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Talking Sports with new Wake Forest baseball head coach Tom Walter

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By Anthony Caruso III
Posted: June 30th, 2009 at 12:02 AM EST

Tom Walter, the new Wake Forest head baseball coach, recently took time to do a Q&A session with The Capital Sports Report. His interview is about his playing and coaching career.

The Capital Sports Report: On why he chose to go to Georgetown and playing baseball there

Tom Walter: “Well, a couple of different reasons. 1) Georgetown was the best academic school that was recruiting me at that time. So, certainly, I wanted to make sure I got a good education. 2) Their head coach, there, Larry Geracioti, was a guy that had coached in the College World Series with NYU (New York University). It was his first year when he was recruiting me, and it wasn’t too far away from home. It was only 3 hours away from home; it was a beautiful campus in one of the best cities in the world.”

Tom Walter (Photo by Wake Forest Sports Information)

Tom Walter (Photo by Wake Forest Sports Information)

TCSR: On being a team captain at Georgetown

TW: “Certainly, it’s one of the greatest honors you can have to take a leadership role. Certainly, it has helped me through the coaching ranks in leading the other players. It was certainly an honor to be a captain there and it was a position that I took very seriously.”

TCSR: On being an assistant coach at George Washington, where he received his Master’s Degree, and being around the same ages as some of the players

TW: “You need to separate yourself from the players. You have to make sure there was a clear line, between the two, so the respect issue would never be called into question. But otherwise, it was a great learning experience for me. But seeing the game of baseball from a different prospective is a learning experience in itself. I worked for two great guys at GW in John Castleberry, who is now a scout with the San Francisco Giants, and Jay Murphy. Both of those guys helped me along the way in becoming a head coach myself in the way that I’ve dealt with the players, handing the travel to the different teams, equipment, and things like that. There was a learning curve there, so those two gentlemen made the transition a lot easier.”

TCSR: On how his experience as a baseball coach helped him in his role as the Assistant GM of the Greensboro Bats

TW: “Being a GM in the minor leagues is a challenging task — you’re doing everything from dealing with media (TV, newspaper, radio), to placing advertisement ads, to working at the concession stands. The great part about it is you get to see all facets of the game, where you wear a lot of different hats to the organizational parts, too. My two-years in Greensboro certainly helped my business acumen in helping me see what needed to be done to the time the fans walked through the door to the time they walked out the door at the end of the game.”

TCSR: On being the head coach of the New Market (Virginia) Rebels, a summer College Baseball League

TW: “I had a great deal of fun with that ball club. It goes along with my time with the Cotuit (Kettlers) in the Cape Cod League. I thought it was fun and it helped me learn how to manage the game, because those wooden bat league scores are low and sometimes those games come down to situations — like defending against the bunt or the run game. You have to manage your bullpen in different ways, which is different than college, where you have 7 or 8 guys that you can depend on. When you’re coaching in the summer league and playing almost every day, sometimes 7 days a week, you have to manage your pitching staff, and being in those types of leagues help you manage that.”

TCSR: On helping the New Market Rebels to the Shenandoah Valley League Championship

TW: “It was a situation, where it all came together. We played very good baseball at the end of the year, and we were losing players left and right — some of the guys got tired of playing, some of the guys had summer school to attend, and there were various other things going on in their lives. So, we finished the year with 10 position players and like 5 pitchers, so we only had 15 players on the roster at the end of the year. We managed to hold it together and come out on top.”

TCSR: On coaching Major Leaguers Aaron Harang (Reds), Chris Capuano (Brewers), and Garrett Atkins (Rockies) during your time as the Cotuit Kettlers head coach

TW: “Yeah, that’s the great part about the Cape Cod League is that you get the elite talent — you get guys from Stanford, Texas, Miami (FL), among other places — the best of the best play in the Cape Cod League. So, it’s great to be able to coach that talent level, especially at the time when I was still at George Washington University. We had our fair share of guys go on to play professional baseball. It was really neat for me to be around those caliber of baseball players and see how they go about their business and the work that they put into it. You try to help them improve over the summer.”

TCSR: On being the George Washington head coach after previously being their assistant coach

TW: “It was my first head coaching job, which I got when I was 26. I was by no means ready for that job. I was still wet behind the ears as the saying goes and I certainly had a lot to learn. The Athletic Director there, Jack Krancz, allowed me to learn on the job and then within a few years, we had a good recruiting thing going on there. We were able to get some good players and it culminated in 2002 when we went to the 2002 NCAA Tournament and I had 6 players sign pro contracts off that team. I was able to turn that program around within a few years.”

TCSR: On what it means to be the George Washington all-time wins leader with 275 wins (275-184 overall)

TW: “Any time you’re in the record books, that’s something that will be broken, like all records, except for the Cy Young record, which I think will never be broken. But my record will be broken along the way. It was great, because I was able to be there 8 years and had some really good memories. Also, I coached a lot of good players, who are all really successful in life now.”

TCSR: On going to the 2002 NCAA Tournament with George Washington

TW: “We opened up with Wake Forest. We were a third-seed in the tournament, but we couldn’t play the two-seed, because Richmond was the two-seed and was in our same league. We had to play the four-seed, so that meant we were matched up with Wake Forest in the first-round. They beat us in the opener, so it was neat to see the facilities and play in that atmosphere. It was a foreshadowing of events now, as we played at the Wake Forest facility and I’m the new coach there.”

TCSR: On being named the New Orleans head coach

TW: “It’s certainly been an ordeal. Actually, a year after I got the job, Hurricane Katrina hit and turned our world upside down. We lost our house in the flood — we had 8 feet of water in our house and we lost everything as a family. But we sent the team out to New Mexico and lived with the team in New Mexico. We managed to keep it together and continue to overcome it. The next year, we won 30 games, which the team hasn’t done in 10 years. The year after that, we won 38 games and won the Sun Belt Conference and went to the Regionals in Wichita (Kansas). We also won 43 games there and had 10 players sign pro contracts from that team. I really enjoyed the people involved with the program, who have been really great to me. The city of New Orleans is fantastic and have a lot of passionate people here. I’m certainly going to miss my time here, that’s for sure.”

TCSR: On whether or not New Orleans pitching coach Kirk Bullinger, a former MLB pitcher, will follow him to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Wake Forest

TW: “Kirk’s a New Orleans native, so he’s going to stay at UNO. He’s from New Orleans, his wife is from New Orleans, so they got family here. He’s going to get a promotion here and be the No. 1 assistant coach under new head coach Bruce Peddie.”

TCSR: On helping New Orleans to the NCAA Tournament in 2007

TW: “That was a really great team. One thing that came out of the Hurricane was that we lost a lot of the players after the Hurricane, but everybody that stayed with us were pretty tough kids. So, that team was probably the best team I’ve ever been around and coached. They never gave up and they never quit. They were a good bunch to coach. I really enjoyed that team.”

TCSR: On helping New Orleans to their first Sun Belt Championship since 1979

TW: “That was a special event. To have . . . Less than two years prior to that, to have probably the worst natural disaster occur in US history, and then 22 months later, we celebrated a Conference Championship. It was very special for us and something that I would never forget.”

TCSR: On how he things Paul Maineri has done with LSU in the short-time he’s been coach (New Orleans played LSU last year)

TW: “He’s done a fantastic job. He’s just been there three years and for him to go to back-to-back World Series (and win it this year) speaks volumes. He’s had his original coaching staff leave for Central Florida and he had a brand new coaching staff this year. He had to hold it together, which says a lot about him as a manager. Paul’s a first-class guy and he’s got a great ball club.”

TCSR: On his New Orleans team setting numerous records in 2007 and 2008

TW: “We had an offesive team. We had a kid that was a second-round pick by the Kansas City Royals, and a few other kids that were drafted from those teams. Up and down our lineup, we’ve had professional players. We were really, really offensive. It was a fun team to coach, because on any given day, we could score 10-to-15 runs.”

TCSR: On the 43 wins, the most wins at the school since 1996

TW: “Any time you’re winning more than 40 games, you’re had a very successful year regardless of what league you’ve played in. To win 43 games in 2008 and to go to the last Regional ever at the old Alex Box Stadium (LSU’s Baseball Stadium) was special. We’ve played at Alex Box Stadium earlier in the year and had beaten LSU on that field. But we definitely enjoyed going back there. There’s no better venue in college baseball than Alex Box Stadium.”

TCSR: On what he will miss about no longer being the New Orleans head coach

TW: “I’m going to miss the players. I really enjoyed coaching the kids — it’s a really good group of players that I enjoyed being around. They were like my sons and to leave team was very tough. Then, the administration, Jim Miller, Athletic Director, Mike Bujol, Associate Athletic Director; they’ve all been great to me. They’ve been very loyal and have been very supportive of me and my family. Then, I’m going to miss the city of New Orleans. It’s a great culture down there and the food is great. It’s really a great city to be in. Lastly, I’m going to miss the competition — Alabama, LSU, Tulane, Ole Miss — says a lot about the caliber of baseball down here.”

TCSR: On being named the new Wake Forest head baseball coach

TW: “I couldn’t be more happier about this opportunity. ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) has been the No. 1 ranked Conference with baseball in the country for the past several years. They’re sending 5 or more teams to the NCAA Tournament every year and sending multiple teams to the College World Series every year, as we all saw this year with Virginia and North Carolina. More importantly, Wake Forest is a great and special place — it’s a good academic school with a beautiful campus. It’s a school that recruits itself nationally — people all around the world know about Wake Forest University. And lastly, the Athletic Director Ron Wellman and Associate Athletic Director for Administration/Asst. to the Dean of College Doug Bland are first-class individuals, and they have a great vision for Wake Forest baseball.”

TCSR: On what he liked about Wake Forest that made him want to leave New Orleans

TW: “It’s the ACC. The Sun Belt Conference is a great league, but it’s not the ACC. The ACC is the best league in the country and the Athletic Director Ron Wellman is first-rate. He’s a great guy to work with, as well was the New Orleans AD. They’ve both had great visions for their baseball programs.”

TCSR: On his future goals with the program over the course of the next several years

TW: “Well, the goal of every team in the ACC is to go to Omaha (Nebraska for the College World Series). We certainly have our work cut out for ourselves. It’s not going to be an easy goal to accomplish, but I think it’s manageable. We have to recruit and develop top talent and then with the facilities of Wake Forest, we can make that happen.”

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About Anthony Caruso III (10725 Articles)
Anthony Caruso III is the Publisher of The Capital Sports Report.

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