We're down to 42 days before the FIU baseball season opens at home against USC. On Friday, February 22 at 7 p.m., Turtle Thomas makes his debut as the Golden Panthers new baseball coach.
Having encountered success at top programs like Clemson, Georgia Tech, LSU and Arizona State before arriving at FIU, TT expects to develop the Golden Panthers into the baseball power it should have been a long time ago.
Here is the first of our 4-part series of your questions & Turtle's answers:
Yandro: Have you heard anything from the players about them being more pumped up for this season with the change in leadership as opposed to previous seasons?
TT: Players always feel pumped up when a new season is getting ready to arrive no matter who is coaching them. But I think there is a feeling of newness and freshness. I think the toughness of our schedule is a big challenge maybe a little more so than in the past I would guess.
fiufan751 & Concerned Fan: As far as catching, shortstop, 2nd base and center field what did you learn from the fall practices/intersquads and who will be getting time at those positions?
TT: Good question there. Right now we think that Junior Arrojo is the starting shortstop. He has been the most consistent guy with the hands, making the plays and throwing across the diamond at this point. He made some errors last year, but I think that error total will be much less this year, because he'll understand college baseball and what it takes a little more. If we had to start today Ryan Mollica would be our second baseman. Ryan is a nice left-handed hitter and is continuing to improve on defense. Center field is going to be interesting. Ty Main, a freshman from Maryland has been working pretty good out there. We also got in a new guy that hasn't been cleared yet. Baseball America labeled him as a potential All-American from Northern California. (Because he has not been cleared TT could not divulge the player's name). Catching-wise Kevin Mirabal is the returner behind the plate. We also got Steven Stropp from Central Florida and we also got Ruy Rodriguez from Texas-Pan American. So those three guys are fighting for the two catching slots.
paradox: When do you plan on releasing the roster for the 2008 season?
TT: I would say within the next two weeks. There definitely have been a lot of changes. The roster is a lot different now than it was in the fall.
CJ: I personally have never been a baseball fan, yet I am an FIU fan so my question is what are you planning to do for the non-baseball fans to get them more involved?
TT: We're setting up and talking to different organizations and groups about FIU and college baseball. We're trying to sell some season tickets to them and the like. We're also trying to get some schools involved to try to come to some of our games and some kids from parks as well.
Baltimorepanther: Relating with other coaches at FIU. Do you guys get together and share ideas of recruiting and personal experience?
TT: It's funny we do some along the way when we have coaches meetings. We got a lot of good coaches here at FIU. We had a head coaches meeting on Tuesday and that afternoon I implemented something that one of them said about some academic stuff that I thought was a great idea. So yes, we do share thoughts and ideas.
FIUBlackandGold: Welcome to the GPP. But you got the wrong colors, unless you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I got some reliable sources that have confirmed to me that the school colors ARE NOT going to change. If anything, we'll see a shinier dark blue next season. The regular blue FIU has always had is getting an upgrade but definitely NO black. The gold will remain along with the blue for FIU.
SouthPaw: Last I heard Jonas Murrell is expected back for fall practice.
FIU Fanatic #1: Welcome to the GPP. If you go to the FIU football home page on fiusports.com you can click on an icon that reads Send In Your Game Tape. There you can have the second coming of Adam Vinatieri contact the FIU coaching staff.
Crazy Cane: Thought you had left us and gone down with the Orange Bowl. Welcome back. I was not taking a knock on your boy Kyle Wright. I was trying to make a point that all these stars that these "recruiting experts/gurus" hand out don't mean squat when it comes to predicting how well a player will perform in college. Yes, KW had excuses like bad head coaches, o-coordinators and a bad haircut, but the five-stars Rivals and all those other recruiting fortune tellers gave him were way too much.
Part 2 of the Q & A with TT will continue on the next blog.