Great Expectation

The St. John’s baseball team comes into the 2007 season with big expectations. But they are not the only ones who are taking notice of a potential powerhouse, as the Red Storm was voted as the favorite to win the Big East Conference title by a majority of coaches from the Big East.

However St. John’s realizes that the game is won on the field and not in the preseason polls. Head coach Ed Blankmeyer went so far as to say that the ranking is a “deterrent.”

“I don’t think it motivates our team, but it certainly can be a deterrent,” Blankmeyer said. “It’s not what you read but how you play.”

Being such a highly regarded team also comes with other potential pitfalls, as opposing teams will be looking to collect the scalp of one of the nation’s elite programs.

“Every time we go into the ballpark, teams are looking to knock us off,” Blankmeyer said. “We’re not gonna hang our hat on the accolades of being picked number one.”

However, Blankmeyer was quick to point out that being chosen to win the conference is flattering.

“It does recognize that we have pretty good talent and can become a pretty good club,” he said.

Although St. John’s had a solid season last year, the team will benefit in the 2007 season from an amply deep bench. In addition to having many returning players, the Red Storm will be able to take advantage of a strong incoming freshmen class, three of which started the first game of the season.

“We have a lot of guys returning, but to have a good club you have to have some depth,” Blankmeyer said. “You need players that will fill positions as players graduate.”

While new players will look to make an impact, there are also some notable changes among the returning players. Senior co-captain Chris Joachim, who batted .398 with 20 stolen bases, 46 RBI and 52 runs scored in 58 games last season, will be moving to left field from first base to make room for Ryan Mahoney, who logged innings last year behind the plate and at the designated hitter position.

“I like the idea of [playing outfield],” said Joachim, also noting that the only outfield experience he has had was two years ago in summer league. “I wasn’t too sure how well it would go. But I feel comfortable out there and my teammates help me to adjust. I’m ready to go and I like it so far.”

Regardless of where he is playing, Joachim said that he simply wants to make his final collegiate season a memorable one.
“My goal is go out on a winning note, to take the Big East championship, win the regionals and go from there,” he said.
Joachim, as well as sophomore pitcher Scott Barnes and senior outfielder/designated hitter Anthony Smith earned preseason All-Big East honors. Despite personal player honors adding to the expectations of the team, the members of the team also realize that what happens on the field is what will make a difference.

“I have to lead by example,” Joachim said. “Whether it’s practice or a game, I have to do things by example so everyone can follow me.”

As with any team, a big consideration is staying healthy. While Blankmeyer continues to evaluate the team for its strengths and weaknesses, the coach says that he will get a better idea of what does and does not click on the team as the weather warms.

“I’m stilling making the determination of how they’ve matured,” he said. “If we perform up to our level I think we can be a good club. As it warms up and as we play more I can get a better handle on it.”

Regardless of accolades and honors from outside sources, St. John’s has their eyes set on postseason success.

“My expectations, as always are to compete for the Big East championship,” Blankmeyer said. “Every time we step on the field that’s our expectation and that never changes.”