Q&A: McDonnell talks USA Baseball, U of L roster
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Late last week, USA Baseball named Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell the coach of its collegiate baseball team.
McDonnell spoke with reporters on Monday to talk about the honor, and what it means for his program.
A transcript of his comments (with questions paraphrased):
Q: What was the process for how this happened?
McDONNELL: Having been an assistant coach with Team USA back in '09, you get in the system and it says a lot about our program. I think our familiarity with USA Baseball, Nick and Zack Burdi, Kyle Funkhouser, Corey Ray, Brendan McKay, Devin Hairston, Ryan Wright, Tony Zych, we've had so many players over the years that have been a part of USA Baseball, it said a lot about the University of Louisville and what we've done here. So I'm sure that combination of successful players we've been sending that way and having been on that staff in '09, it's an honor and an exciting opportunity.
Q: How do you manage doing this with coaching your own team?
McDONNELL: The summers are busy, there's no doubt about that. . . . Our coaches are constantly recruiting, but you have to trust the people in this program and give them the opportunity to step up, and give a few more guys increased roles, and moving up to running camps, where now one of our other coaches gets to get on the road to recruit, and who's to say some guys won't like it around here with Coach McDonnell not breathing down their neck every day. But it's fine. Our program should only benefit from it, from the opportunity, for other guys to step up, and being associated with USA Baseball. This is something a lot of kids want to be a part of. There's a 12-U team, 14-U, 16-U, 18-U, obviously I'm part of the college team, but you see it all the way up to the big leagues. The World Baseball Classic is the same uniform, and guys want to be a part of USA Baseball. Whether they can when they're in high school, hopefully they can if they're in college, but even if not, we've got guys who are in the minor leagues and the big leagues that want to be a part of USA Baseball.
Q: Your roster is now set. What kind of excitement does that bring for you?
McDONNELL: Completion. Now you know who's coming back. We had five high school guys that were drafted who are on campus now in summer school. Bryan Hoeing, who was drafted, chose to come back and has two years of eligibility. So, now knowing exactly what you have, continue to follow their progress this summer and see how they're doing, and get these young guys on campus off to a good start. It'll be over before you now it, and the fall will begin the first of August.
Q: How are the new guys acclimating?
McDONNELL: One week in, so we'll see. I think they're walking a little slower from the physical workouts that they're going through in the Marshall Center and the Trager Center. This is good for them. I always kind of call it a combine, where physically they can put the baseball down for five weeks. They can work on their bodies, strength and conditioning, and get used to classes, living in a dorm, knowing where the bookstore is. So now when we start in August, they're comfortable. We focus on them in the summer, while all of our other players are playing summer baseball, then we put it all together at the start of the fall semester.
Q: You've said before nothing really surprises you, but was Bryan (Hoeing) a little bit of a surprise?
McDONNELL: Now it doesn't surprise me. What surprised us was how well he pitched the second half of the year. He was so valuable, and so crucial coming out of the bullpen in that long relief role, in that emergency role, we just felt pro baseball would take notice, and they did, but I think they wanted to see him be a starter, and I think that was the talks between Bryan and Coach Williams, and they decided go to the Cape Cod League, be a starter up there, then come back here to be a weekend starter. That's obviously the goal, and I think if he does that and has the success he had this year, I think pro ball will take notice and it will be a win-win for everybody.
Q: How busy is the summer?
McDONNELL: It's great. I feel for my wife. This is the hardest month of the year. As I say, it's the tornado. When the season ends -- you don't want it to end until you win that last game, and only Oregon State did this year, for everybody else, it's get back, close up shop, send these guys on their way, get ready for these camps, tournaments, recruiting. I've had meetings in Omaha. I was just down in Charleston, S.C. I've been in four other cities recruiting, and I'm not even doing the brunt of it like Coach Williams and Coach Snider are. So our summers are crazy, but they're productive. They're good, and if you're going to have a great program, you've got to really maximize this month here, middle of June till middle of July.
Q: Will there be any duties during the season. Will you be the one to pick the team?
McDONNELL: It's a selection. Eric Campbell is the general manager and he oversees everything and puts together a great list. You spend a lot of time talking to other coaches, scouts, people who are putting their eyes on these student-athletes. So it's a group of 6, 8, 10 people that are talking weekly, making sure we put the best 22 to 24 players in the country on the field. When I did it in '09, those are everyday faces now in the big leagues. Garrick Coles, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Drew Pomeranz, Colton Laws, Yasmani Grandal, guys that are everyday big leaguers or superstar pitchers were on that team, so it is exciting. You just know you're coaching 24 of the best college basketball players in the country. Young now. It's all freshmen and sophomores. The Josh Stowers of the world they sign, their junior year. You're playing with a young team, but it's a super-talented team.
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