The new face of Mt. Vernon baseball

FORTVILLE — The Marauders are itching for Opening Day.

Enthusiasm and anticipation of the first crack of the bat have begun to overtake Mt. Vernon baseball practices in recent weeks, said first-year skipper Ryan Carr.

“There is so much excitement around here,” Carr said, “you can’t tell that we had a losing record last year.”

Carr replaces Scott Johnson, whose crew finished last season 12-13 and suffered a first-round tourney exit at the hands of New Castle.

Carr, however, is not much concerned with the past. Instead, he has his sights set on the future, more specifically April 4 and a doubleheader date with Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Yorktown.

“We’re not looking any further ahead than Yorktown,” Carr said.

Here’s what else Carr has on his mind a week before Opening Day.

Having not yet played a game with you at the helm, do you feel like your players have a good understanding of your coaching philosophy?

“I’m still relatively new to this whole coaching thing … so I’m still working on what my philosophy is (laughs). I mean, I could throw some cliches at you if you want me to. I’m pretty much just a laid-back guy, personally. I think the guys have spent enough time with me to understand the way that I want them to play the game. It’s not something I’ve written down on a piece of paper and handed to them and said, ‘This how we play baseball.’ We’ve all put in a lot of time, and I totally believe we’re all the same page.”

Do you prefer to have a coach call the game or let your pitcher and catcher handle the pitch selection?

“The way I see it is we have pitchers here who are going to play ball in college. We have catchers going to play in college. If they are going to play at that level, they have to be able to figure out how to get guys out on their own. I really trust our pitchers and catchers. Now, they’ll know how we want to attack guys, but these guys are not robots just doing what their coaches tell them to do. That’s like taking them out of the game, and I like having that chess match between pitcher and batter.”

How do feel about small ball?

“It’s funny that you ask that. We’re going to have to see when the ball starts flying, but generally speaking I’m not a small ball guy. I get in playful fights with my assistant coach about this a lot. He loves small ball. I’m not going to say I’m never every going to bunt … but (most of the time) I’m going to be confident enough in my guys to hit line drives and balls into the gaps. I don’t like giving up outs. It’s the whole sabermetrics thing. A lot has been written about bunting not being as beneficial as the old way of thinking says it is. I hesitate in giving up outs. You only get 21 of them, and you can’t just give them away.”

You mention sabermetrics. Do plan on employing any advanced metrics with your team this year?

“Probably not too much in a 28-game season. That’s just such a small sample size. You can’t figure anything out in 28 games. I don’t think you can say in 28 games that a kid always does this or that with two strikes. Those metrics are much better being used over a 162-game season or over the course of guy’s career, like when you have a three-year chunk of info. You can’t do that at the high school level. The other things is I could tell you about WOBA (weight on-base average) or BABIP (batting average on balls in play) or about weighted runs created runs plus, but I can’t calculate them. And I don’t think there is a program available that would do that for us. Honestly, I love the new way of thinking … but with the small sample sizes, we’ll just try to understand what each guy can do at the plate, and we’ll use that information accordingly in games.”

Who is your favorite non-Marauders baseball team to root for?

“Oh, definitely the Cardinals.”

So as far as coaching idols go, it has to be Tony La Russa, right?

“When I really got to start understanding the game, La Russa was … I can’t put into words. Obviously, there were times where things were happening like with any coach where you wonder why he’s doing what’s he doing or doubting certain decisions, but the teams he put on field from 1996-2011, there’s no argument that guy knew what he was doing. I loved him as a Cardinals fan. He’s probably not all that sabermetrically (inclined), but he was one of the first guys to believe that guys (batting second) should be able to do some damage. I mean, he had Larry Walker bat in the two-hole. Carlos Beltran hit in the two-hole. He was a guy who seemed old school but would adapt. He revolutionized the way the bullpen is used, and he even went so far as to take the chance of batting the pitcher eighth to give his team a second leadoff guy at the bottom of the order. He wasn’t afraid to try things, and you have to admire that about him.”