The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 24, 1986 - Page 9
Casey at the bat: Close strikes fear into oponents
onl (lw mUCuIrtL urnat uu~ nt Jui4e
And somewhere men are laughing and
Isomewhere children shout But there is no
boy in Mudville -mighty Casey has struck
Ernest L. Thayer
(from Casev At The Bat)
By SCOTT G. MILLER
There may have been no joy in
Mudville for mighty Casey, but there
is always joy in Ann Arbor when
Michigan's Casey, Casey Close
comes to the plate. The senior is
othing like his poetic namesa e,
who failed to get the key hit.
Close already has two game win-
ning RBIs this season in nine
games. His spring trip performance
last week in Florida was
highlighted by a .541 batting
average, five home runs, 19 hits, 41
total bases, and a save on the
"I HAVE never seen a guy have a
start like this, said baseball coach
Bid Middaugh. "When we needed a
home run, he hit a home run. We
needed a single, he got a single. We
needed a fly ball, he hit a fly ball.
We needed to throw a guy out at the
plate, he would throw a guy out at
the plate. We needed a relief pit-
cher to come in, he would do it.
"It was like a story book. You
know that Hobbs (from the baseball
movie The Natural)? Close was bet-
Wer than Hobbs on this trip."
Close's production on the trip
was no fluke. Last season he hit
.389 with 76 hits in 65 games. He
also was 6 -1 as a relief pitcher.
This versatility characterizes the
Worthington, Ohio native's.
Michigan career. He is one career
home run shy of Ken Hayward's all-
t me record, and he is just ten pit-
ching appearances short of the
D ORIGINALLY, Close was recruited
more for his pitching prowess than
his hitting and outfield skills. But
'the desire to play changed his
A "I like the challenge to get up on
the mound where it is a one-on-one
confrontation," said Close. "But at
the same time I realize you can only
pitch so much unless you go in
relief duty. I would much rather
play in the outfield every day."
He still can start on the mound
when necessary. Last season when
team ace Scott Kamieniecki went
down with arm trouble, Close took
the number-one spot in the rotation.
In an outing against New Orleans in
the NCAA regionals, Close pitched
a complete game as well as going
four-for-five at the plate with two
homers and three RBIs.
HIS versatility extends to the
classroom. Close won the Steve
Boros Award last season, which is
given to the top student-athlete on
the baseball team.
Old-fashioned hard work is resp-
onsible for Close's baseball suc-
cess. During the off-season he does
extensive weight training, and
during the season he takes extra
"He worked as hard in the off-
season as anybody on the team,"
said freshman pitcher Jim Abbott.
"Coming off the year he had last
year, it would, be easy for him to be
CLOSE, though, could never be
content. "I think my hard work is
due to an inner drive," said Close.
"I knew that coming into my senior
year, for me to produce and to con-
tinue playing past college into the
professional ranks, that Iwas going
to have to work on some areas of my
game that had some flaws in it even
after last year.
"So I wanted to come out this
year and work even harder and let
there be no looking back."
His teammates only look up at
him. He is a true team leader. "I try
to project myself somewhat as the
team leader," said Close. "But at
the same time I think I lead more by
example than by being outwardly
"I THINK he is a team leader,"
said Middaugh. "Have you ever'
seen a team that had leaders and
lost? But teams that win, always
"Leadership is a word like ar-
thritis. They don't know what it is,
they call it arthritis. He will have a
lot more leadership if we win the
national championship than he will
if we don't win the Big Ten."
With the season Close is having,
opposing coaches will all develop
arthritis. Close is not only an asset
on the field but also in the
clubhouse and dugout. Practical
jokes are another of his
"I TRY TO keep things loose,
and I like to play practical jokes,"
said Close. "We try to have some
fun because it can get monotonous
playing so many games. re
While keeping the team relaxed,
Close attributes his calmness to
experience. "I am trying to take
things as they come and not to get
upset after each at bat," said Close.
"Being through it for three years,
you have been in these situations
"You just go out and relax and
play. You don't have to worry how
you play. You just play."
For Close that means playing as
hard as possible. "I want to go out
each time and know that I put forth
my best effort, and to know that I
did not leave anything short," said
Close. "I don't want to come out
wishing Ihad done something else.
"I just want to go out an work as
hard as I possibly can and let the
future ride on that."
With that attitude this mighty
Casey may never strike out.
Daily Photo by DAN HABIB
Outfielder Casey Close smiles after rounding first base in what has become a familiar scene. The senior
already has 19 hits in nine games this season.
By JEFF RUSH
F OR NOTED expert Bill James, baseball is
a complex set of mathematical equations. For
coach Bud Middaugh and his 1986 Wolverines,
baseball is simple chemistry.
Don't talk to the baseball squad about simpler
elements of the game such as sweat and chewing
tobacco. All the Wolverines want to talk about is
chemistry: formulas, units, mixtures, pressure
and measuring error.
Tell us about cohesion, Coach Middaugh.
"This club has a unique togetherness thing," said
Middaugh. "It's interesting to watch them when
they all play together. They're extremely close,
much closer than last year's club. Whether that's
good or bad, we'll see."
Last year's club saturated stadiums across the
country with a team-record 55 wins. Middaugh
wouldn't mind seeing that again, and he is a
catalyst in attaining that goal.
"My job really is to try to find the right formula to
get these guys to play within themselves, to get the
most of the ability they have," said the coach,
masquerading as a chem prof.
Last year's team had plenty of ability, as eviden-
ced by the early departure from college to pro ball
of Barry Larkin and Mike Watters. But with that
Middaugh the prof .. .
...on baseball and chemistry
great talent, the Wolverines were still unable to win
the Big Ten Championship or advance beyond the
South I Regional to the College World Series. Team
concept could be the difference between this year's
and last year's teams.
Said infielder Jeff Kiel: "We're one unit whereas
last year I think we were individuals. Everyone gets
along really well. We're a bunch of different people
but we have just one goal."
That goal is actually threefold, according to Mid-
daugh. First, he wants the team to gain respec-
tability. Only then will he think about winning the
Big Ten. If that happens, he'll think about winning
the College World Series.
This year's homogenous unit might have what it
takes. "This year's team just seems to have a good
mix of all four classes and all four classes are con-
tributing, said outfielder Casey Close. "In addition
to that it's a good-natured group, really lighthear-
ted, light-spirited. They just kind of take things as
they go. It's a lot different than any other team that
I've played on here."
A discussion on chemistry would not be complete
without some mention of concentration levels. Do
tell, Professor Close.
"It (concentration) is a tremendous asset in
baseball, a game where sometimes you try to con-
centrate too much and you hinder your performan-
ce. With a really loosey-goosey type atmosphere I
think guys just go out and it's easier for them to
play, especially young guys."
The team is fairly young, with but a few returning
position players. But Boyle's law of baseball says
pressure in practice equals performance on the
playing field. Middaugh agrees.
"He (Middaugh) pushes us really hard on the
fundamentals, so when we do get in games we've
already had pressure on us and he knows we won't
fold," said Kiel.
You can forget measuring error, students. Mid-
daugh and his proteges are perfectionists.
"We practice fundamentals so much that now it's
just coming natural to us, and doesn't leave much
room for error," said infielder Steve Finken.
With all this experimentation, what is Middaugh's
theory on the amount of success the Wolverines will
enjoy this season?
"I'm not a predictor," he said. "All I can tell you
is how things are going."
The Wolverines' past successes on the diamond
coupled with this team's attitude points toward suc-
cess. Nobody would complain about that, but there
is one more ingredient necessary for a good reac-
tion from Middaugh.
"It's fun to work here. You give me 80 degree
weather and it would be awesome."
PITCHERS AND CA TCHERS:
Battery jobs uncertain
By ADAM OCHLIS
Experience is the key word this year for Michigan's pitching and
catching situation - the pitchers have it, while the catchers don't.
Every pitcher from last season's 55-10 squad returns, including a
couple of highly-touted freshmen hurlers. The catching duties have
been left to two freshmen and a senior who has played in a reserve role
the last three years.
WOLVERINE coach Bud Middaugh leaves no doubt that he was not
happy with the way the pitching staff held up towards the end of last
While he thought the pitching was anything less than outstanding
during the spring trip to Florida last week, Middaugh likes the
S ingredients he has to work with.
"The starting rotation isn't set right now just because of the incon-
sistency that we had down South," said the seven-year Michigan men-
tor," but I think we have a chance to have a pretty good pitching
Leading the staff will be senior righthander Scott Kamieniecki. The
Detroit native began last season with an 8-0 record in his first eight
starts. A shoulder injury, however, enabled him to pitch just one in-
ning after April 19. Michigan's season may well depend on how well
Kamieniecki's shoulder tiolds up.
"BECAUSE OF the injury, I've realized just how important fun-
damentals really are," he said.
Middaugh has brought Kamieniecki along slowly so far this season,
and the 6-0, 190 pounder has reported no soreness in the shoulder.
Kamieniecki Others who will have a solid shot at cracking the rotation are senior
Dan Disher, sophomores Mike Ignasiak and Jim Agemy, and fresh-
.shoulder feels fe men Jim Abbott and Chris Lutz.
DISHER HAS been the surprise of the spring, hurling two complete
game victories in Florida without allowing an earned run. The Dayton,
Ohio native has already doubled his career win total.
Ignasiak (9-2, 3.43 era) and Agemy (10-0, 3.86) will try to better fine
In relief, Dave Karasinski has all but locked up the important long
relief spot, as the junior lefthander won two games in Florida, both
times coming in during the second inning, and pitching effectively.
Casey Close and Greg Everson will be Middaugh's stoppers in short
relief, closing out a staff that has its coach cautiously optimistic.
Calling the signals behind the plate will be any one of three
backstoppers, who will have to replace last year's Big Ten batting
champ Randy Wolfe who was lost to graduation.
New aces to contribute
By SCOTT G. MILLER
With the departure f five regulars from last season's star-filled
squad, newcomers will have an immediate chance to contribute to
Michigan baseball's 1986 version.
One player who has made the most of his opportunity to play is Bill
St. Peter. The fifth-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds has seen
the majority of time at shortstop, Barry Larkin's old position.
"HE HELD up extremely well for a freshman," said coach Bud
Middaugh of St Peter's spring trip performance. "It is tough to go out
and play shortstop at this level as a freshman, especially when the
opposition was getting so many people on base as they were early in the
Junior infielder Matt Suida isn't worried about St. Peter either.
"Billy St. Peter is a real good ballplayer," said Suida. "He performed
really well down south. He was drafted in the fifth round out of high
school, so that tells you something right there."
Other middle infielders seeking playing time are Jim Durham and
Doug Kaiser. Both have seen limited action thus far. John Ansted will
be Hal Morris' backup at first base.
NEWCOMERS Darrin Campbell and Mike Gillette have split the
catching duties with senior Eric Sanders. Middaugh likes Gillette's
The St. Joseph native, who broke the Michigan football single season
field goal record held by Bob Bergeron, can play first base, the out-
field, or even pitch if necessary. During spring football, he will kick for
the first half-hour of practice and then join the baseball team. Another
football player and catcher, Sean LaFountaine, will play baseball af-
ter the completion of spring football.
"Bo is just super. He is very helpful to my baseball situation," said
Middaugh. "I am appreciative that I can use those guys."
MIDDAUGH especially hopes to utilize pitchers Chris Lutz and Jim
Abbott. Lutz started two contests and pitched only five innings in both
games. Severe shin splints hampered Lutz's stamina but not his per-
formance. "He threw very well in the two starts he had," commented
the Wolverine head man.
Abbott, a Toronto Blue Jays draft choice, also received two starting
assignments. He had control problems in both that chased him from
the mound. But while pitching a third of an inning in his third ap-
pearance, he notched his first collegiate victory by mowing down a
runner trying to steal home.
"Abbott like other pitchers needs to throw," said Middaugh. "He is
having the same problems many pitchers have. He just has to get the
ball over the plate."
... superb in the field