March 29, 2007
Senior outfielder Pete Frates has helped lead the Eagles to a 7-11-1, 4-5 record this season. Frates, a Beverly, Mass. native, is batting .254 with 8 runs and 5 RBI on the year. The Eagles begin their home schedule on Friday, March 30 at 2:30 p.m. when they host North Carolina State.
Through 19 games this season, what do you think are some of the team's strong points?
I'd say a strong point right now is fielding. We're playing pretty good defense. Top to bottom in the lineup, we have a lot of experienced guys, so that's also a strong point. We have two freshmen, Michael Belfiore and Tony Sanchez, who are really helping us out with their bats when other guys are struggling. Just like at the beginning of the season, we're looking to get the top and bottom of the lineup going and really put some great at-bats together, score some runs and win some games.
Talk about the team's goals this season.
Obviously, every year the goal is to get into the ACC Tournament at the end of the year. We're trying to get our first NCAA Tournament berth in a while. I think if we can get in that top eight and do some damage in the ACC Tournament, I think we can definitely (get an NCAA bid) because the ACC is such a strong conference. The overall goal is to get to Omaha, Nebraska and play in the College World Series, but you take it one at a time. You can't get there without being in the ACC Tournament and without being in the NCAA Tournament, so we just take it game by game and try to get those done.
You already have seven stolen bases on the year. What does your speed on the basepaths bring to the team?
I think it puts pressure on the other team when we have other guys up in our lineup. We have a lot of guys who are great at the hit-and-run, bunt-and-run, who play the small-ball game. That's basically what we call "Birdball". I feel like I've been getting picked off a lot more than the other guys because whenever I'm on base they're throwing over almost every other pitch. I think it definitely weighs on the opposing pitcher. I put pressure on him, so he may lose his focus a little bit on the batter, so that helps out. My job is to get on base and do those sorts of things, so we can score some more runs.
The Eagles play their home opener on Friday against North Carolina State. How important is it to get off to a good start at home?
Nevertheless, whether at home or away, it's always important to get off to a great start in a weekend series, so Friday's a big day. Opening up at "The Cage", it's really fun because we love playing at home. We're comfortable here. It's fun seeing friends come out to the games and root for us. Hopefully it'll be a little cold for the NC State guys and they won't like that. We'll be in our comfort zone and hopefully we'll get a win on Friday and then try to sweep that series.
The Eagles were recently swept on the road by a very strong Florida State team. What can you learn from that series and how were you able to bounce back with a win?
First of all, we learned that they're the number-one team in the country for a reason. I think top to bottom that's the best lineup I've seen in my fours year here. It seemed like we were in the field for 20 minutes at a time and we were up to bat for only five minutes at a time. I think we pressed a little bit and didn't have as good at-bats as we wanted to, but we did hit a lot of balls hard, and they were just a really strong club. What we can learn from them is take it with a grain of salt that we're 4-5 in the ACC after that weekend. We have to get right back on track this weekend and hopefully get back in the win column.
A highlight of the season so far was the three-game sweep at Duke. How important was this for the team's confidence?
It was unbelievable. It gave us a lot of confidence because last year we started off something like 0-6 before we even got our first win in the ACC. Starting off 3-0 was a great thing for us because we knew we were coming up against some tough teams like Georgia Tech and Florida State, so it helped give us some leeway there. That's what we try to do every week; we try to get those three wins. That definitely was a great confidence booster because it was the first series, and because it was an away series in the ACC, which is always tough. Hopefully we'll get back to playing like we did that weekend, in which top to bottom the lineup was great, everybody was executing what they needed to execute, and guys were just playing the way we know we're capable of playing. That was great because we can always go back to that and say "hey guys, look, we've done this, we can do it, so let's do it again this weekend".
Talk about the freshmen on this year's squad. What have they brought to the team?
Tony (Sanchez) and Mike (Belfiore), they've done a great job in our lineup, Tony behind the plate, as well. Mike is a left-hander out of the bullpen. He's done a great job for us and he also allows us to be flexible by switching positions, so Tony and Jett Ruiz don't have to catch every day, they can switch off. Also, we've had a couple freshmen come out of the pen. Geoff Oxley's done a great job; he's come in and been a solid guy in the pen. John Spatola, as well, who's a walk-on this year. He's worked really hard and he worked his way into the starting lineup for a few games. He's done a great job pinch-hitting for us. He's won a few games for us. These freshmen have really stepped right in and done a great job.
What skills have you been working on in your game this season?
A big part of my game is mental. I feel that as a senior I've got most of the mechanics down from when I was a freshman when I had some real trouble. I feel like I have a pretty good swing going and all that stuff, so it's more of a mental thing with me. I played three sports in high school and two of them were very fast, high contact sports: football and hockey. Coach has been saying to me since high school that you can't play baseball like a football player, which I tend to do sometimes. Basically, I've been trying to find some ways to keep relaxed because when I do that I play much better, and I seem to hit a lot better and I'm not as tense up there, so I have to find a way to just relax and have some fun up in the box. It's up and down because baseball's such a crazy game. When I'm going 3-3 at the plate it's fine, and I'm letting everything flow, but when you're pressing and you're going 0-3 with a couple strikeouts, that's when you really start pressing and get tense. It's been a learning experience, trying to figure out ways to keep an even keel.
Experience with those explosive sports must help you on the basepaths.
That definitely helps. That's where I can just let it loose and just fly around, which I like because I hit in the middle of the lineup, but I'm a bigger guy, so I think a lot of teams may not think that I'll steal a lot, so it's a really nice thing to have some speed and be able to steal bases.
What has been your favorite part of playing at Boston College? What are some memorable games?
I really enjoyed the first couple of years when we got into the Big East Tournament; that's always a fun time going down, we went down to New Jersey twice and had an opportunity to win the Big East. Also, playing in these ACC stadiums down south, it's kind of a different culture than up here. Fans are pretty wild and southern baseball is a lot different. People take it pretty seriously, almost like we take football and hockey up here. Hopefully we can bring that culture up here a little bit with these teams coming in. The Beanpot Tournament every year is also a great experience for us and we love winning that thing and just playing the local teams at Fenway Park, so that's always a great time.
Do you think the Beanpot and BC baseball could become more popular in the area?
The Beanpot is crazy, and everybody loves it. It's such a great tournament, it's a great atmosphere, and I think a lot of times what happens with us is that the weather is so bad that nobody wants to sit outside for nine innings and watch the game. But I think it's more of just getting the word out, maybe getting it in the newspapers or wherever because it's a great take. You get to go to Fenway for five bucks, you get the best seats that you never get to sit in during the Red Sox games, and you see some pretty good baseball. I think if we keep going and get the word out a little more, Boston's such a baseball town that there's no reason why people wouldn't want to come and see some great teams playing baseball.
What are your plans after Boston College?
I've been going to job interviews and employers ask the same question, and I basically tell them that I could sit behind a desk in an office until I'm 50, so while I'm young and able I'd like to continue playing. So whether it be here or whether it be overseas somewhere, I just really want the opportunity to keep playing because I really love the game, and I just think it's really fun.
Interview conducted by Geoffrey Kehlmann