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Tigers Begin Preseason Baseball Practice Friday

Jan. 27, 2012

Clemson, SC –

Clemson opened up the 2012 baseball season on Friday with its first team practice at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers, who are ranked as high as #16 in the nation in the preseason by Baseball America, will open the season on February 17 against UAB. Below are quotes from Head Coach Jack Leggett, senior utility player Phil Pohl, junior infielder Richie Shaffer, and junior righthander Kevin Brady prior to Friday’s practice.

Head Coach Jack Leggett

Opening Statement “I was thinking this morning that this is my 35th year of coaching and 33rd as a head coach of Division I baseball. Every year, I get as excited about the first day of practice as I did the year before. I’m going to keep doing this job as long as I keep getting excited about it.

“This is a great looking group of players we’ve had out here in the fall. They’ve been working hard and I’m excited about seeing them out here in practice gear. I’m also excited about seeing them work together as a unit. I’m excited about the preparation it takes to win.”

On this year’s offensive style “In order for us to score some runs, we’re going to have to be very good at execution. We’re going to have to be able to move runners around, get our bunts down, hit behind runners when we can, and everyone is going to have to be very unselfish. We have a few guys who have some power, but at the same time, we don’t want to build our game totally around that. If you’re sitting around waiting for that to happen with these bats, it’s not going to happen.

“We have a few guys who are going to take care of some home runs for us, but it’s important for us to stick to our game this year. We’re going to have to do what we’ve been working on in the batting cages and take our fundamentals out to the baseball field. If we do that, we’ll have a chance to be a very good offensive team. There are going to be some guys who didn’t get a lot of playing time last year that are going to have to step up and that’s what this baseball program is all about.”

On this year’s pitching rotation “I like our pitching. I think our pitching is going to be one of our strong points. Kevin Brady is back, which is a huge plus. We also have some experience with Dominic Leone, Scott Firth, David Haselden, and Joseph Moorefield. We have some young guys coming in that are going to help us out. I’m excited about what we have a chance to do on the mound. I think we have a chance to have a good defensive team and offensively, we’re going to be a work in progress, but I think we’ll become very solid in that area as well.”

On younger players stepping up “Some of the guys who played behind the starters last year are going to get a chance to see a lot of playing time this year. Steve Wilkerson has had a great fall and really practiced well for us. He’s had a lot of enthusiasm and some leadership in the infield. He’s going to have a chance to play a lot of second base for us, which will allow us to move Jason Stolz over to his natural position at shortstop.

“We’re also going to probably move Jeff Schaus, Will Lamb, and Chris Epps, but we have a lot of new guys vying for playing time out there.”

On outfielders “We have six guys working for a spot out there. Thomas Brittle has a chance to play centerfield. A freshman, Tyler Slaton, has been practicing very well. Dominic Attanasio has a chance to play if he gets everything together. Joe Costigan also works hard out there. Brad Felder has transferred into the program and has a chance to see some time out there. Mike Triller, another freshman, has been working hard all the time. Garrett Boulware is another player we’re really excited about. He’s a T.L. Hanna High School graduate and he’s a guy who has a chance to help us as a catcher down the road, but we’ve been looking for a way to get him in the lineup. Phil Pohl and Jon McGibbon can also move out to the outfield. We have a lot of competition and it’s going to work itself out in the next couple of weeks.”

On using playing time as motivation “Playing time is definitely a motivating factor for these guys. These players come to practice every day and they know they have a chance to play if they work hard and do all the little things it takes to help the team win. Everyone knows there are opportunities and there’s a chance for improvement from everyone. If they keep their nose to the grindstone and do what they’re supposed to do, they’re going to have a chance to play.”

On moving Richie Shaffer to third base “The plan right now is to move Richie to third and get Jon McGibbon at first. Richie has come a long way at third and has really been working hard over the fall. He’s wanted to play third base since he got here, but needed to help the team at first base. This will allow McGibbon to get in the lineup this year. He’s come a long way and I think he’s going to be a really good player for us.”

On Daniel GossettDaniel Gossett did a really great job for us in the fall. I thought he came on and got stronger physically and started to understand the transition from high school to college baseball. It took him awhile to figure that out, but I think he’s going to be really good for us in the spring. He’s a tough, hard-nosed competitor. He’s also a hard worker and has a great attitude. He has a great future here.

“No one has a real role right now. Daniel could start for us, he could be a reliever for us, and he could even close for us. It’s about getting him as much work as we can in the next few weeks.”

Phil Pohl, C/1B/F

On first day of practice: “We couldn’t have asked for a better day to start practice. This is perfect. Being from New York, this is what I came down here for. We’ve all been working really hard throughout the fall, and we’re excited to get out here for day one. The season is right around the corner and we’re looking forward to getting out there and getting it done.”

On this year’s lineup: “We lost some huge guys last year in Jeff Schaus, Will Lamb, but this year we’re going to be young and we’re going to be eager. I think we’re going to be ready to get out here and prove to everyone that we’re going to pick up right where we left off.”

On practice shirts’ slogan, “Hunt or Be Hunted”: “This was one of our mottos from weightlifting in the fall, and we wanted to take that philosophy from the weightroom and bring it to the field. We want to get after it and really go after the prize this year.”

On last year’s ending: “The way last year ended is definitely a motivating factor for us. Most of the guys who were here last year have been thinking about it all offseason. We’ve been working extremely hard this fall to go out and right what happened last year. I wasn’t please with how last season ended. We definitely don’t want to go out that way, especially on our home field. I’m looking forward to fixing that this year. I hope that drives us a lot. I know I definitely haven’t forgotten about it…I think about it every day. February 17 is the first day we’re going to be able to get back on the right track, and I think we’re going to do that.”

On this year’s offensive style: “We’re a fast team. Guys like Steve Wilkerson and Jason Stolz are very fast on the basepaths. At the same time, we have guys with a lot of power. Jon McGibbon has really come a long way and is going to be a big bat in our order. Richie Shaffer is a guy who has the most talent of anyone I’ve played with. We have a lot of power and we’re going to be able to put the ball in the gap.”

Richie Shaffer, 3B/1B

On being a leader: “I’ve had two years in this program under a lot of great guys like Jeff Schaus, who have been staples in this program for a long time. I’ve taken a lot of their leadership skills and tried to keep it up. It’s pretty exciting to be considered one of the guys who needs to step up and be a leader this year. But, this is a team effort. We’re only as good as our weakest link. It’s going to take a combined effort from everyone to get all the young guys up to speed and to get the ball rolling, but I think this is going to be a fun season.”

On this seasons “unknowns”: “You hear the phrase “question marks” a lot. I don’t really view it as that, but as just a lot of guys who are trying to go out and prove themselves.”

On transition to third base: “I’m excited. It’s a chance to go back home for me. That’s where I was coming out of high school, but the team needed me at first, so that’s what I had to do. You have to do whatever is in the team’s best interest.

“I’ve been working hard in the fall at third. This is my natural position and I feel comfortable over there, so there’s no learning curve, which is helpful. I’m just going to hit the ground running and help out the pitchers as best I can. I have to work on the instinctual things, the split-second decisions…with more repetition comes more improvement and more confidence.”

On playing in the Cape Cod League: “That was a great experience. I really had a lot of fun. There was great competition and you were facing the best of the best every day. I’m glad I got to experience that and it’s something I’ll never forget. I played third there and it felt good to get my feet wet before coming out here. It was a good experience and I learned a lot by playing with other players and coaches.”

Kevin Brady, RHP

On pitching in the fall: “I’ve really been working on my breaking ball during the fall. I took some time off over the summer to let everything heal, and Coach (Dan) Pepicelli and I have been doing a lot of breaking ball work, and I feel great. I feel like all my pitches are there.”

On pitching staff: “I feel like everyone has to go out there and do their job. We have the components to be a great team this year. The hitters are going to do their job and the pitchers are going to do theirs. Bottom line…we have to go out there and play Clemson baseball. Everything else will take care of itself, on and off the field.”

On personal expectations: “I always go out there on the days when I’m told to pitch and give it everything I’ve got. I want to leave everything on the field and be satisfied with my performance when I walk off the mound.”