Last Wednesday I spoke to and interviewed two senior players on the Profs’ baseball team, infielder Matt Jolly and pitcher Rob Grilli. Jolly throws and hits both right handed, while Grilli pitches right handed and bats left handed. I first spoke to Matt Jolly. I asked him about his advice for future baseball players, and I also spoke to him about his baseball background.
Number 14, infielder Matt Jolly is now in his second — and final — season as a Prof, after spending the previous two seasons (2014-2015) as a roadrunner (at Rowan College at Gloucester County). Last season he finished second best on the team in batting average, at .344. He also drove in 25 runs, and had a .439 slugging percentage. In 2015, he also put up solid numbers, hitting .297 and driving in 49 runners.
In 2013, Jolly was a graduate of Lenape High School and lettered in both baseball and wrestling. As a varsity player in his senior year at Lenape, he played a part in the school’s Indians’ baseball team going 15-9. He also played a part in the team’s advancement into the South Jersey semifinals. Can he help Rowan this season accomplish feats like that?
Question: I want to get your opinion on the team. You guys had a good year last season, going 24-18. You hit .344 and drove in 25 runs. Is there anything you can take away from last year’s success?
Answer: Just to stay confident.
Question: Is there anything you would change from last year to now? As both an individual and as a team.
Answer: I learned just to be more mature as a player. Last year I would tend to get myself out on pitches that I can’t hit very well, and this off-season I focused on just being selective at the plate. Not being aggressive and swinging too early in counts.
Question: So just being more patient?
Answer: Yeah, being more patient, but also trying to get a really good pitch to hit. Just trying to get my pitch, and capitalizing on it.
Question: You’re listed on the school’s athletic’s website as an infielder, do you generally play the same position each game?
Are you a third baseman or does your position kind of vary?
Answer: Coach (Mike Dickson) has me everywhere. It started last Fall actually, where I began to start working at short(stop). I’m more of a utility player, I’m very flexible to it.
Question: Do you like playing one position than any other?
Answer: I play shortstop the most, but sometimes it changes if another guy gets injured.
Question: Being a baseball player, was that something that you always wanted to do, or did it start once you began high school?
Answer: I’ve definitely been interested in baseball my whole life. I started at a young age, and when I got in high school my dad actually built a batting cage in my backyard, and I’ve been really serious about the sport ever since then.
Question: Did you have a favorite baseball player growing up?
Answer: My favorite player used to be Derek Jeter before he retired. He was a very mature player, ever since his rookie year (of 1996). He even went on to win Rookie of The Year, and they (the Yankees) went on to win the World Series.
I try to be as mature as I can on the field. I try to have his mindset, getting better everyday. That’s what I just try to bring on the field, getting better and not being over-aggressive.
Side note: like Matt, Jeter also was an infielder and shortstop.
Question: Do you have any advice for freshman players?
Answer: My advice would just be, just slow the game down and take it one play at a time. You know, come college baseball, it’s a lot different from high school baseball. Unlike high school, you can’t make mental errors, cause high school players can get away with it.
But the game speeds up on you, playing bigger, faster, stronger kids, so you have to slow the game down, it’s just a game, you have to have fun with it.
Pitcher Rob Grilli, like Matt Jolly, is in his final year in collegiate baseball. Based on statistics, Grilli had an impressive year last season, going 3-2 and he had a 2.93 ERA. In 43 innings, he also struck out 40 batters, having a strikeouts-per game average of 9.3. In the past two seasons, he’s had an earned-run average of 3.00 or less, as he went 2-1 and had a 3.00 ERA in 2015.
Question: In high school, you had some great success as a pitcher. You didn’t transfer from another college, too. Prior to coach Mike Dickson, you had Juan Ranero as your head coach through your first two seasons. Is there a huge difference between both coaches?
Answer: Well, both are very good, but coach Dickson is a little more laid back. Both are very experienced, from the time that I’ve spent with both coaches. A lot of players on our team even had coach (Dickson) when he was with (Rowan at) GCC (Gloucester County College). I liked them both a lot.
Question: Did you notice a huge difference from playing high school baseball to college baseball?
Answer: Oh yeah, there definitely is. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome my freshman year, my confidence was nonexistent freshman year, which was a world’s difference from my senior year in high school. In high school to college, you go from being the oldest guy to the newcomer, as well as the smallest guy on the team. It was just a lot to handle.
Question: You had a lot of success over the past few years, were you a lot more confident after your rookie year with the team?
Answer: Absolutely. The confidence built more and more as a I got innings on the mound. It snowballed a lot after my freshman year. I got a few more innings my sophomore year, so I got more and more appearances, then my confidence built from that. Last year was my best year, and it was all due to my confidence.
Question: Was it due to you making a lot of adjustments before the season or was it mostly due to getting more confident, or a little bit of both?
Answer: A little bit of both, yeah definitely. Our pitching coach after the past couple of years helped me develop some new pitches, we also tweaked some of my mechanics, which helped me out a lot.
Question: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Answer: Growing up, I loved Mike Piazza (Hall of Fame catcher), I was a big (New York) Mets’ fan growing up, and he contributed to the game very well.
Question: Do you have a favorite player that plays in professional baseball now (Piazza retired in 2007), one player that you enjoy watching?
Answer: Yeah, I think (starting pitcher) Matt Harvey’s my favorite (who’s also affiliated with the Mets). Harvey’s the face of the pitching staff there, and that’s how I want to be here for Rowan. I just love the way he plays.
Question: Harvey throws a lot of breaking pitches, over the past few years I’m sure you tried to develop that after your senior year of high school. Despite your success, is there anything different that you would do compared to previous years?
Answer: Not a whole lot, since I’ve worked with the pitching coach a lot more than before over the past few years. I definitely see the team competing and winning this year, and having a shot at winning the NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference). We’ve definitely got some arms this year that can help us out in the long run.
Thank you to both Matt and Rob for taking their time out to let me interview them.