Virginia Tech baseball is officially on the front burner. With college football finished, and college basketball winding down, Gobbler Country chats with head coach Pat mason in this exclusive interview:
Gobbler Country (GC): Year two into in the process, where would you grade yourself in terms of when you took the head coaching position to where you are now?
Coach Mason (CM): I was part of that process prior, too. Knowing where we were when I took over and where we are know, it's an incomplete. I really like how we've built this team with the depth on the mound. This will be my sixth season here in Blacksburg total, and this is the deepest pitching staff we've had. If we can stay healthy and pitch to our potential, there could be something pretty special going on. That was my vision when taking over the program. I wanted to slowly transform our program into pitching first. If we want to achieve the goals set forth, it's through pitching and defense. We weren't quite wired to do that a couple years ago.
GC: What are some the specific goals, if you're able to share, with this current group of Hokies?
CM: First and foremost we have to make the A.C.C. tournament. That's a goal that is non-negotiable. That's not our end goal, but it has to be the first goal we accomplish. It would be difficult or near impossible to get a regional bid without making the A.C.C. tournament. We have to make sure we take care of business in conference, or I don't think we would be considered for a regional bid. Our second goal is to take care of the non-conference games. We have 26 non-conference games, and we need to win 18 of them. Once we are in a regional, just like Virginia proved last year, any A.C.C. team can make a run in Omaha at a national championship.
GC: How important is it for the program to get upgrades at English Field for the team and future recruits? Have you had any conversations with the athletic department or Whit Babcock surrounding the facilities?
CM: It's very important in terms of recruiting. Secondly, I would put the fan experience ahead of our team. We have everything that is required to develop our athletes. I think we have proven we can do a good job with what we have.
GC: Do you think Virginia Tech's baseball facilities are on par with other A.C.C. clubs?
CM: No, we are probably in the bottom three. It's a facilities arms race in every sport in the A.C.C..It's amazing. The facilities we played in last weekend at The Citadel was a top tier A.C.C. facility. If you look around our state and region, whether it's Liberty or Coastal Carolina, everybody's putting in these AA quality baseball stadiums. Part of that is the sport has demonstrated an ability to generate revenue. I think athletic directors are more comfortable investing the money in hopes of getting a return on that investment.
GC: How much pressure, if any, does the success of U.V.A. baseball put on you? Is that something you even consider?
CM: It's something we don't talk about with our team. Obviously when they win a national championship, it ups the ante for what we can do. It ups your game, but the conference is too good to focus on one team.
GC: What have you and your staff done to identify and recruit the in-state talent to ensure they end up in Blacksburg?
CM: We have two of the hardest working guys out there in Coach Woodard (Robert Woodard) and Coach Connolly (Ryan Connolly). They are addicted to recruiting. They know every player in the region, and up and down the east coast. One of the things we focused on as a staff was taking care of business in our state a little bit more. When we had some success in the previous years, it opened up the lines of communication a little bit more. We became a more viable option. In this year's freshman class, we have eight Virginia kids. We know it's Hokie country throughout the whole state, and we should be able to keep anyone in the state of Virginia. There are a lot of kids who want to come to Virginia Tech, and just need a reason. More and more kids want to be part of this program and we have to be there to scoop kids up.
The Hokies will play in the ODU Baseball Tournament starting tomorrow at noon eastern in Norfolk. The Hokies will battle against the University of Delaware Blue Hens, so stay tuned to gobblercountry.com for more exciting baseball coverage!