Interview Andrew Means:
The Michigan Wolverines and their dual star Zach Putnam have been hoarding most of the national Big Ten baseball attention this preseason, however another upstart ballclub with a multi-talented athlete is quietly gaining attention in the conference as well. The Indiana Hoosiers’ Head Coach Tracy Smith is in the third year of a baseball renaissance in Bloomington that could have them once again challenging the thirty win plateau and beyond that they regularly achieved in the 80’s and 90’s under the helm of long time skipper Bob Morgan.
Last season Smith led an extremely young Hoosier team that featured 19 freshmen and six sophomores to a 19-win season which included series splits with two of the Big Ten’s top three teams, Penn State and Minnesota as well as a victory over CWS participant Louisville in Kentucky. Leading the Indiana charge was outfielder Andrew Means who not only led the Hoosier baseball team in batting average (.369), extra base hits (14), slugging percentage (.467) and stolen bases (27), but also made 448 catches for 559 yards (second on the team) as a wide receiver IU football team.
Not surprisingly, Head Hoosier Smith has nothing but praise for multi-talented star, "Andrew is one of the most organized and disciplined kids I've ever coached. If he wasn't, it would be very difficult for him to compete as a two-sport athlete at IU. The fact that he excels in both sports is a true testament to his talent, but more importantly to his work ethic. We have a saying in our program, 'If it were easy, everybody would do it.' I certainly tell you Andrew doesn't take the easy path.
Ping! was able to get in touch with Means when he wasn’t catching a pigskin or hitting horsehide to answer a few quick questions for the latest installment of Ping!’s Spotlight Interview:
PING!: So are you an outfielder who can also player wide receiver or a wide
receiver who can play outfield?
Means: Honestly, I believe that there is no right way to answer that question. I say this because they both are pretty similar in what the job description is. A receiver's job is to run precise and crisp routes, catch all balls, and block in the run game. Being a centerfielder, you have to take control of the outfield the same way you do being a receiver in that you have to go up and get the ball in traffic. If I had to answer that question I would say I am a wide receiver playing outfield because there is nothing like making a spectacular catch on the football field, but at the same time it is an awesome feeling to make the spectacular catch on the diamond. It all translates from one sport to the other because it's basically that same concept.
PING!: They say the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. However, what's harder to do? Facing Penn State's Drew O'Neil in the bottom of the ninth or breaking free to pull in a catch against the Buckeyes in the red zone at The Horseshoe?
Means: I agree that the hardest thing in sports is to hit a baseball. I would say they are both high on the "hardness" level, but at the same time you have to have the confidence in yourself that you will get that game winning hit or you will get that first down catch to move the chains. That's why I love to go against some of the best competition in the world, because when you do beat your competitor one-on-one, you know that you just beat one of the best, and it helps your team accomplish the goals they are shooting for at the same time. But, there is nothing like making that first down catch in the red zone and listening to 100,000 screaming fans suddenly go silent.
PING!: How has your time on the football field positively impacted your game on the diamond?
Means: I would say the main thing is competing against some of the best competition year round is something that helps me in both sports. Catching balls all year in football obviously helps my hand eye coordination when it's not baseball season. I go about 6 months without touching a baseball or a baseball bat. So it is tough to get back into baseball mode right after football season, but it helps being active in football. Using my god-given strengths, such as speed and strength, helps on the football field, but it carries over when I get to baseball and I am on the base paths or in the outfield.
PING!: You entered the IU baseball program at the same time as your head coach, Coach Smith. How has he helped you develop into the player you are today?
Means: Coach Smith is someone who has been there my whole career. I have had three different hitting coaches, and Skip has always been there for me when I get done with football. He is always there for me if I need something and it helps that I am very close with his family. He is a great coach and a great person at the same time. He wants what is best for us in life but also he will do whatever he has to do for us to achieve our goals. He is very understanding of me when I first get back to baseball from football - that I am not going to be the player I will be once the season starts up. He takes it slow with me, and for someone like me in my situation that means a lot. I am glad Coach Smith is here as the Coach of IU Baseball and he will do big things for this team.
PING!: Despite returning six starters and several pitchers, the '08 Hoosiers are still a relatively young team. As a junior and the leading offensive producer from last year's squad do you anticipate taking on more of a leadership role this season?
Means: When I was over at football all fall, Coach Smith called me and told me the team voted for captains that day and that I was selected to be one of the team's captains. It was a great tribute to my hard work on and off the field but also knowing that the team trusts you to be their leader is something special. I am going to lead this team with the way I play and perform on the field, but also I am going to mentor the younger guys to be the best they can be when they are my age and contributing to the team. That is something that I like to do because it is great helping others and seeing them grow into the player that they become as they get older.
PING!: Indiana's top two starters from last year, Tyler Tufts and Matt Bashore, will be back to pitch this upcoming season after putting up some good personal numbers last season. With their return, along with Chris Squires, Joe Vicini and Chris McCombs, how fortunate do you feel that you won't have to face the Hoosier pitchers this season?
Means: Very fortunate, and it's good that IU baseball is starting to get some recognition with these great pitchers. It is great to have them on my side but at the same time I have to face them during the week at practice, and it is great preparation getting ready for the games. We have a great pitching staff this year and I am excited to play defense behind them. It was hard my freshman and sophomore years because a lot of those guys were young and still going through the maturation process and now they have grown into solid Big Ten pitchers and it is great to see them accomplishing big things.
PING!: You and Evan Crawford and give IU a dangerous tandem of base thieves. Which of you would win in a race around the bases?
Means: Evan Crawford is a great baseball player with a lot of talent still to come. He is young and maturing and I think this year he will grow into himself and become one of the top shortstops in the league. It has been exciting watching Evan mature and grow into himself and he is someone to watch for in the near future. Now that I gave him all the props, I am going to have to say that I would win in a race around the bases. We always race in the 60-yard dash together, and he has yet to beat me. I am grateful to have been given the gift of speed and using it as a tool in the game of baseball is something I'm always going to be able to do.
PING!: Any games or road trips you'll especially looking forward to playing this season? Your opener in Baton Rouge should be a doozy of start.
Means: I can't wait to get this season started and I am looking forward to going to LSU. My mind is set on the first series with LSU along with the rest of the IU baseball team. We are excited to get this season going and can't wait to show the nation the new and improved Hoosiers