Sept. 19, 2012
Rice baseball's off-season training program, Fallball, does not begin until Oct. 1, but it can't arrive soon enough for Owl head coach Wayne Graham.
Now in his 22nd season at the helm of the team, coach Graham has had a close eye on the 2013 Owl players during their individual workouts. He recently shared some of his pre-Fallball thoughts.
"All you see right now is potential," Coach Graham said. "There is a lot of potential out here in our freshman class. To me it looks a little better than I thought it would, and I already thought it was good. We think (freshman) Leon Byrd is going to play somewhere, we're going to try and figure out where.
"Some of the people who have come back have looked better," he added. "Michael Ratterree has been great. Keenan Cook had a good summer, I think he is going to be good this year. Michael Aquino had great year in the Texas Collegiate League. He's going to have a chance to have a big role (for 2013).
"We're trying to position people to have the best team we can," the head coach explained. "We want to put the best nine people on the field, whether it's the position they normally play or not. I am going to take a look at all the different options in the fall. We'll have scrimmages against outside opposition where we're going to play a lot of innings."
After opening the team's annual fall semester training, the Owls have four exhibitions for each of the weekends in October. Three of the exhibitions are scheduled for Reckling Park where there will be no charge for admission. One will be played at The Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Tex., against TCU on Oct. 14.
"I think the exhibitions will be very beneficial," coach Graham said. "The players will get a chance to face out outside competition, and they'll have something more to play-for in our own Blue-Gray scrimmages leading up to each exhibition. We started school early so we've had a longer preparatory period. I think we'll be 100-percent ready to have a scrimmage the first day. We're anxious to see what the guys can do and we won't be afraid to move people.
"I can see (senior) Christian Stringer playing first base a lot in the fall," coach said. "He's willing to help out any way he can, and we want to see players in different infield positions. We want to see what several guys can do in centerfield. We had Leon and Ford Stainback in the outfield the other day taking fly balls and both looked very good."
"Our catchers all play a lot because of the demands of the position," he said. "(Senior) Geoff Perrott is swinging the bat as well as he's ever swung it and (freshman) Hunter Kopycinski may have the best defensive arm we've had since (2003 National Champion catcher) Justin Ruchti."
Pitching is still a key component. Coach Graham thinks the Owls have the right mix of veterans and newcomers.
"There are a lot of folks that are going to vie for pitching time," coach Graham said. "We want to see Austin Kubitza back where he needs to be, and we're very confident in him. John Simms has picked up a couple of things (over the summer) and he is going to be even better, and he was 6-0 last year. Zech Lemond was good last year and he's advanced. (Freshman) Kevin McCanna was drafted, we know he can pitch. Tyler Spurlin has pitched extremely well in individuals and Chase McDowell is coming around. The individual workouts have gone well. We want to see the pitchers in our fall program."
"Things can, and will change... even in February. We just want to have a sound basis of information heading into the season."