The 2013 Tar Heels set team records for wins with 59, while also setting records for runs scored (542), walks (369), shutouts (11) and batting average against (.215) while winning the ACC Coastal Division, regular season and post-season championships en route to their 10th trip to the College World Series.
Can you reflect back on the season and what you think was the biggest accomplishment for the Diamond Heels this season?
“Our biggest accomplishment of course was getting back to the College World Series, which was our players’ biggest goals and I am so glad this team was able to experience that. They worked so hard all year long and they were rewarded for it and that was always good to see. This team was such a pleasure to coach and work with every day. Our coaches said from way early in the fall that this team had something special and a very high commitment level and they were such a pleasure - just so easy to work with. They were all very committed and wanted to reach their goals so from beginning to end it was just a great journey and I think everyone tried to enjoy it. We were certainly disappointed not to win the national championship but the run we had was a very good one and we were happy about that.”
Can you discuss the summer plans for the Diamond Heels players and the importance of balancing playing time and development for the fall?
“We have our players everywhere. Some are still on campus, some don’t need to play or pitch this summer. We pulled Chris McCue out of the Cape and we thought rest was important for him and Trent Thornton as well. Although, Trent was a late invite to the USA Team and is trying to make the team and make the final cut if you will. We have some guys at the Cape, Coastal Plain League, and the New England Collegiate League. They all, we think, have made it to their summer destinations. It is important for a lot of them to develop this summer. Coach Jackson and Forbes work really hard to place all of these guys in the right situation and it is fun for us to follow them during the summer and hopefully they will all do well and get better.”
With many members of this year’s team now pursuing professional opportunities, Tar Heel fans are already thinking about the competition for playing time this fall and next spring. Can you discuss the early thoughts on the roster for next season?
“[Laughs] I have no idea. Right now we are excited because we have our whole incoming class in the second session of summer school. They have been on campus for a couple of weeks and they have been working with [Strength and Conditioning] Coach Gatz so we are getting a chance to know them better and again they are taking six hours [of classes]. So that has been fun. That group met our team when we came back to Boshamer when we got back from Omaha. I thought that was really, really cool. They were there waiting. This incoming group we are very, very excited about. This fall is going to be new and competitive and we have some returning players but boy do we have some big holes to fill with Kent, Colin and Holby [departing] and then our seniors Cody, Chaz and Chris as well gone. We are busy already recruiting. We got back Saturday night and left the stadium at 5 or 6 after cleaning everything up and meeting with some players and my two assistants were out watching games on Sunday morning at 9 o’clock. We are busy and trying to put teams together for the future. We will have another good club in 2014. I feel confident about that.”
This was your program’s second opportunity to check out TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha and pitching and defense came to the forefront of the College World Series this year…
“Well, obviously that was a big story at the World Series this year with the lack of offense, home runs and extra base hits. Everybody has chronicled the last three years and obviously we have been there in 2011 but I don’t think it was quite as noticeable as everyone was sort of enamored with the new park and how it looked and not necessarily how it played. Now that it is three years old and you are out there it was very obvious to everyone that the park played big. When you hear an announcer who was in the major leagues for a long period of time say that he doesn’t remember a ballpark he played in the major leagues that played as big as this one then you know that it is pretty noticeable. Going forward I don’t know but my opinion is that there needs to be more balance between offense and defense even in the World Series. I know it will be talked about. The best pitching teams in the country were there and the best defensive teams were there. It depended on who got timely hits and UCLA did that and I think that is why they won the national championship.”
This season had a high water mark for fan attendance and interest in the Tar Heel baseball program. How do you plan to continue that momentum and increase season ticket sales and fan interest heading into the fall and next season?
“This year without question was the best Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium in terms of crowd atmosphere and home field advantage. Promotions and marketing was certainly the best in my time at UNC. Great credit goes to Michael Beale and Dave Arendas and the people on that baseball atmosphere group who really, really worked hard. We won and we put a good product on the field - we think that helps. We played 40 home games, which is the most that has ever been played at Boshamer in one season. We want to build on that. I know a survey has already gone out about what people liked and didn’t like. The fireworks, the parking, the concessions were all new. Jason [Whitman] and that group from Aramark … so a lot of people pitched in and we have to keep that going and I’m sure we will.”
On that note, what do you expect to do to help promote and increase fan attendance and interest for the Fall World Series?
“I hadn’t even thought about it really. We have a tentative fall schedule together. We will certainly open up our Fall World Series and do all that the same. I’m sure Michael will try to market it a little better to get people out to come see some games. We will look at the game times and kind of how they fall. I think this year if we keep the same schedule it is going to be on a weekend where there is not a home football game. We will see how that goes and we will look at it very carefully and try to get some people out no question.”
Can you discuss what summer time is like around the Bosh with camps and tournaments using the facility?
“It is crazy. We had 100 little league campers from June 24 -27 then we had games on our field from the 28th [through] July 3rd. There has been activity on our field from sometimes 8 in the morning to 10:30 at night. July 1st to the 3rd is a big event. Then Coach Gaines is getting married July 6th then here we go. Then we are all trying to make it to New York for the All Star Game - hopefully Matt Harvey is in that. The summer is just incredibly busy for us but that is the way we like it and it is ok.”