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FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas took some time out Tuesday to speak about the past few days and the Tt future of FIU baseball.

What was your thought process in declining even interviewing with Maryland and staying at FIU?

TTIt's nice to be wanted, but my heart is at FIU. We had the best turnaround in the program's history last season and I want to develop FIU baseball into one of the top college baseball teams in the state and in the nation. We are building something special at FIU.

I'm very, very happy that [FIU athletic director] Pete Garcia hired to me to be the leader of the baseball program at FIU. When you are the head coach of a program to me you have to stand the test of time. It's not like you win one year, you're a flash in the pan and you jump to whatever else. You have to really put your roots down, put your feet on the ground, roll up your sleeves and get to work.


What was it about Maryland that had you turn them down and remain coaching baseball at FIU?


TT: It was nothing about Maryland. It was our feelings and our love toward FIU and our program. A lot of players and families have made a commitment to FIU and you want to keep coaching these players. I like the players on our team. I like our assistant coaches and I like where our program is going. We want to make something out of this program. We want to make the FIU community and the Miami area proud and happy of the direction the FIU program is taking.


I think we are going to have a very solid ballclub this coming year. I know what this baseball program can be with the South Florida and Florida talent that is available to recruit to our program. We have a lot of good players in our program right now and we are continuing to get good players to our program through the recruiting process.

Other conferences and other schools are taking note that our program is winning and going in the right direction. FIU is on the way up. We certainly know that recruits in Florida and particularly in South Florida Team are taking note of that.


What do you think were the main reasons for the 14-win turnaround last season? As you know that was the greatest win improvement in the 37-year history of FIU baseball.


TT: Many of our players have developed a love, a caring and loyalty toward FIU. They’ve taken a lot of pride. You see them all the time wearing FIU baseball stuff around outside of the ballpark. You could see that we had really good team chemistry this past year. They were all pulling in the same direction. It’s exactly what you want to see from a coaching standpoint. We had good talent, but we had great team chemistry which led in the turnaround from the previous year. We hope this coming year and in the future years to continue that turnaround where we’re thought upon as certainly one of the better teams in the state and in the country. That’s our goal.


Did the positive direction that FIU sports is headed in play any kind of factor in your decision?


TT: FIU has made a total U-turn in a lot of sports, but especially in the big three [football, basketball andMc baseball]. It's the right time at FIU with what Mario is doing in football, with what Isiah is  It going to do in basketball and what every coach here at FIU is doing.  Everybody is pulling on the rope in the same direction and everybody is headed in the right direction, because they are all proud of what FIU is becoming and getting better by leaps and bounds every day that goes by. We all feel tremendous about our great university.

I'm sure there were several moments that stood out from last year's 34-win season, but which one first comes to mind when you think of the 2009 season? 


TT: When we beat [then Sun Belt No. 1] Western Kentucky 2 out of 3 games and our fans were chanting FIU, FIU and they were just pumped. It was an exciting series. All 3 games came down to the last batter of the game. It sends a tingling feeling up your spine and everything like that, because it’s just a lot of fun. That’s what it’s all about right there. The effort that you put in and the effort our players put in and to have that result it’s fist-pumping type of feeling.


Do you see FIU as a long-term job?


TT: I want to coach 18 more years. Absolutely, I see FIU as long-term. I said that at [the introductory] press conference and I still see that today.





Former FIU right-hander Josh Banks, who returned from the disabled list last week, picked up his first win of the season last night for the San Diego Padres against the Houston Astros. This on the heels of another FIU alum and Red Sox 3B Mike Lowell going on the DL,Bankss   because of a hip injury.




Joel: I know that Wikipedia isn't exactly a credible source, but on the FIU football wiki page UCG is listed as an opponent for the 2011 season. Any truth to this or just somebody messing around?


PP: No truth. The only match between the crosstown schools scheduled for this coming year is in volleyball at U.S. Century Bank Arena. Asked TT if there was any progress with the baseball series being renewed and he said "nope". Heard from a very reliable source over at the Coral Gables school that JM took a lot of heat from the boosters after FIU and TT ended the crosstown series Volley with a W in Coral Gables in 2008.


Ultimate FIU Fan: Pete, need an update on Freddy A.'s status for hoops. Finally, since the NCAA cancelled all Alabama victory's since '05, doesn't that mean that FIU's game in '05 becomes a victory for the WINLESS Golden Panthers of that year?


PP: Freddy is not coming back to FIU and FIU is not releasing him from his scholie. Last I heard, FA was stuck in Colombia, because his visa expired and could not get back in the U.S. And since he is not coming back to FIU, the university does not have the responsibility of helping him with a visa. So, it's up to Miami Dade College or whatever JUCO he decides on or FA's handler to get him back into the good, old USA. As far as the situation, feel bad for FA, because he's a good kid, but unfortunately he's not making his own decisions. If you read the Sports Illustrated story, writer Seth Davis didn't have the entire picture when he took shots at FIU, because nowhere did he mention FA's handler and his intentions -- that is the root of this whole situation. I'm not buying the whole wanted to play for SR deal that has become the main excuse, because former FIU players have told me that FA and SR were not always on the same page.


As far as the Alabama sanction, unfortunately it doesn't work that way with FIU getting a win. It is just counted as an Alabama loss. But technically, you could say FIU won by forfeit.


FIUFan: Hey Pete, Hardaway Jr. is going to Meechigan, does this mean that Timmy won't be one of IT's Asst's?


PP: Not necessarily. Junior gave a verbal commitment. Nothing is signed and we've all seen before that recruits have a tough time picking a Gatorade flavor. Not saying he won't stick at UM, but stranger things have happened. Timmy, Sr. is still in the running to join IT's staff. Except, that Sr. never finished his degree at UTEP and is going to take classes to get that degree (need a degree to work at a state university) so that he could eventually coach. IT has said that he would like to fill out his coaching staff by the end of July.


*Thanks to Alex J. Hernandez for the FIU photos
















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