Jan. 26, 1998

Quoting Head Baseball Coach Larry Hays Weekly Press Conference

Opening Comments
"There's a group of young men who have been here who have been in school since September that's jumping up at it. These kids are really looking forward to playing. Thank goodness we have an alumni game coming up this Saturday so that will give us an early start.

"We've really been fortunate with the weather. I don't know if we've ever had better weather for us to get prepared. We've had some bad weather but that's been in every day we scheduled to be off. We've been on the field just about every day we've intended to be and have only been inside just once so it's really nice for us. The weather has helped us out a bit.

"I don't know what type of team we'll have. I've been in it a long time but I don't have a clue. I like some of the players that we've got and we've got a good chance to be a pretty good team, but if we don't get help, we might not be very good. You name it and it's happened. We've got Monty Ward with chicken pox and he hasn't worked out in a couple of weeks. It was really tough on him. He came out the other day and we're hoping he might be able to go pretty soon. I don't know how deep into the season we'll be until he's ready to go. Of course, we've lost Chad Reynolds for the year. We've lost Keith Ginter as a pitcher the last game in the fall. He hurt his elbow so right now, he won't even be playing second base- he'll be the designated hitter. That's critical for us as far as our pitching goes. We were hoping to get Ralston into the rotation this year and the only way we could do that was to have Ginter pitching. I don't know if that's going to happen. I don't know if I can get relaxed enough not to have Ralston in the bullpen so right now, he'll probably end up where he's been in the past along with Stewart in the bullpen. That's been important for us the last two years to have those two guys- Ralston and Stewart there for us- right side and left side. Having them back helps a lot. Shane Wright hopefully will pick up where he left off last year. We really need Ward back. We'll count on those two guys along with the new people to give us a pretty good staff. Right now, our question marks are pitching because of Ward and the things I mentioned.

"Another big question mark is defensively. We think we've got some pretty good players. Ryan Ruiz ought to make us good in centerfield. Our catching should be good with Bard and Buckley. Our concern is second base and shortstop. We've got Kevin Jordan who is from Midland and Blinn J.C. He's a talented player, lot of athletic ability but we're not sure how he'll play at this level. Junior Rodriguez and Jason Huth are our two shortstops. Junior was probably the most recruited shortstop in the country last year. He's been having problems on the Astroturf but when the games start, he may kick it in gear and play at a high level. We've got some concerns up the middle. On the corners, Buckley will probably be our first baseman. He's hit the ball so well we've got to get him in the lineup. At third, it'll be a freshman Brennan Burns or Jason Huth there at third. At left, we've got Landreth back and we'll need him to have a big year for us. In right field, maybe Miles Durham or Joe Smith. We've got some pretty good people to put out there but we just don't know how we're going to play up the middle- that's a big key for us- and we really don't know how we're going to hit. We're ironing that out now. There's not a Joe Dillon but as we've said, at this time last year, he wasn't there either. We're going to need some good things to happen to us but you've got to feel that this team has a chance for good things to happen. You need to stay away from injuries as well.

On the starting pitching situation:
"Right now, New Mexico, we will not throw Wright this weekend because we'll start him on Tuesday. Jesse Cornejo, a lefthander from Seward Junior College, who was 13-1 last year, quality numbers and all those things. He may be that No. 2 guy without Ward there. Eric Cooper is a big guy with a lot of velocity and a lot of talent. He's definitely got a good arm and good stuff and he's got potential. Steve Watkins, who pitched at Lubbock Christian last year, needs to do something for us and he might come through. Cade Allison from Odessa could contribute. Joe Smith, right now is one of our better pitchers. We may keep him out of the outfield to keep him around to pitch."

On Jason Landreth's health:
"His knee if fine. About two weeks ago, out in drills, he pulls a muscle in his thigh. We need that guy to be healthy and we need him to play at the level that he can. We need to have some senior leadership. Not having Ginter up there in the middle really hurts. He's got to do it with the bat. Some of these old guys need to show us what it's like."

On the alumni game:
"Right now, they would happy to play anyone besides themselves. It's exciting. The alumni, they'll have some good pitching. We're going to have our hands full with Dillon and Kastelic. Clint Bryant's getting married and won't be here. Brandenburg was supposed to be here but the Rangers are making him go on tour. Ashby, Owens, Howey, Haggard are there just to make us look dignified. Outside of that, the other guys are still playing and it ought to a be a good game."

On Josh Bard's leadership:
"All those guys coming back will be leaders. We don't need a rah-rah guy, we just need someone out there setting an example. He's had a lot of things giving him experience beyond being a sophomore. The two USA teams he's played on the last two summers have really helped him and hopefully, he'll use that our advantage."

On the basepaths:
"We've got some guys that can run who aren't good basestealers right now. They've just got to learn how to do it. They're not getting better right now so we're going to get thrown out some trying to learn to steal bases. I'm not sure how we'll end up on that. We've got good speed out there but if you put Bard and Buckley out there back-to-back, you're killing your team speed right there. They're both hitting well so they're going to be needed in there."


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