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Wednesday, 03 October 2012 08:59

Interview with Virginia Intermont Coach Jeremy Christian

Written by Administrator

Jeremy Christian is going into his second year as Head Coach of the Virginia Intermont Cobras. Virginia Intermont is in Bristol, VA, and competes in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.

Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: You played at Milligan, and you were an assistant coach at Union College (KY). Your team at Union College was ranked #7, so you know how to win. The year before you came here, VI was 8-41.

Jeremy Christian: We were 15-33 in my first season here.

BB: So you nearly doubled the number of wins. What made that possible?

JC: The biggest thing we've done here is change the mentality of the program. I knew coming in that I was here to rebuild the program. I've been fortunate enough to have worked at other places. At Brevard Junior College we had a #3 ranking in the country. At Milligan, we won a conference championship. At Union College, I won a conference championship as a coach. So I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how to win.

At VI, they had four or five down years, and weren't as competitive as they would have liked to have been. In order to get those guys to be able to compete, I had to change the mentality. I really came in and changed everything about the program. We painted the office. We threw everything away. I changed everything about the program except the logo. Then I brought in guys who wanted to work, wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves. And then the rest was just baseball.

BB: You've done some recruiting. When you try to convince somebody to come and play baseball at VI, what's your sales pitch?

JC: It's difficult, it really is. The school itself had some difficult financial times. I grew up in Bristol, and I know that in the 90's, VI was very good. I know that in 2000, VI won national championships in three or four sports and competed at a high level nationally. But I know that they had been in some trouble financially. When I was in college and when I was coaching in Kentucky, I knew what was going on. But for me, it is a family atmosphere here. It is a small campus, a small community, we've got 550 kids that go to school here. It's a family atmosphere, and that's what I want them to be a part of. You're not a number, you're a face, you're a name, you're a person. The faculty generally cares for their students here. My philosophy is all about development, so when I go and do my recruiting pitch to those guys, it's about development. A lot of college coaches these days know it is big business; “I rent a player for a year. If they don't produce, then I find a new one.” I tell these guys “you'll have a chance to compete for a position.” I'm not locked into “all Seniors must play” or “Freshmen must red-shirt.” To me, the best nine play. If I've got to play nine shortstops, I'll play nine shortstops. They like the fact that they know they can compete for a position. We're a small enough place that I can develop them. It's my job to get the most out of them.

The development side is the biggest step this season. We'll get you prepared to move to the next level.

BB: Let's talk about some specific individuals. You've got a right-handed pitcher named Justin Hutton, who had a real good summer. Tell me about it.

JC: Huddy was a guy we brought in last year at the break, a junior college transfer [Wilkes CC]. It was interesting... Huddy's a great kid, a guy that can really pitch... we brought him in to really shore up the back end of our bullpen. He closed the first three to four weeks of the season, got a couple of saves early on in the season. He's got a low ¾ arm slot sidearm delivery, unorthodox. He's a sidewinder, not a knuckle-dragger; he doesn't go real deep. He can locate three or four pitches. He's not dominant velocity-wise, but he knows how to pitch. He's not scared. He can run the ball inside and outside, and he can throw all his pitches for strikes. We had talked about him leaving the closer role. My Assistant Coach, Jimmy Nave had said, “I really believe he can go deeper in the game, if we give him a chance.” I had some difficulty last year setting the rotation, so we gave Huddy a chance to pitch late in the year as a starter, and he flourished. I think he struck out 12 or 13 against Milligan the next-to-last conference weekend, and really came into his own late in the year as a starter. So when we sent him to the Southern Collegiate Baseball League [Morganton Aggies] this Summer, I told his coach, “This guy's been closing for us over the year, but we want him to start, I think he needs some time.” He was an All-Star, and by the midway point, he was tied for the lead in wins in the league, had a couple of saves. Here's a local guy who did really well, threw a shutout inning in the All-Star Game. He's the guy we're counting on to lead our rotation this year.

BB: You've got a bunch of people coming back. You've got Mark Schultz, who was your leading hitter.

JC: Schultz has been here for four years. He's a red-shirt fifth year Senior. I inherited him when I got here. He was a guy that I knew was a pretty good player. He's very athletic, very toolsy, can really run. He battled some injury problems last year. I think he could have had even better stats last year, but he missed three or four conference weekends. We've got to fix that, from a health standpoint, but he was 20 for 20 in stolen base attempts last year. He has the ability to hit the ball out of the park and drive in runs. He's really going to be the centerpiece of our offense. We're not going to hit a lot of home runs. We play in a monster ballpark. So our guys really run. We hit 20 triples last year as a team. We set records in stolen bases, and that's the name of our game.

BB: What ballpark do you play in?

JC: We play at DeVault Stadium, home of the Bristol White Sox, two miles from the campus.

BB: Is that Single A?

JC: It's Advanced Rookie, Appalachian League.

BB: So their season and yours don't overlap. That's too bad, but it helps to have a high-quality ballpark.

You've got a guy named Josh Paolucci.

JC: Josh is going into his second year, he's a Sophomore here. “Pooch” is another local guy, went to a local high school here. Pooch really knows how to compete. We're still early enough in our program that we don't have those guys who can go out there and be big-time starters. We don't have a lot of velocity. One day we will. One day I'll be able to get those top-end guys when we get this thing turned around, and we are light years ahead of where we were at this point last year. Pooch is a guy we brought in last year who tied our mark for wins in a season as a freshman. He had six wins last year as a Freshman. He did a tremendous job, and we actually ended up having three or four blown saves in his outings, so he could have had double-digits wins as a Freshman. He's very polished for a young man. He attacks the zone, he's not scared. We ran him out against [National Champion] Tennessee Wesleyan, his first conference start, and he gave us six good innings. You'll see that with our team. When I took over the job, we only had 14 players, so I signed 22 guys, and I leaned heavily on some young Freshmen. We threw a lot of Freshmen out there last year, and we had another good recruiting class this year to get our depth up. But Pooch is a guy who just competes, and our guys are blue-collar guys that work hard. They're not scared. They don't know any better [laughs], they're not supposed to be any good as young kids, and this program's been bad. They're here because they believe they can move this to the next level, and Pooch goes out there and competes. He did a great job last year, and he'll be in the weekend rotation this year and do the same thing.

BB: The other name I have is Preston Asbill.

JC: He had a good summer as well [Fuquay-Varina Twins]. The big thing about “P” is, he ran into arm trouble last year. He's a junior college transfer, he had played at a high level early on in his career. He had a pretty good year last year. We actually moved P to do more offensively last summer. He was a guy who was a pitcher for us last year, DH a little bit, had arm trouble and was not where he once was arm strength-wise. We thought it was best for him to work offensively this summer, moved him to first base to see what he could do. He's got good stuff from a strikeout perspective. He moved to first base and was actually an All-Star this Summer in the Carolina-Virginia League at first base. He can really hit, he's going to make the move to first base this year. He's got potential to be a middle of the order hitter for us.

BB: Let's talk about your schedule. Your home opener is February 15. What kind of weather do you have in Bristol at that time of year?

JC: It's cold. Last year, we actually were very lucky. We didn't get the snow we had a couple of years ago. We do have four seasons here, but they're a blur for a couple of months of the year. It's gonna be cold. We're just hoping the snow holds off, if we can get it above 35-40 degrees, we'll be all right. But it's gonna be cold. I like our guys to play at home as much as possible, so I scheduled a bunch of home games. The truth is, we've been bad for so long, folks want to come here and play us. I don't have to go out and look for games; they all want to come and get at me.

BB: You have defending champion Tennessee Wesleyan as a conference opponent. Are they coming here, or are you going there?

JC: They're coming here this year. That'll be our final home weekend, and Coach Berry does a great job. I've know him for years, since my time at Union College, while I was a player at Milligan and he was at Bluefield. They are the gold standard of our conference. We have a very difficult conference, where routinely you're going to have three teams in the top 25. It's not often where you get to play the national champions, and I told Billy last year that one of these days, I'm going to have a squad that can go toe-to-toe with them. I know he expects that, and hopefully this year, when they come to our place, we're going to be prepared for them.

BB: Are you going to try to play Cumberland some time in the future?

JC: I would love to get down and play some of those guys. We've played Lee in the past. When I got here, I removed a couple of teams from the schedule. My goal for the first couple of years is to establish depth. By year three or year four, I want to be able to play the best. That's the only way we're going to get better is playing those guys, and eventually to get back on the national scene.

BB: You also have Montreat as a conference opponent. I looked at the stats from this past year. Marti Sementelli pitched 3 1/3 innings against you, faced ten batters, and struck out one of them. What did you say to that guy who struck out when he came back to the bench?

JC: I didn't say much to him at all. I told the guys, “look, she's there for a reason.” She's able to compete at the collegiate level. I received a scouting report on her. I knew what she was going to throw. She throws 85% breaking balls, and it's a pretty good breaker. I said, you treat it like any other pitcher. She's trying to strike you out, our job is to get on base and score runs. She actually had two pretty good outings against us. She did her job, got ground balls.

Virginia Intermont baseball page

Last modified on Friday, 05 October 2012 08:20
Administrator

Administrator

Bob Broughton started going to British Columbia home games in 2001, and was favorably impressed with the caliber of play. This led to annual trips to the NAIA Baseball National Championship in Lewiston, ID, a nine-hour drive from Vancouver. He retired in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2012.

Website: broughton.ca/

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