Interviews with coaches (14)
Brent Lavallee is in his third season as Head Coach of the LSU Shreveport Pilots. The Pilots won the Red River Athletic Conference regular season championship last season. Lavalee was named RRAC Coach of the Year in 2017.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: You played four seasons at LSU Shreveport, and went on to become assistant coach and then head coach there. How did you get from North Delta, British Columbia to Shreveport?
Brent Lavallee, LSU Shreveport: Pretty much, I got lucky. It is not easy for a Canadian to get into a good American college program. A former LSUS player (Aaron McRae) was back in town getting ready to go to Spring training with the Detroit Tigers. He had played his Senior season at LSUS in 2003, leading them to a World Series appearance. He was back home training with our high school team and noticed I had some decent defensive skills and he made a call to the Head Coach at LSUS, Rocke Musgraves. Coach Rocke took his word and spoke with my high school coach, Ari Mellios - who had a reputation of making great catchers, and they gave me a little scholarship money and an opportunity to play as a Freshman, and the rest is history. I owe a lot to my parents, my high school coaches and to Aaron McRae and Coach Rocke Musgraves for giving me that opportunity. There was a lot of hard work on my behalf - I was a hockey player who played baseball in the Summer, but there was a much better chance to get an education playing baseball and I am glad I made that decision.
BB: The Pilots have usually had at least one Canadian on the roster, and this year, you have four of them. What is is about LSUS that attracts them?
BL: I think there are many things that attract Canadian student-athletes to LSUS. We have great weather and terrific facilities, especially compared to most Canadian high school programs. The cost of tuition is very affordable, even with the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar being pretty high. Also, the comfort level of having a Canadian on the coaching staff is a bit of an attraction to the families, just knowing that there is someone who knows what the international students are going through and what to do if something were to go wrong. A lot of it is networking. We don't get the chance to see many of the Canadians that end up here; we go off of recommendations from people and we trust them and hope that they know the talent level that we try to bring in. I find myself sometimes being harder on recruiting Canadians because I don't want to bring a kid 3,000 miles to sit the bench. We want them to be contributors, especially if they are coming from so far and paying that amount of money.
Mike White is the Head Baseball Coach and Athletic Director of the Bluefield College Rams. The Rams compete in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. Their record was 28-23 last season, 8-18 in conference play. This interview took place on October 7, 2018.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: I'll start out asking you a couple of questions in your capacity as Athletic Director. It looks like there last been quite a bit of growth in athletics at Bluefield in recent years. You started football in 2012, right?
Mike White: Yes.
BB: So, what's the base of support for Bluefield, what's your fan base, where does the money come from?
MW: Well, for football, in Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia, there is a huge football draw. If you go to a Friday night game in Mitchell Stadium, where we play our home games, there will be crowd of anywhere from 12 to 15 thousand. Football is a huge part of the community in Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, so it only makes sense for us to go ahead and bring it back. We had it in the early 40's, before World War II.
BB: I was going to mention, sports at Bluefield College seem to go back a long ways.
MW: Football disbanded for World War II. In 2012, we brought it back. It made sense. It was the right time to come back. The community support has been awesome, and athletics at the college has grown exponentially over the last couple of years, especially.
Marcos Dominguez is entering his second season as Head Coach of the Talladega College Tornados in Alabama. In his first season, the Tornados had a record of 36-24, and made an Opening Round appearance. Dominguez was voted Small School Coach of the Year by Black College Nines.
Dominguez attended the Ferreira Baseball Academy in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He played at Ranger College in Texas, and was recruited by Will Ramos to play at Talladega. After graduation, Dominguez stayed on at Talladega as an Assistant Coach, then took the Head Coaching job when Ramos was hired by the University of the Virgin Islands.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: Talladega's baseball program started in 2009, right? You started having winning records in 2011. What do you think the reasons are for the program's success?
Marcos Dominguez: The program’s success came from the hard work of the baseball players. They always want to be successful.
BB: You pitched for the Tornados for two seasons, had eight wins and 85 strikeouts. What was the highlight of your playing career?
MD: My first win against U. of Mobile. Why? Before that, I had five no-decisions.
BB: Even in 2014, when you arrived at Talladega, they had a large number of Latino players. What makes Talladega attractive to them, yourself included?
MD: The head coach was a Latino and we are a family here at Talladega. The reason is the Latinos talk to each other. That was how I got here. I have a friend that was playing here and he talked to me about it. If the head coach is a Latino, all the Latino players are going to feel more comfortable.
Duane Monlux is the Head Coach of the Bellevue University Bruins. The Bruins finished third at the NAIA Baseball National Championship last season His record at Bellevue over seven seasons is 256-97-3. He was selected as Coach of the Year by the North Star Athletic Association for the 2016 season. This interview took place on February 12, 2017, after the Bruins split a double-header with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Drovers.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: I hadn’t originally planned on talking to you about today’s games [vs. Science and Arts of Oklahoma], but USAO’s got some pitching.
Duane Monlux: Yeah, they do. They had some good arms in both games, and not only that, in the games they played previously. They have some really good starting pitchers, they have the ability to strike people out. They’re a good team. They hit the ball well today, and they’re going to beat a lot of teams, that’s for sure.
BB: We had a lot of balls bobbled by the infielders,but they came up with a couple of big defensive plays in the outfield when they needed them [by RF Randy Ventura]. I’m thinking specifically of the sixth inning of the first game. The right fielder robbed you guys of an extra-base hit, at a point when it really mattered.
DM: Well, we got it back to 4-2, and that would have changed that inning. That was a heck of a play. They played a clean game. They’re a very good baseball team, with good pitching, good hitting, and pretty good defense. They went through the whole nine-inning game with no errors, and they’re absolutely a World Series-caliber team.
Jorge Perez is the Head Coach of the Saint Thomas University Bobcats. The Bobcats were runners-up at the NAIA Baseball National Champiosnip last season, and Perez was selected ABCA/Diamond Regional Coach of the Year. His record at Saint Thomas over seven seasons is 240-172.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: In the final game of the National Championship tournament last Spring, you led Lewis-Clark State 7-1 after five innings, and 7-4 after seven innings. What was going through the minds of you and your players at that stage of the game?
Jorge Perez: We did not get caught up in the score of the game. We were living in the moment and thinking pitch-by-pitch.
BB: But you got two big wins in the tournament over Oklahoma Baptist and Faulkner. Tell us about them.
JP: We felt good vs. Oklahoma Baptist. We led the entire game and played very well. Faulkner’s game was a true indication of the character of this team. We played the entire 27 outs.
BB: And on the way, you got a shutout against a good Westmont team.
JP: Our ace Marcos Barrios pitched great and we got several clutch hits when we needed them.
Matt Parker is the Head Coach at Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: You've been the Head Coach at Oklahoma Wesleyan for three years, and have had a winning record all three years. You took the Eagles for their first trip to the Baseball National Championship. What were the big factors in turning things around?
Matt Parker: I think the biggest thing for us in the process has been recruiting guys who fit our program and our University. Our coaching staff has really focused on finding those tough, gritty kind of players who fit our style of play. The other factor has been getting guys who buy into and believe in our program and the direction it is headed.
BB: Your team certainly got their money's worth in Lewiston: a ten-inning loss to eventual champion Cumberland, a 12-inning win over Tabor, and an 11-inning win over #1 Oklahoma Baptist. Let's talk about that Cumberland game first. How often does anyone come up against a ten-inning relief appearance?
MP: We definitely got all we bargained for in Lewiston. The relief appearance by the guy from Cumberland [RHP Clint Meadows] was tremendous! If you are going to win a National Championship, you need someone to step up and do something out of the ordinary, and he certainly did that. He really saved their bullpen that night. I thought we did a good job swinging the bat against him. I think we scored 7 runs that game, but he was good at dodging the big inning and keeping it small for them.
BB: And you missed a chance to win it in the ninth with a baserunning mistake. What happened there?
MP: We did have a chance. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what happened on the play. I know that Jose Ruiz drove the ball down the right field line with Jeff Butler on first. Jeff is a tremendous base runner, but I think got deked a little bit by the ball. I guess he lost the ball in the lights and turned around to see the outfielder catch it off the bounce. Jeff thought he had caught it in the air and began to return to first to tag up. By the time he and Jose saw each other, it was too late and they had passed one another.
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.
Mike Grahovac is the Head Coach of the defending NAIA national champion Concordia-Irvine eagles. He was interviewed after a non-conference win over Patten on February 17.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: You just got a complete game from Brett Clapper.
Mike Grahovac: He threw very well today. He's a returning guy for us, and we needed that from our pitching staff today.
BB: You did pretty well offensively, but Steven McMichael got the hit that mattered, as it turned out.
MG: Yeah, he didn't start the first few games this year, but we got him out there, and he's been hitting the ball all over the place. We got him to start today, and he had a big hit for us.
BB: You were up against pretty good pitching for the first seven innings.
MG: That guy out there [Issac Duran] was throwing the ball really well today, off-speed, fast balls, locating, he was doing really well.