BATON ROUGE, LA. (WVUE) - LSU's baseball team is set to begin the 2014 season on February 14th when they host UNO.
The Tigers ended the 2013 season with two straight losses in Omaha but enter the 2014 campaign ranked in the top three of Collegiate Baseball and the Coaches' Preseason polls. They are led by junior right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola and sophomore shortstop Alex Bregman, both of which have received numerous preseason honors.
The following are a collection of quotes from the team's media day, as transcribed by LSU Sports Information:
LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri
"Welcome everybody. I was giving you one more strike. In baseball, we have three strikes. We canceled this thing (Media Day) two times already so we were going to give it one more shot. I thought I should start talking like John Facenda. Welcome to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Except it should be welcome to the frozen tundra of Alex Box Stadium. It is crazy what we have been dealing with in this last week. I've been asked several times if it reminds me of coaching in South Bend with the ice and so forth, and it did until I got in my car, and I didn't have an ice scrapper. That thing made a big difference."
"This was a real challenging week. It was obviously unique. We were so excited to get started last Friday with being with you all and getting in a practice. Then I woke to a text from our president, King Alexander, saying school was closed. Obviously we were very disappointed, but he made the right decision. I am so glad he, the governor and mayor made those decisions and did the right thing for our city to keep everyone safe. I told everyone last Friday in my eight years here, this was the worst weather I have experienced in Baton Rouge. Little did we know a couple days later on Tuesday we would be experiencing the same thing. We got set back a little bit, but not that much. We had a nice scrimmage yesterday, and we will scrimmage today and tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will stay dry enough for us on Sunday for us to scrimmage. I think we are right on target where we need to be."
"We are two weeks away from Opening Day, February 14. I think we are exactly where we need to be. (Aaron) Nola will throw three innings today. (Cody) Glenn will throw today once, but he will throw again in the middle of the week. Over the weekend, we will have (Kyle) Bouman throw three innings and (Henri) Faucheux will throw three innings. Our starting pitchers are starting to get extended a little bit. By the time we start our first game, I think our hitters will have 30 to 40 at-bats in our intrasquad scrimmages. They are making a lot of plays. Honestly, I think we are right on target and ready to go. Everyone is excited. Most everyone is healthy. I feel like the team is starting to round into shape in terms of figuring out who we are going to go with. We are getting close to making those decisions."
"We are obviously very excited about Opening Day. Opening Day will be very special for me personally. We are playing the University of New Orleans, and my mentor and second father, Ron Maestri, is back in the dugout for the Privateers. That will be very unique for me. I am not sure I am going to enjoy it that much. I will enjoy it when it is over, but it's going to be great seeing Coach Maestri back in the dugout and contributing to the UNO program again."
"The opening game against UNO begins a 56-game schedule. There will be a lot of exciting moments. In the middle of March we open up with Vanderbilt with our 30-game schedule in the SEC. By then, I think we will have a pretty good grasp on our team. There is no hiding the fact that we have lost a lot outstanding players from last year's team. Particularly, Raph Rhymes who led the nation in hitting two years ago, Mason Katz who led the SEC in home runs last year, Chris Cotton who was our all-world closer last year, and of course our starting catcher, our second baseman, and a lot of guys from the bullpen."
"We have a lot of big shoes to fill. Out here people don't want to hear excuses. They just want to see you reload and get ready to go. Fortunately for us we have a good foundation of players returning. I really like some of our new players. I think they will be ready to go. We are ready to get after it. I think we have a team that is going to be able to make a run again. Our goal every year is to roll out of bed and expect to go to Omaha to play for a national championship. In order to do that you have to compete very favorably in the SEC. I think we have a team that can do that. I am looking forward to it. We still have a way to go to put the team in that position, but it will be a great journey. I am looking forward to it."
OF Jared Foster
On LSU having the best outfield in the country…
"I honestly think so. It is like one big glove out there. We have been improving in practice and all of the scrimmages. We are fast. People will see it once we start playing. We are really fast out there. Not a lot of balls will drop."
On what he needs to do to get the starting job…
"I need to hit. I need to be able to stay consistent. That is not a surprise. That is what is expected of us every day. SEC Tournament last year is a prime example of having to stay on your toes. You have to stay on your toes, stay on your game and be ready at any point."
On playing outfield…
"I had never played outfield at all until about 10 games into my freshman year of college. It was a little intimidating at first. I had to try to get the routes down and learn how to track the balls. It was a little difficult at first but I feel great now. It feels like home now."
On losing last year's big hitters…
"We might not have those guys who are going to hit 16 home runs in a season anymore. But, we are going to have a consistent lineup all the way through. Everyone is going to contribute. No one slacks off. It is going to be one solid lineup all the way through. When we put runners in scoring position, we might not need that home run, but we need to be able to get them in."
OF Sean McMullen
On the opening series against UNO…
"I am really looking forward to that. It is kind of like a homecoming for me. I remember when I was in junior college and high school, and watching Mason [Katz] come back. I would go to all of those games. They (family and friends) just have given me so much love and support. It is just nice to know that. I have a bunch of friends on UNO's team and it is going to be nice to play against them again. I think it is going to be some really good moments for us."
On the challenges of winning in the SEC and getting to the postseason…
"That is the first thing Coach Mainieri told us in our first meeting, the season does not start in Omaha. We realize how hard it is to get there and we also realize what it takes. We are going to go through a lot of games this season where it is going to be really emotional whether it is good or bad. Every team faces adversity as far as losses and injuries. I am just looking forward to making those memories this year and getting the ball rolling."
RHP Aaron Nola
On the strength of the pitching staff…
"We have a lot of strength. We lost a lot of really good guys last year, but we also had a lot of guys come back this year. They are solid. I think it is really going to come together. I don't think I could name just one main guy right now. It is really all just starting to come together. But the fans are going to see what we can do."
On his improvements from last season…
"I feel like I have just matured a little bit more. My pitches have gotten a little better. I did a lot of work on that. I also think I have gotten a little smarter pitching-wise. I am still working on all of my stuff."
On going 0-2 in Omaha last year…
"I don't like to focus on that too often any more. We have to come back ready for a new season. There are a lot of positives to making the postseason. We just have to feed off of that. It has put a little bit of a fire in our team. It is going to take a while and we are going to take it one game at a time."
On playing in the SEC…
"You have to come ready to play each day. The SEC is not a joke. Every player is one of the best. You cannot underestimate any player that steps on the field. Our team knows that. Also, you cannot let up just because it is a team that not many people have heard of. Just like in Super Regionals sometimes you have a team that not many people have heard of, but they are now one of the best in the country. We are ready to go. We are not taking many days off. We are going to work hard and do our best each day."
On feeling more pressure as a starter…
"I don't really feel more pressure. I like coming in and being able to throw a lot of innings. That is fun for me. Coach Mainieri is going to figure out the lineup and who is going to fill the spots. There is no reason to worry about that. We have a lot of guys who can throw and will do a lot of good things for us."
On opening weekend…
"I am like a lot of other guys on the team. We are anxious to get back on the field again and play another team. We have only been able to play against ourselves. It has been a while since we have been able to play against another team in front of all of our fans in Alex Box. We are ready to go."
What Aaron Nola took away from last season...
"We are still just working on all of my pitches. Like I said, I kind of got a little smarter in the way that I am trying to learn the hitter better. That way I can throw the ball where I want it."
SS Alex Bregman
On his leadership this year compared to last year…
"I kind of led in a different way last year. I felt like I was not leading vocally as much. I think this year I need to take over more of a vocal leadership role and I think Aaron Nola does too. I think both of us will lead."
On the mental turnaround after North Carolina loss that ended the 2013 season…
"Right after we lost that game, I was ready to get back on this mission of winning the National Championship. I think this year, it's a business trip. Everything we do is about business. I think that's the mentality everyone on the team is going to take."
On how the Omaha experience will help the team…
"I think it helps a lot. I think having the experience of what Omaha is like, it's definitely changed since they won the national championship in 2009. The park has changed, everything has changed. I think it's big that we have experience this year. We are going to come in knowing what it's like. Knowing the field and knowing what you have to do to win there. I think it's huge, but I think we also have to remember that the season doesn't start in Omaha, it starts February 14, so we have a long way to go."
C/INF Tyler Moore
On his approach to the game…
"Just coming out every day and doing the best that I can and working as hard as I can, so that I can help this team get to our ultimate goal of getting back to Omaha and winning the national championship."
On his experience as a catcher…
"Freshman year I caught a little bit and I had the opportunity to catch at South Carolina. I think that's probably the biggest role I've had as a catcher here at LSU. Being in that environment as a catcher really has prepared me for moments like I'm about to be experiencing. I think experience is always a good thing, and just being around this team and being around my brothers and being around this coaching staff is going to help me this whole year."
On his catching so far…
"There are always areas to improve, especially behind the plate, because it's one of the most important positions on the field just because you are in every single play and you can see the whole field and everyone else can't. So I'm really just trying to be a leader back there and leading this whole team and trying to work with the pitchers and be a rock for them."
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