Trapasso on Call the Coach recap
With the first official practice of the spring coming up Monday morning, Hawaii baseball coach Mike Trapasso was on ESPN 1420-AM on Tuesday night for an episode of Call the Coach. Here’s a recap of everything he said.
First topic is Monday’s Grand Slam event and individual and table tickets are still available. You can even pick up tickets at the door on site. It’s 5:30 p.m. on Monday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Scott Robbs is the moderator and his first question is about replacing the pitching (Tyler Brashears, Quintin Torres-Costa, L.J. Brewster, Jarrett Arakawa) from last year.
Trap: “(Pitching) is obviously the biggest question mark. We are more physical, we are more athletic. I think it has taken us two or three years to rebuild from the couple of recruiting classes we had three years ago when we had seven recruits who signed professional contracts. We had two recruiting classes in a row that really got hammered by the draft.”
Trap: “The one thing that we noticed right away moving from the WAC or the Big West and we realized everyone looked like Fresno. It’s a big, physical, strong, athletic league and we knew we had to catch up.”
Trap: “Any size can play baseball but you also have to be realistic. Two players of equal skill set and equal athleticism, one guy who is 30 pounds bigger and taller will usually beat the guy who is smaller so we’re definitely bigger and more athletic than usual.”
Trap: “The returning players we have from an offensive standpoint are definitely stronger and more improved. We were fairly young last year from the positional standpoint playing four and five freshmen for most of the season and those guys are all a year stronger.”
Trapasso points out that he was asked the same questions about pitching last year. LJ Brewster hadn’t been a pitcher, Tyler Brashears and Kyle Von Ruden were first-year guys, Quintin Torres-Costa was coming back from injury. He admits he doesn’t have the power arm like Brashears but he’s brought in strike-throwers and guys with pitchibility and guys with size. “We have a lot of three-pitch command guys in the mid- to high-80s. If we can lower our walks per game average then that’s going to make up for that.”
Trapasso admits they won’t be able to win the 1-0 games they did last year with Brashears but the offense should be better.
Trap talked about Scott Kuzminsky who had an average junior year but then had an outstanding senior year two years ago and he says he’s kind of the benchmark for some of these other guys that came in as JC transfers. Kyle Von Ruden in particular. Lowered his arm angle in the fall and added a cut-slider.
Back from the first break….
Talk now shifts to hitting.
Trap: “The experience the guys were able to have last year allows them to have the ability to understand what it takes at the Division I level and in the Big West.”
Trapasso admits now that they are in the Big West he’s looked at changing his thought process about scheduling. He won’t shy away from scheduling the best teams but you might not see the schedule’s you’ve seen the last few years. Expects a big jump from freshman to sophomore seasons for some of these guys.
“The reality is we’ve had 10 years of winning at a pretty good clip and the last two or three years we haven’t been winning at that clip. I’ve gone back and done some soul searching and there were some little changes that you might make over a three-year period. There were some common things you have been doing over the first 10 years that we haven’t been doing the last two or three years. We’ve done some things significantly different in the fall to try to change the culture.”
Pretty interesting to hear Trapasso talk this way. His focus is to get back to basics which is what they had done the majority of his tenure here. “As bad as the last three years are it’s surprising I still have a winning record here.”
“What we looked at was the basics and what we’ve done best over the years we’ve been winning is simple. Defense, pitching, execution offense in that order. We were always a very good defensive club. That was the thing we took a great deal of pride in.”
“Walks per game average is the single most important defensive per-game statistic.”
“There’s no question where we’ve struggled the last few years is scoring runs. We’ve found we’ve made some certain adjustments and sacrificing defense for offense and we haven’t been getting much offense while lacking on defense.”
“Last year we were not a good defensive club.”
“I like this team first and foremost coming back defensively and our team speed. We can be a good defensive club. I’m hoping we get back to where we used to be defensively.”
“Les Murakami Stadium is statistically the most difficult college baseball park offensively. Ball that gets hit in the air is going to die because of the heavy air and a ball hit on the ground is slowed down because of the DOMO turf.”
He reemphasizes the order of importance they are putting on things this year. Defense is first, then pitching and throwing strikes and then offensive execution.
“The reality is victory goes to the team who makes fewest mistakes, not the team who makes the most plays and that’s something we have to get back to.”
Trapasso says Hawaii was in the top two or three in one-run games lost last year.
He calls the Big West the “best college baseball conference for the baseball purists. The Big West is a pitching and defense league for the most part.”
“I think we need to put a little more pressure on teams. It starts with getting the leadoff man on base and you have an opportunity.”
Back from the second break…
Question is on Marcus Doi.
Trap: “You hate to do this to a young man who is such a special kid or a young man who is such a good person but if Marcus Doi is healthy, he is as good of a player as we will have and as good of a player as you will have in the Big West. He has an opportunity to really show everybody what he is capable of doing. He was healthy all of fall. If he can stay healthy, what he’s capable of doing is hitting in the middle of our lineup and driving in runs. We’re getting Marcus in a lot of yoga, a lot of stretching and I am excited for him.”
Phone calls start:
Question on Lawrence Chew, who had TJ surgery two years ago.
Trap: “Chew is a guy we are counting on. Last year he wasn’t ready to come back from that. He had a very good fall. The velocity is not where it was before the injury, but he’s left-handed, and you don’t have to rely on that. He’s throwing three pitches for strikes and he fits right in that mold of pitchibility that we’ve talked about. It’s going to be really interesting to see (if he’s more than a situational guy). I think that he could be one of the valuable guys that you have from time to time that can be a swing guy. He has the capability of starting. The biggest question mark for me is throwing the mid-80s velocity and getting through the lineup three times.”
Sounds like they’re really thinking about Chew as a rotation guy. “He can give you two times through the lineup. We’ll have to see about that third time.”
Main thing is he’s healthy.
Question is on Stephen Ventimilia, who is back as a volunteer assistant.
Trap: “He’s working on his graduate degree (one-year program). We were able to pay for that with him being our student manager. It’s weird not having him out there who was a four-year starter. He is enjoying the post-playing career.”
“He was going to be a senior-sign at this time last year. He does something you can’t teach. He could run a 6.4 60. The unfortunate thing is he tore the ligament in his knee and he wasn’t the same after that and it took away the one tool you couldn’t teach.”
Scott drops a pretty big news nugget: This will be Don Robbs‘ 40th and final year doing baseball.
Next question is about facilities:
Trap talks about how great of a facility Murakami Stadium is but the reality is over the last several years they’ve worked hard to renovate some of the areas to benefit the fan experience. The turf, the seats, the lights, the scoreboard have all been replaced. The bowels of the stadium need to be focused on. They need a locker room that is up to par. The fan experience and the on-the-field experience is unbelievable. The underneath part needs work and we’ll now focus to the student athlete and future student athlete parts.”
Good time to remind everyone that UH will be using the third-base dugout as its home dugout this season.
Back from the final break…
They talk about the 2016 schedule.
“When you look at it, we always try to schedule a very challenging schedule and one the fans would like to see. What’s cool is we have a few teams that haven’t been here in awhile, or ever. (Michigan, West Virginia, New Mexico, Arizona). Last six games of the season are at Cal State Fullerton and Arizona at home. I’ve always felt that if you don’t challenge your kids, you’re cheating them. If you’re not challenging your kids, you’re cheating the fans.”
“There’s nothing that is more fun than watching our first-year players come in and see that first opening night and see their eyes seeing 4,000 screaming UH fans. It’s really cool.”
Trapasso reminds everyone that they are moving to the third-base dugout.
Last question is about opening up at UH-Hilo.
He says that since the NCAA condensed the schedule, UH has a hard time filling the 53 games. Also, UH has so many connections to the Big Island with players and boosters and fans.
BH: Baseball is the only team sport where defense cannot score points. UH team hitting the past few seasons has been abysmal.