After a fun-filled good four months of covering the Rowan Profs’ baseball team, I no longer will be feeding this blog with new, original content at all.
Covering the team and interviewing personnel was a new, yet refreshing task for me to go through with. I enjoyed shooting HD video and photos from games of theirs that I attended and took enjoyment in doing so, since it was a new accomplishment.
By shooting video of a person or of a live action moment within a topic, with which a beat that I was/am very passionate about no less, I learned new tricks and trades, like framing and editing good video shots to make them even better.
At first, I was nervous about approaching people for interviews, thinking by doing so that I was annoying the person[s], but it gave me a fresh take into the wide world of reporting.
By taking photos, especially from different angles of the event, it made way — setting up — for telling a [good] story. I hope to be a sports reporter once I graduate college.
Here are links to my five best blog posts from this semester.
Coming into the game, the Gothic Knights were an average team — with a win-loss record of 16-16. Both teams play within the Division III New Jersey Athletic Conference. Within the conference, Rowan has the second-best record, at 26-14 (a .650 winning percentage), behind only The College of New Jersey (27-10).
On Friday, it was Rowan’s second and final regular-season meeting against New Jersey City. Prior to Friday’s game, serving as the first game of a home-and-away doubleheader, New Jersey City, the night before, hosted the Profs at the Thomas M. Gerrity AC field (NJC’s home field). New Jersey City won the game 5-4, in a come-from-behind victory.
As for this game, like most recent home games, the weather was perfect, with a forecast of around 80 degrees and partly sunny weather. Christopher Williams was the home-plate umpire, while Anthony Gencarelli served as the first-base umpire. It was Rowan’s 13th conference game.
On the mound, Rowan senior starting pitcher Andrew Cohen got the nod. For the season, he’s now 4-4, with a respectable 2.65 earned-run average, and a strikeouts-per-game average of 10.2. For the day, he pitched eight innings, allowed only one earned run, and struck out seven batters. It was the fourth time this season that he’s pitched seven innings or more in a game.
As for the Gothic Knights, senior pitcher Joe Stone got the nod on the mound by his manager Jerry Smith. Despite starting the game, Stone has been used little in games. So far this season, his season high for innings pitched in a game is three, which occurred at Staten Island on April 10th. His game against Rowan was his first start of the season.
Including this game, out of Rowan’s 38 games this season, they’ve scored at least one run in the first inning on 12 occasions.
Rowan got off to a hot start, shutting down the Gothic Knights in the top of the first, then scoring three runs during the bottom half of the inning, to take an early lead.
In that bottom of the first inning, Rowan batters had a single, a walk, and a three-run home run — all within the top four batters of the lineup.
Within that first inning, on a 0-2 count, Jason Clapper started the game by singling up the middle of the field on a high fastball. Alex Kokos laid off two outside fastballs and a low breaking ball, and drew a walk and advanced Clapper up a base to second.
After designated hitter Shawn Leydon flied out on a 1-2 high fastball, Joe Sadler waited for a better pitch and took another high fastball in, on a 3-1 count, good enough to sail a high home run to left field — off of the foul pole no less. Instantly, a strong 3-0 lead was formed. Despite, after Sadler’s three-run shot, two groundouts to end the inning (by Matt Jolly and catcher Steven Hewa), it was a solid start to the game for Rowan.
Despite having three full-count (3-2) at-bats through his first two innings, starter Andrew Cohen settled down and only had three of them through the rest of his start — his final five innings. As for Stone, in his lone inning he had 23 pitches, 12 of which were for strikes.
Their relievers weren’t much better, too, as, in the remaining eight innings, the five other NJCU pitchers allowed six hits and two walks, despite poor fielding behind their pitchers (they had three errors). In addition to that, five Rowan batters were hit by a pitch.
For the day, NJCU pitchers totaled 146 pitches, which averages out to 4.71 pitches thrown per at-bat. In 31 at-bats, Rowan batters struck out on only four occasions (12.9 percent).
Lead-off batter Jason Clapper started in right field, despiteplaying in left field for the previous three games. Going 2/4, it was his 14th multi-hit game of the season. In those 14 games, Rowan is 8-6 (.571).
After the gameended, which was at approximately 6:01 PM, I got a chance to speak with both right fielder Jason Clapper and first baseman Joe Sadler. We discussed the team’s game-to-game approach, coach Mike Dickson’s lineup adjustments, and their advice for both 2017 incoming freshman and soon-to-be sophomore players.
Of note, the game was the same day as Joe Sadler’s birthday, to which he alluded to during the interview (the year of his birthday is unknown).
-This was Jason Clapper’s 10th consecutive start at the lead-off position. Leading up to Rowan’s 2-1 win over Rutgers on April 13th, he had yet to lead-off a game in the team’s previous 28 games.
-In Clapper’s 10 games in the lead-off spot, he’s hitting .487 (19/39), with 11 runs, two home runs, two doubles, nine walks, and seven runs batted in. In his previous 28 games, he went 28 for 83, for a .337 batting average.
-After being the team’s lead-off hitter for the first 18 games of the season, freshman infielder Alex Kokos has been the second hitter in the lineup for the past eight games. In the number-two spot, he’s hitting .318 (14-44) . As a lead-off hitter, he’s hit .250 (19/76). In his past five games as a lead-off hitter, he only hit .187 (3/16), which is possibly why coach Mike Dickson moved him down a spot in the lineup.
In the 18 regular season games that he was a lead-off hitter, the team went 13-5 (for a winning percentage of 72.7). Since then, the team’s gone 7-3 (for a winning percentage of 70). For the season, he’s hitting .287.
Head coach Mike Dickson, who’s 36 years old, has been the Profs’ baseball coach since July 30th of 2014. As an undergraduate student, Dickson graduated from Rowan in 2002, then finished his master’s degree at Rowan in 2005. As he completed his undergraduate degree, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. In addition to that, he completed his graduate degree in higher education administration.
After graduating, he received Rowan’s Medallion Award, which awards students who excel in academics. Previous to his coaching tenure at Rowan, he was Rowan at Gloucester County College’s baseball head coach from January of 2006 until July of 2014 (see above).
At Rowan’s Esbjornson Gym, I conducted a second interview with Mike.
Last week I interviewed Bob Vetrone, who is the scoreboard editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and who also has his own blog.
Bob, who’s 54 years old, was born and raised in Philadelphia, graduating in 1980 from Northeast Catholic High School, and now he resides in Cherry Hill. He lives there with his wife Maryanne (her maiden name is Corbett) and his two daughters. Bob has been with the Daily News since 1982. Prior to that, he spent the previous five years working at the (now defunct) Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper.
From going as a school sports reporter with Northeast Catholic High School to now having his own popular blog is very impressive, in addition to his scoreboard editor position.
I started the interview by asking him to give a brief background about himself, as well as when his blog was created, and why he decided to create it.
Question: How old are you, and where did you grow up and graduate from?
Answer: I’m 54 and I grew up in Philly, and now I live in Cherry Hill with my wife Maryanne and my two daughters. I graduated from Northeast Catholic High School in 1980, a few months before the Phillies beat Kansas City in the World Series.
Question: When did you start your blog, which is called boopstats?
Answer: I started the blog within the early summer of 2011, which is published through Philly.com. The name and the basis behind the blog came from Comcast Sportsnet Philly analyst Michael Barkann. On Comcast Sportsnet’s roundtable TV show Daily News Live, I would refer to the stats that I gave him from time to time as “Boop Stats.” Boop is a long-standing nickname of mine. In fact, the very first blog post of mine was thanking him for the idea. A lot of them are baseball related, the same thing occurred when I wrote articles growing up.
Question: Why did you start your blog?
Answer: To give readers and diehard baseball fans a refreshing point of view, and, most importantly, to give readers updated baseball stats, to enjoy and gage their interest even more. Naturally, I have more freedom now as a blogger than when I wrote my own piece as a journalist in college.
Question: What do you think is the most challenging thing about maintaining your blog?
Answer: Making sure that your reader/audience isn’t unsatisfied with material that may seem repetitive, so in other words, to try to continuously engage them.
Question: What role do you think blogging should play in the future of journalism?
Answer: It plays a huge role, in that the content on a blog should always be interesting and fun.
Question: What is the most interesting thing about writing/having your own blog?
Answer: That it’s within my fingertips, and I’m not pulling statistics from a third party. I try to maintain having original research.
Question: What advice do you have for someone just starting their own blog?
Answer: To take it one step at a time, to do your work, to give interesting research, and have fun with it.
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.
In 2013, Grilli graduated from Middleton High School South. In high school he was named All-Division Pitcher of The Year. He was also voted as team MVP.
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.
This past Wednesday I interviewed Rowan’s baseball head coach Mike Dickson, who’s in his third season now, about the upcoming season, his previous coaching experience, and his coaching philosophy. Prior to being the Profs’ baseball coach, he coached Rowan at Gloucester County College’s baseball team for nine seasons. Dickson graduated from Rowan in 2002.
I started the interview off by asking Mike about his previous coaching experience and the differences between coaching at a junior college compared to a four-year university like Rowan.
Question: Is there a huge discrepancy between being a junior-college coach and a four year school coach?
Answer: I think the biggest discrepancy is the length of time you have with the players. You only have two years with players from over there (at Rowan at Gloucester County College) and here you have four years with players. And you may be coaching a different type of player. A lot of players over there (at Rowan at Gloucester County College) were working-to-be-drafted type players.
For different reasons, they ended up at junior college, where over here it’s a little different.
Question: But it’s the same type of preparation, right?
Answer: Absolutely. You’re preparing for a championship win no matter where you are, whether it’s at Rowan (at Gloucester County) College or Rowan University.
Question: I know you were an assistant coach for awhile before being hired as head coach. Is there a huge difference from being an assistant coach to a head coach now?
Answer: Well, there’s a lot more paperwork as a head coach (laughs). I get to do a lot less coaching as an assistant, it’s more focused on recruiting and practice coaching, whereas as a head coach you’re doing more preparation and focusing on off-the-field situations. At that time (as an assistant coach), I recruited every player in that program that went to back-to-back college World Series.
Going from an assistant coach at Rowan to a head coach at Rowan at Gloucester County College, I coached Ryan Buchter, who’s now a starting pitcher for the Padres. He had a great year last year, he was lucky enough that he had an organization that finally believed in him, to give him an opportunity in the big leagues.
I was excited for him last year and spoke to him throughout the season.
Question: He felt good about it? He was confident?
Answer: Yeah. He’s always been confident, he was never the type of player to not be confident. Mechanics wise, it was always a matter of him getting his WHIP (which is calculated by adding his walks and his hits allowed, and dividing that number by his amount of innings pitched) down to one.
As an eighth-inning reliever, managers don’t like pitchers walking leadoff hitters. That was always his issue. He would get a ton of strikeouts, but he’d tend to walk a guy a fair amount, too.
In my career as an assistant, i’ve been lucky so far, 17 or 18 pitchers have made it to the big leagues.
Question: When you were hired as head coach in June of 2014, within the press release you were quoted as saying: “my goal is to continue the tradition of excellence set forth by former coaches John Cole and Juan Ranero.”
You referred your former coach (Cole). What was he like?
Answer: He was intense. Me and him were cut from the same cloth, we’re very competitive. We’re also very detail oriented and we understand that the preparation that you put in leads to your success. I coached with John from 2001 till 2004.
I got the opportunity to transition as a player underneath him to a coach underneath him.
Question: Did you see a different side of him from when you were a player than when you were an assistant?
Answer: Sure, as you get older and mature, you get a different relationship with your college coach than when you’re 18 or 19 years old. That relationship, what he allowed me to then do, he taught me how to be a head coach.
As a player here, he’d teach me how to be a good player, then when I finished school, he taught me how to coach. There’s a huge transition there, from being a player to a coach, and understanding how to develop players versus being the player that’s being developed.
Question: Is your coaching philosophy the same as coach Cole?
Answer: It’s very similar. I was fortunate enough to play on a high school baseball team (Gloucester Catholic High School) that was ranked number one in New Jersey and third overall in the country the year I graduated (2002).
Question: As a coach, what do you want to accomplish over the next 4-5 years?
Answer: Ultimately as a competitor, you want to put the best product out on the field and be successful year in and year out. The ball isn’t always going to bounce in the right direction, you have to have a little luck on your side. But obviously that’s the goal each and every year, to get the chance to get to play in Appleton, Wisconsin (the site of the Division III championship series).”