Wayne Graham Rice baseball coaching legend chases another title.

John Granato of 1560 The Game Radio  interviews venerable coach

John Granato: Rice baseball season is upon us. Tell us a little about the team we’ll see this year.

Wayne Graham: Well, we’re real optimistic so far because we feel like we have a lot of experience coming back. We have some pitching, a little depth, so you never know what’s going to happen, but we feel good about it right now.

JG: Who are your aces coming back?

WG: Austin Kubitza has done well in the past and is good this year again. Matthew Reckling is going real well. Freshman, Jordan Stephens, is pitching well. We’ve got J.T. Charqios and Tyler Duffey in the bullpen who are outstanding.

JG: Pitching’s the name of the game, no doubt, but do you have enough [all-around] depth to hold up over the season?

WG: We think so. There are some players who are rehabbing injuries like Chase McDowell, but we think by April, he’ll be sound again.

JG: Last year, power-hitting Michael Ratterree struggled playing second base and throwing the ball from second to first. How will he adjust to moving to left field?

WG: Oh, he’ll be a fine left fielder and he does have a strong arm. I think he’ll relax out there and it will probably help his hitting a lot. He’s an outstanding athlete, obviously.

JG: How about losing Anthony Rendon [who was drafted by the Washington Nationals]? What does that do to your lineup?

WG: Well, he had an off-year last year but he carried us for two years. I feel like getting back Jeremy Rathjen, Michael Fuda, and Chase McDowell will all compensate for the loss of Anthony.

JG: What about the schedule this year? What are the highlights for you?

WG: We’re going to open against some good teams. The [premier] names in baseball are not always the same as the ones in football. Florida International, for example, is a coming program. They were in the regional playoffs last year. have an outstanding coach in Turtle Thomas, and have a lot of players coming back. So we’ll be tested early. [Update: Rice swept the opening series with FIU, 3-0]

JG: What does all of the conference realignment mean for Rice baseball?

WG: It’s really hard to know. We don’t worry about what we can’t control. I think it’ll be okay because we’ll still have some teams on our side of the league that are outstanding like East Carolina, Southern Mississippi, and Tulane. I think it’ll work out fine for us but we’ll have to wait and see.

JG: It seems that out of this conference realignment, some teams have gotten their feelings hurt so teams like Texas/Texas A&M and Pittsburgh/West Virginia are refusing to play one another. Will you continue to play Houston?

WG: Oh sure, we’ll play anybody. That’s an economical games for us because we don’t have to travel. I think we should definitely keep playing one another.

JG: What about your schedule with Texas A&M?

WG: A&M only wants to play us once a year and it varies. This year, we’re traveling to play them, which will be nice because they have a new stadium and I’d like to see it.

JG: You’re not scared of playing anyone, so you want to play the biggest schools, right?

WG: I think you grow from the competition and it only helps. We’re going to try and schedule as well as we can. We don’t want to go on the road all the time but sometimes you have to do that to get a good schedule.

JG: The game changed drastically last year with the new regulations on bats. You won a national championship playing “gorilla” ball. You had to have power and hit the ball out of the park to win games. Which style do you like better?

WG: In all truth, the year we won, we led the nation in fielding and pitching so it never really changes. There’s less power in the game now and the kids have adjusted to that. I think there will be more home runs in the game this year and a little more offense, but not as much as there used to be.

JG: Well, we’re certainly looking forward to seeing what Rice does this season.
Does this team have what it takes to be something special?

WG: I think it does but it’s all in the “doing.” We have to get after it. There’s going to be ups and downs but I really think we have the talent to make a splash this year.