryant's surgery went very well, he is back and he is out of his sling today and they put the brace on. He is in good spirits. He was with us at every practice this weekend, which I think says a lot about him; just kind of hanging out and being around the guys and doing what he can, which is not much. He will jump back on his rehab as soon as he is allowed to do so. Jake took off his brace on his hand and swung the fungos very lightly to see how his hand felt. But he is progressing fine.
What are your thoughts on the NCAA changing the schedule back to starting a week earlier and leaving the schedule at 56 games?
I am tickled to death that it is still at 56 games - the kids want to play. We needed an extra week by far. Of course we already had our 2010 schedule already done, so now we have to really scramble to move a bunch of games. I wish they had started on it earlier, but I am glad they have made it effective immediately. What we have done to these kids, trying to play this many games in this short period of time has been a disservice to them. It had nothing to do with academics at all. I am glad that our Board of Directors listened to the legislative council and the coaches for one time and made this change.
What effects have the 25 percent scholarship percentage and the 35-man roster had on the way that you plan for recruiting and the makeup of your roster. Does this make two-way play more important for depth purposes?
Somewhat, you are always looking for guys that can do several things that help you - we always look for two-way players. This drastically changes things from our standpoint. This is the next thing that the Board of Directors needs to change, in my opinion. There are so many other issues that are more important than the number of kids that you can have on scholarship. That is the most absurd thing ever, the NCAA's rationale that we care more about a kid on scholarship than a kid who is not is an insult, in my opinion. I hope at some point that that will be addressed. We have so many other numbers to deal with. The toughest part of what we do is to manage those numbers, especially when the draft is looming out there and you don't know who is coming or going.
What would be your proposal for what would be a fair number for both the scholarship percentage and roster limits?
I don't think that there should be a number at all for scholarships, as we only have 11.7. We are the only sport in the NCAA to be told how to divide those scholarships up. Their rationale is that our sport is academically broken, which I totally disagree with. It may be broken at 30 or 35 schools or so, but it not broken at the majority, in my opinion. Whether there should be a roster limit - I have never had a roster limit in all my years of coaching until last year - we can only keep so many and do them justice and try to develop them and track them academically and give them all you can. I just don't know if there should be a limit; I know some schools do. 35 might be a good number for a limit, you don't need probably more that that. But certainly you don't need to be told how many of those can be on scholarship nor how much you should give an individual as a minimum. I don't see the point in that.