In this week's interview we talk with Coach Ward about Bryan Marquez's NCBWA District Player of the Year award, Jeff Farnham and Byran Marquez's All-PING! honors and the Major League draft.
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on Bryan Marquez earning NCBWA District Player of the Year.
Rocky Ward: The unique thing about it is that he's a Player of the Year now as far as the District and we're not just talking about at shortstop. That's pretty cool. The writers believe that Bryan Marquez is the best player in this region of the country and we've kind of always felt that this just kind of makes it official. The thing that I'm excited about is that really increases his chances to be an All-American shortstop when that's released in the next week or so. What it reminds me of is the old days before the BCS is where you're waiting for the final coaches poll and the final media poll where you're waiting to find out who's the national champion. It's the same type of deal. There's multiple polls out there and the more people out there that think you are, the more it legitimizes you as the very very best. I think that's pretty cool stuff.
bc.net: Also late last week Jeff Farnham and Bryan Marquez both earned All-PING!Baseball honors. Bryan was named to the First Team and Jeff earned Second Team as a catcher along with Indiana's Josh Phegley.
RW: It was what he deserved and it was good. This is kind of redemption (for not making First Team All-WAC). The Ping!Baseball group is giving him credit where credit is deserved. I'm really happy for Jeff. Bryan went through and he's gotten First Team All-Conference and First Team All-American and he's deserved all those things but I think Jeff is equally deserving with the types of numbers he's put up, especially in the demanding position that he played.
bc.net: The MLB draft is tomorrow what will you and the other coaches be looking at?
RW: What you're doing right now is you're watching the ticker for two things. You're obviously watching it for your own current players, rooting for your seniors to get a good draft so they get a chance to go play. Hoping that your juniors if they get drafted that they get drafted at a level where they're gonna be taken care of. Top 12 rounds is what you're kind of hoping for your juniors if they don't go in the Top 12 you don't really want to see their names anywhere. Generally outside of those rounds there's not much commitment from the pro organizations and they're better off coming back for their senior year. That's my perspective on it.
Then obviously you're looking at the kids you've signed. We've signed several kids that we signed in November. And a lot of cases in baseball it's kind of hard to stay up with them. You're in season when they're in season and once they've signed a letter of intent you continue to have contact with them but usually they're quick conversations, how's your year going that sort of thing. When you're dealing with 17 and 18 year old kids a six month window, the kid can be two inches taller and 25 pounds bigger and all of the sudden you've turned yourself into a prospect overnight. It happens all the time every year. So you're really paying attention to your signed guys.
Now the real crazy people, the crazy coaches who are really into this are paying attention to the other guys' signed guys. You can get really deep into this thing. It's really neat. For years and years the Major League Baseball draft was done behind closed doors out of public view. I remember dad having to call in favors of scout friends to get him a list of the drafts. You didn't have any idea where guys went. They didn't release that list, I think at one point in time until the end of the summer. Then eventually they released the lists like 10 days or two weeks out. They were trying to keep it secret and protect their investment. I know that coaches disliked it because you'd have kids that would call and say hey coach I know you offered me a 50% scholarship and I signed that letter of intent but I was just drafted in the 10th round and I'd like you to make that 100%. You were put in a difficult position because you didn't really know if he was drafted in that round and there was a lot of misdirection out of a lot of different people. There were a few kids that weren't drafted that told people they were. There wasn't a ton of that. But just enough that you didn't know. Now it's great. You get to watch the first day on the MLB network, at least the first round. I talked to Andy Campbell the bureau guy who's a net guy in this area. He's with the scouting bureau. The 30 major league teams have their scouting bases and then the major leagues provide scouts from a scouting bureau and they scout everything. He's been here a long time.
Anybody can follow the round by round selections on the internet. Baseball coaches and baseball players and baseball fans around the country spend most of the day looking at the ticker waiting for the next draft choice. It's always kind of a fun thing and we're really looking forward to it. But what we're really paying attention to more than anything is where our guys are and in some cases you're sitting there watching the draft and if a couple kids you've signed to come in get drafted high all of the sudden you better get off your butt and get back to work. You might think your recruiting class is done and as soon as the draft happens it may not be. You could lose guys late. That's one of the real challenges in baseball is when the draft occurs. We've been recruiting this upcoming 2010 class for well over a year now and now the draft shows up and can throw a fly in the ointment to where you have to make adjustments. All of the sudden you've got a guy that gets drafted a little higher than you think and signs a pro contract or he may go to school. It's kind of a big scramble more than anything.
It's kind of the last major responsibility we have as coaches before we can take a break. How long our vacation is depends a lot on what happens in the draft. It's always a double-edged sword. Hopefully you've done your job and you know where the kid is. You've talked to the family on draftable guys, what are you thinking. The kid usually tells you. "If I go in the 5th round or higher I'll probably sign" or "I need more than $100,000 to sign." There's usually some sort of criteria that establishes. And most of us as coaches try to provide guidance. We don't tell people what to do but in a lot of cases these kids don't have anybody else to go to. Once they've signed with you and committed to you they trust you otherwise they wouldn't have signed a letter with you. You kind of find yourself in a position sort of as an adviser at times.
There's obviously clear conflict of interest in those situations but you try to do your best. If I've got a kid that goes in the top 10 rounds it's going to be pretty hard for me to convince him not to [sign]. But there's got to be pretty extenuating circumstances behind it. I'll give you a real good example of that. Gary Green was a shortstop at Oklahoma State in the early 80's. I was a high school kid during that time and I was working out with the team sometimes. My sophomore year I'd go after school and I'd be the punching bag for pitchers. I'd just go catch college pitchers. They'd beat the heck out of me but that's how I learned. I got to know Gary Green, he's just one of those neat personality guys. When you've got coaches sons around most players are nervous about them but Green was always kind to me. He'd try to help me out. I caught but I also played short. I loved to play short and he really taught me how to play. So Gary as a junior was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. Gary was considered a rhythm shortstop. He was a tall lanky guy and his best play came on grass. And he was drafted by St. Louis and they had the old Astroturf. Well St. Louis had a guy you might remember by the name of Ozzie Smith. So that was an example that he was a second round draft pick. He chose not to sign. In those days first and second round draft guys didn't make millions of dollars. They made $50k. That was the singing bonus for first rounders. The numbers today have gotten to where they're insane. But Green chose to return to Oklahoma State and turn down a second round draft mainly because of the fact that an organization that had Astroturf didn't fit his game and an organization that had a clear Hall of Famer in Ozzie Smith that was unsure of how many more years he was going to play, he was still relatively young at the time. So he came back and that's an example of where you kind of want to have some influence on a kid. Do you know how hard it would be to tell pro people that draft you in the first round no? These days it would almost be impossible because you're turing down becoming a millionaire overnight. But you still have to understand that you have to have opportunities. You want to be a major league baseball player, you've got to have an opening. The next year the San Diego Padres drafted him in the first round and a guy named Gary Templeton was there who was in the end of his career and had just had knee surgery. He'd had like three knee surgeries, a very very popular player there. It was perfect for him. Now did it work out for him? You're saying, "Well I've never heard of Gary Green." Well you've got a lot of stuff that has to happen. Gary is a great shortstop that never quite made the transition to the wood bat. He did play in about 150 major league games. Now he played at Texas. If you remember in those days but the big Achilles heel for years and years and years for the Texas Rangers was that they never had a shortstop. Never had a shortstop. They'd sign a guy in free agency that was a good shortstop and he'd have a horrible year. Then they'd get rid of him, sign another guy and he'd have a horrible year. It's just what they did. And so Green ended up getting to play about 70 games with the Texas Rangers and he was just one of a number of guys that failed as a shortstop at Texas. Now you understand why they signed A-Rod way back. That's why they signed him. That's why they gave him so much money. For so many years they were so inept at shortstop and it got to the point where it was flat out embarrassing. So they said fine, this is the best shortstop ever to come around, we're going to spend the entire budget on him. And they did.
D.J. Simon seems to be the one guy that might go. There are some guys that are talking about Ben Harty because of the power numbers and his size. There's some people out there that believe he can transfer his power numbers into wood because he has such great hand strength. The funny thing about it is I kind of agree with them. His problem with us and the reason for the high strikeout numbers is he just overswung the bat too often. He swung and missed at too many pitches. If you put him in a wood bat that's a little heavier and makes you pay more attention, I think he may be a better hitter with wood. I still believe that whether he signs a pro contract or not. It's one of the things we'll continue to work with him if he does return is trying to get him to let the ball travel [in] more and control when he unleashes that hand strength and power.
Mike Sodders was probably going to be drafted if he hadn't had the knee injury and he was probably going to be drafted pretty high. Of all my players he probably grades out professionally the best. Prior to knee surgery he was a good runner. He was a major league type arm, plus arm, plus power, plus ability to make contact and plus potential. And just considering the fact that the kid went on and hit .422 and all the other numbers, home runs and doubles, and missed a couple weeks with the knee and playing the entire second half of the season without a leg. It was pretty impressive. But the pro people probably aren't going to sign an injured player. At least not at his value. Now there might be somebody out there that will draft him late and try to take him and rehab him but that would be pretty unusual.