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Saturday, August 30, 2014

UPDATED: Ole Miss, Bianco agree to extension; Wahl drafted 161

BLOG: The Diamond Rebels had a busy Friday.

Earlier in the day Ole Miss announced, embedded in a blog about “being focused on future of baseball program,” that the school had agreed to a one-year extension with Mike Bianco, the program’s all-time winningest coach.

According to the blog, the dialogue from this year’s contract will not change. Bianco was just extended a year, which will run through the 2015 season.

“Mike and I have always had a good dialogue since I have been here. I have enjoyed our conversations and our relationship and the passion Mike has comes out in many ways,” Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork said later during a phone interview. “That’s what is great about him and his personality. We had a good discussion throughout. My feeling was and is no one knows our program better than Coach and nobody knows the ingredients it takes to meet the expectations that are out there for our program that have been established under Mike and within the Ole Miss athletics family of having baseball perform at a high level. I’m very pleased that we’re continuing.

“We have to put our full support behind Mike and our players and coaches and continue to build on what we have to get us back to that level of being in the conversation of hosting, making a super and then obviously getting to the ultimate stage of the College World Series.”

The Rebels posted a 38-24 record after shooting out of the gate with a 21-2 mark.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: All things considered, it appears the Rebels went mostly unscathed through the first 10 rounds (316 picks) of the Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft.

Stuart Turner was the first Rebel to be selected on Day 2. After signee Cody Reed went 46th overall to Kansas City, Turner was picked 78th overall by the Minnesota Twins.

“I’ve been a baseball player my whole life. You always dream of playing professional ball and playing Big League ball,” he said. “It’s just a stepping stone and definitely one of the stops along the way. Hopefully it opens this path up for the future. Just looking forward to getting back to work and continuing down the road. The ultimate goal isn’t accomplished yet.”

Saturday starter Mike Mayers was the next to go at 93rd overall to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It’s an exciting time, to be drafted by such a great organization and still have the dream that I’ve had since I can remember growing up. This has always been my dream. To be 21 years old and still have this dream is a great experience and I’m blessed to be where I am,” Mayers said. “It’s a big deal for me as I think of all the people that helped me get to where I am, all my former teammates, my teammates now. And especially my family and the people back home that have helped me along the way.”

Ace Bobby Wahl slipped well past where most projections had him slotted to the Oakland Athletics at No. 161 overall.

“First off I want to thank the Oakland Athletics for drafting me and taking a chance on me,” Wahl said. “It didn’t really go as I planned, but that’s part of the draft that you have to learn from. Nothing is ever really set in stone. You truly never know when your name is going to be called. Last night I waited for my name, and it didn’t happen. I had a good feeling that it would be called today, I just didn’t know when.”

J.B. Woodman, projected as the 135th-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America and perhaps the Rebels’ second-most-likely signee to be plucked, went unselected. During the sixth round, Woodman tweeted: “Excited to be playing in the best atmosphere in college baseball next year! God has truly blessed me with a wonderful opportunity! #RebsBSB”

According to Baseball America, the assigned values for the aforementioned picks are as follows:
No. 46 — $1,198,500
No. 78 — $703,000
No. 93 — $557,900
No. 161 — $286,200

MAKING A MOVE: RebelGrove.com‘s Chase Parham reported on Friday that rising junior infielder Jake Overbey is no longer on the team.

Overbey, a 10th-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, has not been able to find his way onto the diamond consistently. In two seasons, Overbey has primarily been used as a defensive replacement at second base and shortstop.

Overbey hit .176 as a freshman in 34 at-bats, and .130 in 23 at-bats this season.

UPDATED (6:30 p.m.; 6/7/2013): Below is the transcript from a 10-minute interview with Bjork from earlier today:

Q: How did Thursday’s conversations go?
A: Mike and I have always had a good dialogue since I have been here. I have enjoyed our conversations and our relationship and the passion Mike has comes out in many ways. That’s what is great about him and his personality. We had a good discussion throughout. My feeling was and is no one knows our program better than Coach and nobody knows the ingredients it takes to meet the expectations that are out there for our program that have been established under Mike and within the Ole Miss athletics family of having baseball perform at a high level. I’m very pleased that we’re continuing. We have to put our full support behind Mike and our players and coaches and continue to build on what we have to get us back to that level of being in the conversation of hosting, making a super and then obviously getting to the ultimate stage of the College World Series.

Q: Why one-year deal?
A: First of all, Mike is our coach. Mike’s our guy. We went into this season with the same agreement. So we decided to just leave the agreement the way it was prior to the 2013 season and focus on our support of Mike and the program. That was the thought process, the same agreement that he had for 2013 and we’ve operated under that situation for the last year and will continue that.

Q: Any worry how just one year might impact recruiting?
A: Every decision you make you have to think about how it impacts recruiting. That was absolutely part of the discussion, but I know how we’re recruiting now, how we recruited this past year and the year before under a very similar situation. We recruited at a high level and so I think we just have to continue that mindset that we’re not afraid to recruit at the highest level. Carl, Cliff and Mike are out there every day, recruiting at the highest level. I think we just have to maintain that mindset.

Q: Are there any goals or guidelines that need to be met?
A: I think you look at the progression of the ultimate goal. That progression is hosting. If you look at the teams this year, 14 out of 16 hosted. Two non-hosts made it. So that progression is how are we back in the hosting conversation. And we were, we were in the hosting conversation late in the season. We have to be in that conversation on the weekend when they’re making those decisions. That’s the progression. And then you have to have the depth with the pitching and you have to hit in timely situations. Those are the key ingredients that we look like. You can’t set yourself up, saying you have to be at this level or that level. To me, it’s more about the process and the progression of reaching the ultimate goal that we’ll evaluate moving ahead.

Q: Fan support/feedback?
A: This week I have received e-mails starting Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that have sort of died off. The main thing is people are writing, so they care and they’re passionate about our baseball program. Most of them have been, ‘Mike has done a great job with the program, but we’re concerned.’ Mike and I are always looking at how we’re achieving expectations. The last four years have been the toughest four years and that’s what people are looking at, that window. If you look at our resources, how we recruit, if you look at getting us back on track and refocusing on the ingredients that got us to the super regionals during Mike’s tenure, that’s where I felt like there’s no one better equipped to do that. … There was feedback and that was good. That’s very healthy for our program.

Q: How much feedback was there? 
A: I don’t know what the exact number is, but I think 45 or 50 e-mails that I received this week. You would rather have people commenting and caring than not. I think that’s what we appreciate about our fans.

Q: Mostly concerned? Mixed?
A: Mostly concerned, but supportive, too. There’s lots of support and that’s good.

Q: Looking ahead: What needs to change? I know scholarships are something (Mississippi & Alabama schools) are up against:
A: You look at that whole situation and there are some resources that other programs have access to. There’s lottery scholarships, academic scholarships, Vanderbilt with a huge university endowment that spreads scholarships all over campus. You look at that, but we have had success before and we have programs within our state has had success. It can be done. We have to be creative. We have to be strategic. We have to continue to recruit the right kind of kids. We do have access to outside aid, outside of the athletic scholarships (academic scholarships) just like every other student. We can’t use that as an excuse. We have to just acknowledge it, try to be creative, come up with solutions and we’ll continue to do that as a University and as an athletics program. … I think baseball in general, you’d love to have more scholarships for the sport. I think that puts the sport at a disadvantage and the draft in baseball. … When you look at the variables, we sit here today and we don’t know our exact roster come August. We have a good feel. Our coaches are in constant dialogue with the parents and the players on the process and they all have numbers and goals and if they meet those goals they might sign. If they don’t, then they come here.

For more from Bjork and the drafted Rebels, checkout Monday’s print edition of the Oxford EAGLE. (June 7, 2013)

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