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Monday, January 31, 2000

The Hokie Hotline this week originated from the Gobblertown Tavern in Christiansburg, and the guests were Coach Chuck Hartman of the Tech baseball team and menís basketball coach, Ricky Stokes.

For some reason, I had a little trouble getting the very beginning of the broadcast in, so I missed the introduction and the first part of Coach Hartmanís segment. After that, everything seemed to work just fine.


Coach Hartman, who begins his 22nd season as Techís baseball coach as the winningest active college baseball coach, discussed the upcoming season for the Tech baseball team. The season begins for the Hokies in about two and a half weeks with a tournament in Charleston, SC. They will play St. Johnís in the first game on February 18, followed by Tennessee and West Virginia. The home opener at English Field will be on Wednesday, March 1 against West Virginia. Tech is one of the favorites to win the Atlantic 10 and advance to the post-season this year, as they did last year, and the coach commented that that is the teamís goal and that they would be disappointed if it didnít happen.


This yearís team is lead by last yearís Atlantic 10 player of the year and pre-season first team All-American, Larry Bowles. Bill Roth referred to him as one of the most versatile players of the last ten or twelve years at Virginia Tech, and Coach Hartman said that he will always be in the line-up for him. When he isnít pitching, he will play either first base or the outfield. Another stand-out for the team will be last seasonís rookie of the year, Jason Bush. Bush won eleven games for the Hokies last year -- shattering the previous school record of seven wins -- and finished undefeated in conference play. Coach Hartman said that each of these players has a chance to play professionally. He likes Bowles as a pitcher, but heís not sure whether his future is as a pitcher or a position player.

Another potential star pitcher for the Hokies is freshman left-handed pitcher, Joe Saunders, who has a fastball that has been clocked in the low 90ís. He has a chance to be the third consecutive Atlantic 10 rookie of the year if he performs as the coaches expect.

Addison Bowman and Chad Foutz will likely platoon at third base, and the one not in the field will most likely DH for the team. Kevin Bice is the teamís catcher, and the middle infield will be Marc Tugwell at second base and Spencer Harris at shortstop. The outfield will consist of Chris Hutchison in right field and freshmen Brad Bauder and Ryan Murphy.

Coach Hartman assessed the team as being very talented, but young. He said that it is very possible that the team will be inconsistent; perhaps winning some games that they shouldnít win, and not playing well against other teams that they should handle easily. Without a doubt, he thought, the team would be good once April rolled around.


The team is currently practicing in the field house, as English Field is currently under about six inches of snow. While practicing there, Coach Hartman said that they are able to field ground balls, take batting practice, and have the pitchers throw off of mounds. This helps them in their preparation, but they will be happy when they are able to begin practice outside. Weather is a big factor in college baseball, he said, and he commented that there are some schools around the country that have already played as many as four or five games.

On the subject of scheduling, Coach Hartman said that he liked to play a difficult schedule in order to prepare the team to face the teams that they would have to play in the post-season. He said that this also prevents the younger players from producing unrealistically high statistics.

For next season, Coach Hartman believes that the teams to beat in the Big East will most likely be Notre Dame, Rutgers, Connecticut, St. Johnís and West Virginia. Miami is an independent in baseball, and last yearís conference champion, Providence, was forced to drop its baseball program in order to come into compliance with Title IX. Last year, three teams made it to the post-season -- Rutgers, Providence and Notre Dame. By contrast, the Atlantic 10 traditionally only receives one invitation -- that of its conference champion. He pointed out that this makes this yearís Atlantic 10 conference tournament very important and indicates that the team will have to be ready for the better competition next season in the new conference.

On the recruiting front, he said that a lot has changed over the past fifteen years, but that he doesnít do as much recruiting as he used to do. Most of the recruiting is handled through the teamís recruiting coordinator. He mentioned that Virginia Tech tried to talk to one of the players from Providence about joining the Hokies, but that he went to another school instead. They may have had other opportunities as well, but they simply missed out on the players, who were essentially free to transfer anywhere with the abandonment of the Friarís team.

I found one of his comments toward the end of his segment very amusing. As Ricky Stokes was apparently approaching the microphone, Bill Roth initiated a dialogue between the two coaches, and Coach Hartman commented that he really liked Coach Stokes and was glad that he had come to Virginia Tech, because he was one of the only coaches that he could look in the eye.


UMass game and upcoming schedule

The menís basketball team had only played one game since the last Hokie Hotline, and that was the 49-41 loss to UMass on Saturday. Coach Stokes gave the Minutemen credit for their play in the win. He said that they were bigger and stronger than Tech and had effectively put a lid on the basket for Tech. The players had played well for some stretches during the game and did a good job coming back, he said, but they werenít able to take the lead after getting down early. Bill Roth and Coach Stokes discussed the unusual situation with the referees for the game. One of them was unable to make it to the game in time, and the first half was played with only two referees, and they called the game very loose. The third referee arrived for the second half and immediately called a foul that hadnít been called during the first half. It required adjustments by the players, but it was certainly fair for both teams. They also commented, however, that there had been a few very tough calls that they felt had gone against the Hokies.

The teamís next game will be Thursday against St. Josephís at Cassell Coliseum. Coach Stokes said that their team is deep and has two transfers -- one from Villanova and one from William and Mary. He said that they play about ten players deep. As a side note on St. Josephís, Bill Roth mentioned that the Hawk is the only mascot in the conference that is allowed to travel with its school, and that the individual is on scholarship.

Following that game, the team will travel to Philadelphia to play a tough road game against LaSalle, and then will turn right around to play Old Dominion in Cassell Coliseum. In response to one callerís inquiry about the number of players that will play, Coach Stokes indicated that it is likely that more players will play in the near future. In the beginning of the season, he said, the coaches were trying to find the best fit for the team. Later, they settled into a rotation with fewer players, but with the short turn-around time this weekend, more of the players will see action.


Coach Stokes commented on recruiting briefly, and said that he felt that all four of the recruits that will come to Tech next season were shooters that could help the team compete in the Big East. Bill Roth passed on a question that he had received from someone about the academic standing of the four recruits. The coach commented that two of the recruits, Exilus and Dixon, had already qualified, and that the other two were improving. He expressed confidence that all four of them would be able to enroll in the Fall.

As for summer recruiting, which Roth indicated was coming under scrutiny by the NCAA, Coach Stokes said that he liked summer recruiting for several reasons. He said that itís a good opportunity for the players. They get a chance to play more basketball, which helps them to improve their game, and they get to do some traveling with their various teams. He said he also liked the fact that the coaches get to travel together and keep in touch.

With two-thirds of the season over Bill Roth asked what goals Coach Stokes felt the team could still accomplish. His response was that they could still have a winning season, and the possibility still existed to play in the post-season. Later, he also said that he believes in this team, and would like to see them have a winning season for the seniors, who have never had a winning season at Tech.

Bill Roth mentioned an incident that happened when St. Josephís visited Duquesne. Apparently, Coach Martelli got in an altercation with the Duquesne students following the game and has been disciplined by the school. No information was available on the nature of the discipline or whether there would be additional action by the NCAA. Coach Stokes also mentioned another incident between Coach Chaney of Temple and the crowd at St. Bonaventure. Both of them commented that this indicated that it was very tough on the road in the Atlantic 10.

Coach Stokesís amusing comment for the show came as Bill Roth was discussing how well Virginia had been playing lately, and that it was a credit to the Hokies that they had played them so tough. Coach Stokesís only comment to that was, "Moving right along."


Next Monday, the menís basketball team will play Old Dominion at Cassell Coliseum, so the Hokie Hotline will be on Tuesday. It will be the annual football recruiting special with Coach Frank Beamer and his staff, and they will discuss the recruiting class for next seasonís freshman class. The national letter of intent signing period for football begins this Wednesday, February 2.

One caller commented that she enjoyed having Coach Hartman on the Hokie Hotline to promote the baseball team, and asked if the same would be possible for the softball coach. Bill Roth indicated that they were trying to have some of the Spring sports represented on the show. He also commented that he thought all of the Spring sports were favored to win the Atlantic 10 this season. The softball team is ranked 33rd in the preseason poll.

The womenís team will play at George Washington on Wednesday, February 2, and radio coverage will be available in the New River Valley.

The menís team will play Thursday at home against St. Josephís. Game time is 7:00 and radio coverage will begin at 6:30 with the pre-game show.

-- Apex Hokie


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