Q&A: Coach Jay Bergman

Mike Billek, a third round Cubs draft pick earlier this month, is a product of the University of Central Florida and legendary Golden Knights head coach Jay Bergman. Inside The Ivy recently met up with Coach Bergman to get a better insight into the Cubs' fourth overall selection this year.

Inside The Ivy: Coach, describe the player you coached these past few years in Mike Billek.

Coach Bergman: Michael came in as a non-drafted player out of high school. He was probably a little overweight at the time. He didn't pitch a lot in his freshman year (2003). Then over the summer, he got himself into better shape. He came back his sophomore year and did a little better. In the fall of his junior year, he began reaching the mid-90s with his velocity and was one of our starters all year long.

Inside The Ivy: What does he feature in his repertoire? What are his "out" pitches?

Coach Bergman: He's between 90 and 95 mph with the fastball. He had a slight groin injury this year, which really held him back as far as being on top of his game. But he'd still get us into the sixth inning or later and then someone else would usually get the win. His numbers are sort of misleading, because his changeup improved and his breaking ball got better. All three of those pitches are very solid.

Inside The Ivy: What are his strongest and weakest traits?

Coach Bergman: The strongest I think is that he's a hard worker who tries to get better. I can't say anything about his weaker traits, because I just concentrate on the strong things and not elaborate on the negatives. He was a valuable part of our team.

Inside The Ivy: Does he remind you of anyone at the major league level or anyone you have coached in the past?

Coach Bergman: That's a good question. You know, his body was in such good shape this year as opposed to when he was a freshman. He's got a good-sized major league body and he comes back strong. In a couple of days after a start, he's right back at it. He's got stamina and "resurgency." His breaking ball wasn't as good as Justin Poke's, and his fastball isn't as solid as Jason Arnold's, but he's in that class.

Inside The Ivy: Where would you rank him among other pitchers in your conference?

Coach Bergman: It would be hard for me to draw comparisons. I don't think he really stands out. It's hard to say, but college pitchers are sometimes a little different in terms of "projectability." The one thing really easy about Michael is predicting him and projecting him in 3-5 years.

Inside The Ivy: Is that a good thing?

Coach Bergman: Well, it's bad for us because he didn't finish with us, but I think it's good for him and the Cubs.

Inside The Ivy: The two of you certainly had a great rapport from everything we've read.

Coach Bergman: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes a lot of coaches are pretty upset when their players sign after their junior year. But Michael came in and talked to us once the season was over. His parents were always upfront with us and didn't hide anything. I'm glad he got what he wanted from the Cubs.

Inside The Ivy: In your opinion, what role was Mike best suited for at your program: starting or relieving?

Coach Bergman: Well, for us he had to do both and did so very willingly and with no problems whatsoever. He's one of those guys who can do both and could do it very easily. You like to have as many of those guys as you can.

Coach Jay Bergman entered 2005 with 1,091 career victories. He has never experienced a losing season with the university in 23 years as head baseball coach. Billek finished his junior year with a 4-3 record and 4.07 ERA.

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