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Turtle Waxes & You Could Have Gold

The College World Series begins Saturday and that's where FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas would like to eventually take the Golden Panthers. But first things first, such as a review of the past FIU baseball season and what to look forward to next season. TT dropped by the GPP to share his thoughts....Tt_2

GPP: What did you think of your first season as FIU coach?

TT: We started a little bit slow, because the kids were getting used to a new regime, a new system. No question, that was part of it. We didn’t really lock in what pitchers we were going to have in what roles successfully until about mid-season. Once we got to about mid-season we didn’t play badly. We played pretty good. We did some things that you’re proud of your guys like beating the No. 1 team in the league at the time, UL-Monroe 2 out of 3 was a very good accomplishment, because nobody else had done it. Beating South Alabama for the first time in 7 or 8 years, 2 out of 3 was a nice accomplishment. Of course, beating Miami was a good victory for our club and our program. Even some of the games we got beat like the UC Irvine 5-2, we were right in there until late in the game. Arizona State, the first game, we were 5-5 in the bottom of the 7th. Southern Cal on Sunday we were up 7-3 in the 7th, didn’t hold it.

You know people said one of the problems FIU had in 2007 was fielding, yet, in conference play we finished 4th in fielding. We broke the school record for 5 straight games of errorless ball and we broke it again with 6 straight games a few weeks after that.

Once we solidified mainly 5 guys pitching that could do a good job for us. Chris Allen and Corey Polizzano starting. James Lajiness and Eric Horstmann in mainly long relief and Jorge Marban as the closer we started to win some games. 20-36 is not a positive record, yet there were a number of things during the season that we did some very positive things for our program. We hope we set up a good nucleus of players coming back. We got a lot of new players coming in, that again you have to find the right roles for, teach them FIU baseball. We’ll be hopefully ready to getting better in the future years.

Doom GPP: What was the toughest part of the first year for you?

TT: Losing 8 games in a row in conference. That really in a way kind of doomed us. Getting beat 3 at Western Kentucky. That was third of 3 straight weekends on the road. We didn’t do a real good job there. We got beat at home by Middle Tennessee. We had 2 games right in our hands that went extra innings that we could have, should have won. Then we got beat the first 2 games at New Orleans and then came back to win the 1 on Sunday. It’s just too hard to make up an 8-game losing streak in conference.

GPP: You had a pretty good lineup for the most part, but what were some of things you would like to improve upon from the 2008 season?

TT: We definitely have a lack of quality pitching depth. That was our biggest weakness on this ballclub. There weren’t many guys that you really knew what you were going to get when you sent them out there. We just couldn’t get that consistency from no more than 5 guys throwing well for us. That’s the biggest thing we need to shore up. Team speed was definitely very much lacking. When your leading base stealer, Corey Lozano, steals 11 bases that doesn’t speak volumes for your team speed. That was a problem throughout the lineup and that hurts you both on offense and defense. That’s definitely Aaron another thing we need to shore up.

You also got to have some guys that can hit it out of the yard. You got to have some guys that can give you that 3-run homer, grand slam occasionally. We feel like we got the 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 hitters. Ryan Mollica and Tyler Townsend will probably be 3rd and 4th batters next year. We really need another 2 middle of the batting order boppers. It takes a lot of singles to score 3 runs. Where one swing of the bat can get 3 runs. In our league there are some boppers and some good offensive teams and you got to have better pitching than they have, but you also got to match them offensively, too. You better put runs on the board when you need to.


GPP: From what I saw, would you agree that catcher Steven Stropp may have been the most improved player on the team as the year progressed?


TT: He came on by leaps and bounds, no doubt about it. He hit .340 to .350 from mid-season on. Definitely a tremendous improvement as a catcher. He threw almost everybody out. If he got any kind of chance at all from the pitchers, he would throw them out. Even in the Miami game he threw Yonder Alonso out big time to end the game, but we dropped the ball at shortstop. That would have been a good way to end it. [Alonso] was dead out at second base. He’s definitely the most improved position player we had.


Poly GPP: How much did it hurt having only one left-handed pitcher (Polizzano, left)?


TT: We’ve signed 12 pitchers, 4 of them are left-handers. We need left-handed pitching badly. This year teams were able to stack all kinds of left-handed batters against us. That hurt us a lot, no question about it. To go along with the lack of pitching depth, not having any left-handers other than Polizzano is a killer right there. People would pull left-hander after left-hander out of their bullpen to throw at our left-handed batters. We couldn’t do that to them.


GPP: What are you looking for in your next pitching coach?


TT: You’re looking for two things. You want somebody that is a good instructor of pitching. That can call a good game. That can decipher pitching charts, watch a pitcher and try to figure him out. You want somebody that can figure out some weakness in a hitter to be able to get him out. You want somebody that can mainly teach a guy, pitch ability and that can teach a guy to improve the stuff that he has or maybe add another pitch into his repertoire. And you’re obviously looking for a pitching coach that can bring something to the table recruiting-wise, that is a well-known figure in pitching. A guy that knows a certain recruiting area well and he can bring you players from that area.


GPP: You guys start fall ball in 3 months. Do you have a timeframe for when you want to have a pitching coach hired?


TT: Yesterday (TT says jokingly). We still got 3 months before we get started. Not everything has surfaced yet, meaning there are more jobs open every day. Like Texas Tech came open, but not that we’re going for someone from there. You don’t know what some assistants from other schools are going to do. Maybe some get a head job, maybe some get retained. You just don’t know what’s necessarily out there yet. So if you go jumping on just anybody right away there might be 3 candidates that are better than the first guy you think of hiring. [FIU assistant coach/recruiting coordinator] Sean Allen could easily be the pitching coach and we’re considering that, because he knows that area of baseball very well. We could go for a position player coach as well. We can go either way that we want Email Fone to do successfully.


GPP: Have you been bombarded with phone calls for the pitching coach job?


TT: We’ve had our fair number of calls. We’ve had e-mails, calls, people calling to recommend other people. There hasn’t been a shortage of interest.


GPP: How do you feel about having your full allotment of scholarships back after the NCAA situation you inherited was resolved a few months ago?


TT: It’s great to have all the scholarships back, because we basically played with 8.7 scholarships last season. Nobody was complaining about it last season and our guys played hard. They did the best that they could do. But probably if we would have had the other 3.63 scholarships, we probably could have had much more pitching depth, maybe some other hitters coming off the bench that could be good. Maybe the 8th and 9th spot in our batting order could have been a little more solid. We knew we had some issues when we came in and took the job. It’s water under the dam now and we have to make sure we move forward correctly and make sure we don’t have any APR issues.


Ttjm GPP: Have you gotten a call from across town in Coral Gables to invite FIU to renew the 35-year-old crosstown series?


TT: Nothing new on that.





Results of our last two polls show that nearly half of the GPP nation likes the new fiercer, stronger Golden Panther. However, in the last question regarding the helmet, GPP nation is torn between the design of FIU in block letters with the Golden Panther head (40 %) OR just FIU in block letters on the side of the helmet (38.6 %).


The thought here is that the block letters of FIU have to be on the helmet, because FIU is not completely nationally known yet. And let's add the Golden Panther head too, to give the helmet some Uggla_2 character.


Miri: No, I was not at the game when Jr. hit No. 600. I covered the first 2 games of the Reds/Marlins series and the 3 games of the just-finished Phillies/Marlins series. I did get to write about Dan Uggla's grand slam. Uggla Slam


FIUrulez: You're becoming the official survey officer of the GPP. We got another couple of questions below the Pawse.


CJ: You are correct the MH is not shelling out the dime for me to go to Iowa to cover Ronald Forbes, but the GPP wishes RF well tonight when he runs at 9:05 p.m. You can watch RF's race live and free at Rf_2 NCAA.com. If you missed the MH story on RF here it is. Run, Ron, Run


FIUFan: The new Golden Panther is not FIU's institutional logo. The new blocks letters are. The Golden Panther is the new FIU athletics logo. Check out my explanation to FIU Fan & gpantera in the "Holy Cow" post that I wrote on June 7. Hopefully, that clears it up.


gpantera: Yes, thank you. The focus should be on winning football games. Regardless of whatever the new uniforms and helmets look like, they will look fantastic if FIU is winning.


Cane.at.Heart: Welcome to the GPP.


Let's also welcome our 23rd state of readership on the GPP. In our last survey we received votes from the home state of Ashley Judd. Louisville, Kentucky, according to the handy map tracker for our poll questions, has joined the Prowl.Kent_2


That's 23 states, 6 countries and 1 territory that the GPP is read in. States: ALA, CA, COL, FLA, GA, IDA, IL, KAN, KY, MASS, MD, MICH, MIN, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TEN, TEX, VA, VER. Countries: Australia, Brazil, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, U.S. Territory: Puerto Rico.


We seem to be in accordance that the new fiercer, stronger Golden Panther is an improvement. But still some debate about the helmet design, so we'll ask again. And for that measure we'll make SouthPaw's day as well.



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Great TT interview. If DP were still the coach Jim Morris would schedule 10 games. Any chance Lazer would be a canidate?

Pete, we were at that game when Uggla (I call him "Uggs") hit the grand salami. He's my favorite on the team. :)

I have always liked the gold pants. I thought that they looked really good. I would like to see them bring them back.

Nice interview with Turtle. Can we submit questions for the next interview?

Also, you mentioned that there will be new license plates with the new logo. Have you heard any more info on that?

Good interview with Tortuga man....It's interesting he mentioned we have signed 12 pitchers (4 lefties) for next year.

In an earlier blog you wrote in November of 2007, you help us by identifying 7 "apparent" signees that were pitchers (some of them were mailed to you, and not verified). My question is, when...and if FIU is going to have a release detailing ALL the signees,which got drafted, and which are expected to attend FIU?

Another question...I have read some places, that BCC pitching star, Matt Gilson, which you mentioned in your earlier blog he had apparently signed, is "undecided", having UM also as one school he is considering...I read he, along with Scott Rembisz, had a hell of a year both being some of the top 2-3 pitchers in the state in JC ball...Is Gilson signed with FIU? Thanks, Pete, as usual...


How come I haven't seen the new logo on the fiusports website?

If not too late to ask questions to Mario Cristobal....From what I understand, a good number (almost all) signees are scheduled to start enrolling at FIU during Summer B..that starts in about 10 days...Is any of our original "signing day" signees inelegible, or not cleared yet?

Pete, thanks for the interview with Turtle. Please let us know if he'll take questions for him to answer in another blog in the future.

Inspubadj, you mentioned hiring Lazer? I wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole! Is he a good evaluator of talent? I would YES, maybe even Hell Yes! Is he corrupt, dishonest & a cheater? Again I would say HELL YES!! I don't like UM but the things I've heard he did @ UM were almost criminal and UM did the correct thing by firing him!

FIU should learn from UM's mistake!

Oh... and don't forget about that time when Collazo showed his family jewels as part of a "motivational" speech he gave to high schoolers. Reaaaaaaal class act, lemme tell ya. He knows the game, and he'd certainly be useful at FIU, but there's no way the school can take him after all the NCAA probs he created at UM.

Anyway... good interview, Pete. Nice to see TT own up to what was a stinker of a year. Hopefully, it'll be the exception and not the rule. Even better to hear about all the arms he's getting. And, for the sake of a great series, I hope someone knocks sense into people's heads and FIU-UM gets back on the sked for next season.

He's done a great job in recruiting kids from Miami (including Gulliver I guess the parents forgave him) at both UL and USF. If by criminal you mean running a High School travel team while at UM I can see why the UM fans feel U are dramatic.

Any way just a thought!

Inspubadj, if you want Lazer, you can take him and have him coach your little league team. He has all the credentials in the world but i agree with clawing, i want no part of him.

Last I checked, expsosing yourself to underage kids is a criminal act so yes, that would make him a criminal.

This discussion about Collazo might be a moot point after all...It seems FAU is already interviewing him for the Head Coach position there left vacant by Cooney...Here's a blog on Tampa Bay's newspaper, talking about just that...

"FAU to interview Collazo for baseball job
Posted By Brett McMurphy at Jun 13, 2008 at 11:20 PM
Updated Jun 13, 2008 at 11:26 PM

University of South Florida pitching coach Lazer Collazo will interview for the Florida Atlantic head baseball job.

FAU AD Craig Angelos asked for and received permission from USF coach Lelo Prado to speak with Collazo. The 44-year old Collazo came to USF with Prado from Louisville two seasons ago.

“It would be a great place to be a head coach,” Collazo said. “It’s a sleeping giant. It’s the best of both worlds with the talent down there.”

A 1988 University of Miami graduate, Collazo spent 18 years at UM as a player and coach and has numerous recruiting ties in South Florida and would be a strong candidate for FAU. In his career, Collazo has been a part of 14 teams that reached the College World Series, including three national title teams at Miami.

“I have my aspirations to take my team to the College World Series as a head coach,” Collazo said. “It would be an honor to be interviewed for the FAU job.”

Angelos, an assistant AD for eight years at Miami, and Collazo worked together at Miami. Collazo also guided Miami Gulliver Prep to the school’s first state title in 2004.

Former FAU coach Kevin Cooney, who led the Owls to five NCAA Regionals in the past nine years, retired after 21 seasons at FAU.

Collazo is the second assistant in the past few months considered for a head coaching job at FAU. Angelos also interviewed USF men’s basketball assistant Dan Hipsher, but ultimately hired Mike Jarvis."

Thanks, Pete, you did make my day. For the record, my vote is GOLD helmets and GOLD pants (gold jersey's are too much). But if I had to choose one (helmets or pants) to change to gold, I'd choose gold PANTS over those ridiculous, shiny blue(berry) pants. Why the Golden Panthers wore all-blue uniforms over the past 2 seasons makes absolutely NO SENSE. Not to mention that our all-time record wearing blue pants is 3-21, losing by an average of 17 points per game. Wearing the blue pants on the road we were even worse, posting a record of 1-15 and losing by an average of 20 points per game. Those numbers make me blue.

It's time to move on from the Don Strock losing era and go for the GOLD. Yes, Mr. Strock first served up those blueberry pants back in 2005, a game that, by the way, we lost 66-24 to Arkansas State. Those pants should have never seen the light of day again after that one game.

Hey, I know uniforms don't win or lose games, but getting the little things wrong casts doubts as to whether we can get the big things right. Let's go with simple, classic college football uniforms and forget about changing them every other year with with the whims of the equipment manufacturers and thier stamped-out formats that dozens of other programs across the country will be wearing the same year.

The golden panther is a beautiful, powerful animal. A blueberry panther is nothing but a cartoon. Let's honor our mascot again.

What Lazer did at UM was illegal by the NCAA rules. It wasn't the worst crime in the world, that's for sure, but no one in their right mind would say that it's OK for the recruiting coordinator of any college team to coach any sort of high school team.

If it was just that, though, I wouldn't mind having Lazer. Lord knows, he certainly fits the bill for what FIU baseball needs. Pitching coach, great recruiter, knows the area well... and there's something to be said for second chances. But when you add that family jewels incident, that tells me he's a no-go. Why would anyone even THINK of doing something like that? Especially to kids?

Besides, considering all the institutional problems FIU's had (especially in baseball), the last thing they probably want to do is take on a guy who has a bad history with the NCAA. Even though he's been in other schools. I'm confident FIU can find someone who can do the pitching coach job without the baggage.

Interesting bit of news, Fanatic, about Collazo and FAU. Boy, wouldn't THAT ratchet up the recruiting wars in Miami? I mean, between Morris, Turtle and now Lazer (if he's hired)... wow. Out-of-area schools are going to have a tough time attracting anyone.

I'd be shocked to see Lazer at FAU, but then again, the Owls are known these days for their crazy coaching hires. I could see Angelos pulling the trigger on this deal, especially since he already hired a guy with major baggage in Jarvis. I dunno, though. There is such a thing as too much baggage.

Interesting...wouldn't it be?


Will you and the GPP survive the recently released news about the Herald's cutbacks?

Hope so, but besides you, there is very little support for FIU in the Herald. But, with you at the helm, its like we get coverage provided by numerous journalists.

Pete, any way to know which players from this year's team are returning and which are not and for what reason? (besides those who graduated)

I love FIU baseball and this site! Go Panthers =)

Pete just checking in to make sure those cuts at the Herald haven't affected you. You have done an amazing job covering FIU.

On the Lazer subject, "Thanks but NO thanks". I too believe in 2nd and even 3rd chances, however when the character flaws come from the core of the person it will not matter how many chances one is given. Given an opportunity to reach a goal with no prespective on ethics, guidelines, rules, etc. FIU would be asking for trouble hiring him.


Anybody see Forbes race in the NCAA finals? Racing out of lane 2 he got off to a mediocre start and looked as if he was running in pudding the entire race and ended up finishing a distance 8th.

By the way, he had the current panther head on the upper-back of his uniform in a muted gold. It looked Div.-II if you know what I mean.

lol D. -II... or D-II... big differences lol so pete when are they letting you get a crack at that new stadium? o and forbes was running hurt and theys why he was looking sluggish i mean he ran a 13.62 in the semi's then ran a 14.somthing in the finals? def running hurt

Dont make excuses for him. Part of the FIU problem, you are all afraid to call a spade a spade and would rather make bs excuses. The had a bad race - doesn't mean he is hurt/sick/or whatever, had a bad race and lost badly. Stoip with the excuses - like with baseball horrible season - it was DP's poor recruiting in the past and not all of TT's [players - no the team sucked and it was a bad year, no excuses. I know before the season noone was talking about having a absolutely horrible year. It is amazing how many excuses are available after the loss as opposed to before the loss.

He is still an All American. That was his second worst time of the year for him (14.05), and the official release confirms he had a slight foot injury which was re-aggravated in the semis...So there you have it.

Again regardless of that, he was an All American...Congrats to Ronald Forbes!!

cc you are a true spin doc. lol no hate though... he didnt have his best race but like FIUfanatic stated it was confirmed he reagrevated an injury... just poor timeing is all... btw were any UM racers make it to the final

I heard that there are many baseball guys NOT returning...some of these guys like Ellison, Trezona and Santana could have been helpful if they had been given more than ten innings to help out a losing cause. Obviously those three are gone and word is that Ramos, Mirabal and Ruy Rodriguez were cut and many took their releases (Boza, Marban, Garcia, Santana and Arrojo). So, given some of these crazy facts, is this accurate? This sounds like 90% truth and just want it cleared up.

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