For the first time since his hiring was announced July 3, new Michigan Wolverines baseball head coach Tracy Smith spoke to the media in the Branch Rickey classroom at Ray Fisher Stadium on Tuesday, August 2.
In a 45-minute roundtable conversation, Smith discussed everything from recruitment and the transfer portal, to his relationship with former head coach Erik Bakich and his views on the proposed celebration rules by the NCAA.
Here is the most important news to come from the day’s conversation.
On the most pressing things to do entering the fall — “Recruiting is probably the most immediate priority for us just with the timing of everything. I think everyone’s still trying to figure out the portal and how that impacts recruiting at a baseline level...When you apply all of that, in the context of the timing of admission, the timing of the portal, all of those, we were faced with a little bit of a challenge, so our immediate thing was let’s stabilize what we currently have going on, which was let’s see what our roster is and what do we have left coming in.”
On the return of catcher Jimmy Obertop — “Going back to what I referenced earlier with the Michigan education, [Obertop]’s like ‘Coach, it means something to me. If I don’t get what I want in the draft, I’m coming back with enthusiasm. I’m not just gonna sign and get out of here.’”
Focus on pitching — “The pitching thing is something that’s a hard nugget to solve in college baseball. The reduced draft has made it really a commodity. If you want to win, it’s going to start on the mound...Ihad the opportunity to see some summer league games our guys are in right now, and some guys that didn’t have great numbers, I’m looking at them on the mound going ‘oh my god’, I’m like ‘if you just do this right here, what you’re doing, you’re gonna be fine next year.’”
Recruiting in-state prospects — “There’s a lot of good guys leaving the state, so our goal is we want to build a wall around the state and make guys realize that you don’t have to leave...The response from the alumni — and not just baseball alumni but alumni in general — has been unbelievable. As frustrated as we are about players leaving the state, so are they, and so that’s what I’m excited about is building that network. It’s not just gonna be our staff, it’s going to be everybody contributing to this.”
On his relationship with former Michigan coach Erik Bakich — “He got us a little bit on the way out, and I joke with him all time so there’s no hard feelings on that. Erik and I, we were in contact with each other three, four times a week, and that was pre all of this. So believe it or not, the only team — this sounds crazy — the only team I really followed this year was University of Michigan. I kind of stepped away from baseball but I would always check the scores and follow when I could because he was coaching.”
On proposed rule changes for on-field celebrations — “Well I could give you the old school thought, ‘hate it, no place in the game for it’, but we always evolve, too. I think there’s a level of tolerance when it’s not disrespectful. I don’t mind if you want to do those things, but it shouldn’t be in disrespect of our opponent.”
On selling attending a Michigan baseball game to the common fan — “Well I’d say it’s probably the same as, well, does a common fan sit at a football game when it’s cold out? Go support your team. It’s our job to create an environment and a product that’s worthy of people being interested in. I think people matter, you know what I mean, so when we go in here and do our job, creating a good product, winning the right way, we’re showing that we’re involved in the community, I’m assuming people are going to want to come out and support the program.”