Chat with KU baseball coach Ritch Price

May 19, 2009

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KU baseball coach Ritch Price

Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price will talk to readers live from Oklahoma City, Okla., where the Jayhawks are getting set to play in the Big 12 Tournament. Price will be here Tuesday at 3 p.m. to take your questions.


Hey, this is Jesse Newell, online editor. I'm happy to have KU baseball coach Ritch Price, who is chatting with us from Oklahoma City, Okla., site of the Big 12 Tournament. Coach, thanks for taking some time to talk with us.

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

Thanks Jesse. My pleasure!


Coach, I heard today that Kansas State has decided to not throw Big 12 pitcher of the year A.J. Morris against you guys in tomorrow's game at the Big 12 Tournament. Does this change at all the way you guys prepare for the Wildcats?

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

No, we had planned to go with Shaeffer Hall regardless of who K-State was going to pitch. Shaeffer only threw 68 pitches on Friday night, so he will be good to go. I respect what K-State is doing with Morris, he threw 128 pitches against us last week, and by pitching him on Thursday their staff is only bumping him up one day.


Let's get right to some reader questions.


Coach, how does the potential on this year's team compare to the 2006 team going into Big 12 Tournament? Are there more expectations for year's team than 2006?

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

There are a lot of similarities between the two teams. Our 2006 team swept Texas A&M on the final weekend of the season and was peaking at the right time and went to beat four Top 25 teams to win the title. This team has gotten better each month of the season and is playing its best baseball of the season right now. It all goes back to starting pitching, if we get three quality starts we could be playing in the championship game on Sunday.


Coach, good luck in BOTH of the upcoming tournaments!

Your team was picked to finish at the bottom of the league before the season. 2 questions about the surprising success of the '09 squad:

1. What is the main reason you see for the team's success this year?

2. What player has been the most pleasant surprise to you this season?

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

Thanks! Our pitching has been outstanding and the key to our success. We are 17-3 in midweek games, which is amazing. Our starting pitching has been good and our bullpen has been outstanding. We have the best depth on our staff that we have had in my tenure and the results speak for themselves.

Well obviously Tony Thompson has had one of the best seasons in Kansas Baseball history. His numbers are worthly of being an All American. Also, Brian Heere has been a huge surprise, batting third and playing outstanding defense. But the most important player on the field has been senior catcher Buck Afenir. His offensive numbers are really good and he has allowed the fewest stolen bases in the league, along with handling a very young pitching staff. His leadership has been special!


This is from the user flagship:

Coach -- tremendous season; it's been a true joy. I've followed the program closely for 20 years and have witnessed (in some fashion) virtually all of the great wins. And let me give a plug for Tom Hedrick -- he's been excellent on the broadcasts this spring.

I realize this may have been hashed out during the season -- and it may not be the most critical component in NCAA team selection, but can you explain what component is hurting KU the most in the RPI? KU won more Big 12 series than KSU and did better against the top 4 teams in the Big 12 while arguably playing a better non-conf. schedule, and yet KSU's RPI is 27 and KU's is 43. ???

Have fun and great success in OKC -- I'll be there as well.

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

Flagship, I agree with you about Tom Hedrick, the Hall of Famer has been a pleasure to work with and call our games. He is a great, great man!

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your question about our RPI, I had this discussion with assistant athetic director Sean Lester on the bus to OKC yesterday. The numbers don't add up, according to Baseball America we have the most wins in the country against teams in the Top 25. I am actually going to call the NCAA RPI statistician when I get back in the office on Monday and ask that very question. We need to find out if we are being penalized for the 2 game series with Chicago State and a couple of other mid week opponents with low RPI numbers.


Who are potential replacements at first base with the departure of Preston Land next year?

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

We have Zac Elgie and Brett Lisher currently playing first base and both are caple of playing on a regular basis for us. We also plan to move freshman Jake Marasco back to his natural position which was first base in high school.


Coach Price,

Congrats on an outstanding regular season and best of luck in the upcoming. My brother (.550 avg, 20 SB, 14 3B's) didn't have a breakout year to go with his great glove until his senior year in high school. He has agreed to play for a small div 3 team. What does someone like him need to do to work his way to a big time program like yours by his junior year? What kind of things do you look for when you scout talent at that level?


KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

chuckberry32, Your brother has great numbers. He needs to go out and have a great summer and put up outstanding numbers again next year and prove himself at the college level. I wish him the best of luck next year.

Like all Division 1 programs were looking for kids with professional abilities. The ability to hit, run, throw, hit for power, and play defense. We also have to recruit kids who can hit plus velocity, and are willing to work hard in the weight room to get bigger, stronger, and faster in college. If you can hit 300 in the Big 12 Conference you can play professional baseball.


Congratulations on all the success that you've had this year. My question is where did all this pitching come from? They can't all be first year Jayhawks can they? Coach Graves must be doing something right!

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

We try to recruit four pitchers with each recruiting class. Our model is to spend 5.0 scholarships on pitching, but at the present time we have spent over 7.5 full scholarships on that side of the ball this year. As a result we have better depth than ever before. When the NCAA change the start of the season and reduced the playing weeks, we needed to recruit enough pitchers to play 5 games a week. We have also been able to recruit and keep the best players in the state of Kansas home. Freshmen Lee Ridenhour, Colton Murray, Thomas Taylor all turned down offers from Nebraska, Wichita State and others to attend KU. The new McCarthy Family Clubhouse has been huge in upgrading our recruiting.


OK, we have time for two more questions.


Great season coach!

But my question is about your future plans after Robby graduates. Do you see yourself staying at KU or possibly moving on? How much longer would you like to coach at KU?

By the way, you have done a great job rebuilding KU's baseball program and looks bright for the future!

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

Thank you for the very nice compliment. My wife, boys, and I all absolutely love the University of Kansas and Lawrence. I hope to coach for 10 more years. I actually like the game more today than the day I started. My plan is to continue to build the program and finish my career at KU. I am truly honored to be the head baseball coach at this great university.


OK, last one.


Great season, Coach! After last year's class graduated, I thought that this surely would have been a rebuilding year. What's been the biggest factor in getting these guys to gel so quickly and pull off the wins?

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

Great team chemistry. We have tremendous young men in our program who believe in each other and play for each other. They are fun to be around everyday. We preach to our guys that if they work hard everyday, and prepare properly good things will happen, I couldn't be more proud of this group.


Coach, thanks again for taking the time to join us, and good luck in the Big 12 Tournament this week.

KU baseball coach Ritch Price:

Thanks Jesse. I appreciate you. Rock Chalk!


Thanks again to coach Price, and thanks to the readers for your questions.


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