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June 15, 2018

Craig Keilitz

Ray Tanner

Anthony Holman

Kevin Lennon

Omaha, Nebraska

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2018 State of Baseball press conference. We have Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association; Kevin Lennon, vice president of Division I NCAA; Ray Tanner, the chair of the D-I Baseball Committee and director of athletics at University of South Carolina; and Anthony Holman, our new managing director of championships operations and playing rules at the NCAA national office.

Anthony, we'll get started.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: Thank you all for being here. This is my first time in this position. I'm certainly excited about the opportunity. I'm surrounded by a great wealth of knowledge here on the dais but as well as our team here led by Randy Buhr who will continue to manage our day-to-day operations.

We've got an experienced committee that's in place. The folks here at CWS, Inc., do a tremendous job. 69th year obviously of having our championship here in Omaha.

So that success is evident by their experiences they've had here. Had a chance to visit with the Pope himself, Danny Pope. He and I had breakfast last Friday before coming out and spending a couple of hours together, and a couple of things that Denny left me with that will guide me in this role is take care of the field, because if we can't play the game, the experience is lost.

Nurture the relationships that we have here in the community with city of Omaha, CWS, Inc., our relationship with ABCA, Craig and the staff before that, making sure that the experience of the student-athletes continues to be first and foremost in whatever we do.

And don't be afraid, don't be afraid to try new things. And that's certainly not lost on me. So those are the types of things you can expect from me. I'll be listening and learning, quite honestly, during the championship here and probably throughout my tenure. But I'll ask a lot of questions, you may be asking questions of me, but I'll be asking questions of a number of folks as well, because if we stop asking questions, then we can't figure out how to make things better. And that's certainly something that I'm excited about doing.

So look forward to being with you this afternoon and answering any questions that I can. Certainly bear with me that I'm four weeks into this position. So I may not have all the answers. So I'm grateful to be bookended with a lot of knowledge here. I'll turn it to our committee chair, Ray Tanner, for his opening remarks.

RAY TANNER: Thank you, Anthony. I would like to start by just taking a moment to say thank you for your passion about this great game and your overage.

It hasn't been that many years ago that college baseball was fortunate to get a score in the newspaper the next morning, or mentioned on the 11:00 news.

And we've come a long way. And certainly presidents, athletic directors' commitment across the country is important. But what you do for us is important for us. You help brand our sport. You've done it in a really big way. I want to say thank you for helping us grow a game that's very special. That is not lost on coaches and players or anybody else involved in college athletics. So thank you for what you do.

This is a great field, once again, in Omaha. It's hard to get here. Having been on both sides of this thing, you look at the Regionals, eight hosts were unable to get out of the field. Six of the eight Supers went to three games.

It's just so competitive. And that's the beauty of this sport. 297 teams started out. We're down to eight, and anybody can beat anybody. And it's great to be on your side and our side to be able to watch it.

It's not that much fun being in the ninth inning trying to get three outs. I've been there, too.

But thank you for what you do. You do mean so much to us, and it doesn't go unnoticed.


Q. Craig and Ray, you were talking about beforehand, before the presser, about the SEC putting forth the legislation to add the third full-time assistant. Kind of your thoughts on just the process there, your thinking on that? And also, Ray, as SEC AD and former head coach, your thoughts on that as well?
CRAIG KEILITZ: If I can start out. We're excited about that. We think it's much needed and certainly can help our game. But with 35 student-athletes on each team and having just two full-time assistants and one head coach, it's needed.

And I think you did mention that in collaboration with softball, which I think is going to be a great move on our part. And we did a survey a few years back asking our coaches what their position is, and 88 percent of our coaches are in favor of adding this position.

And quite a few of them will not get the opportunity to get a full-time assistant coach because the school may not fund it. But they still think it's very important that we get the position.

They're willing to add the position even though it could put them at a little bit of a coaching disadvantage. I think it's that important for our game. But I think we owe it to our kids to have that extra position.

RAY TANNER: Craig mentioned the number 35. When fall practice starts, it's typically a lot more than 35. So I think you need an extra coach. I think it's very important for our game. It's a student-athlete experience. If you go back in time, when I started, I was a graduate assistant, and the head coach had two graduate assistants. You didn't even have full-time coaches. So we developed coaches with graduate assistants.

We lost that. We lost that to a great extent. And to take that volunteer position and turn it into a full-time position where they can recruit and just be another coach I think gives us an opportunity to go back and help us develop more coaches that take the place of the guys that are leaving the game. So I think it's a good thing, and I hope it will become reality next year.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: If I could add to that as well, we're really appreciative of Ray's willingness to lead and talking to the SEC and really talking about how important things like this are for baseball. So appreciate that for getting that done.

Q. Looking at the scoring, I guess, being up a little bit this year, seems like we kind of restored balance to the game. Are you guys happy with where we are from an equipment standpoint? Have there been any concerns about tampering, or is that issue under control, do you think?
RAY TANNER: I really -- you know, I believe in people. I don't think there's tampering. I think the ball might be a little bit, the change might have helped the offense. Again, you have to look at the entire season. You've got to look at weather, different parts of the country. New ballpark is not quite as big. Fastballs are better than they used to be. It also travels farther.

So, I don't know, I don't have the answer. But I think there is pretty good balance in the game and you have an opportunity to come back from five or six runs down that maybe didn't exist a few years ago and your team has to stop the other guy.

But there's an opportunity maybe to hit a three-run homer and two-run drop to get back into it. So, I don't know, I think we're in a good place. But we've got to continue to monitor it and stay there.

We went from 21-14 to three home runs in Omaha one year. So there's got to be a happy medium in there somewhere.

CRAIG KEILITZ: I couldn't feel more strongly about this, the integrity in baseball. It might be a little bit different than some other sports. Is it perfect? Certainly not. But I'm not hearing a lot of that, and a lot of times we'll hear from coaches around the country talking about some problems, but right now baseball is in the best position we've been in a long time with the runs and defense and the way the game's being played.

And I think a lot of that has to do with the flat seam baseball and the development of the bat and so forth. But I think we're in a real good spot right now.

Q. Anthony, it's interesting to me you've got a great basketball background. You were a great player in college. You worked for I think the Sacramento Kings. And I'm curious how you can bring what you learned in basketball to baseball as far as the time differential. Basketball is two hours, and baseball we have the longest, second-longest College World Series game time last year, three hours 25 minutes, in history. What can you bring to basketball to help that?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: That's a good question. So I do have some basketball experience other than a student-athlete, a basketball student-athlete. But I cut my teeth in baseball. First jobs in professional sports were working in Minor League Baseball and Minor League Hockey. I ran the high school baseball championship in Illinois for nine years, served on the National Federation of High School Association Baseball Rules Committee and been connected with USAA Baseball.

I feel like, I'm not a baseball guy in terms of these guys, but certainly I'm familiar with the sport in terms of how -- I think there are a lot of transferrable things across sports that we can use to enhance the experience for fans.

And the time, the game length time is something we have to pay attention to. I coach my 12-year-old son's team, and their attention span is not great. They want to get back to some digital things and probably move on.

So I think what has happened in basketball is they found a good balance between entertainment and performance. And I think that's something we certainly want to do without disrupting the integrity of the game or the sport.

Finding ways with the help of the coaches associations and other groups that find ways to find that balance between making sure that we're not affecting the outcome of the game but make sure that we entertain and bring new fans and the next generation of baseball fans to the game.

So that's certainly something that I'll be digging into for sure. I don't know if that's -- I think our officials have done a good job as well about keeping guys in the box. I think our broadcast partners have been responsive to us, if you'll notice during this year our commercial breaks will be a standard 1:50. All of those things are conscious efforts to maintain some entertainment value and move the game along.

Q. The thoughts of -- you mentioned, Ray, 297 teams, which is amazing. Thoughts on the growth of the sport? It seems to be popular more and more. With that in mind, how difficult is it to select 64, now -- which is great -- we hear on the news there are bubble teams in college baseball, which we knew about for a long time, but now it's finally getting out. Do you foresee a time when maybe we would expand the tournament just a little bit, I don't know if it would be some play-in games like the 68 or 72, could that happen at some point? Would you be open minded in that? That's the first question I would have. And then the second would be, would there ever be any consideration of re-seeding the teams after the Supers to this platform?
CRAIG KEILITZ: I thought this was for Ray. Adding teams, it's always nice to add more teams. Now, can we make it equitable, how do we break it down, how do we pick the teams so forth. I think that is something that the committee would have to look at. But right now our selection process is about as good as it's ever been, I think. We're getting the right teams here and I think we got the right number.

As far as re-seeding the teams, I don't know if that was something we'd like to get interested in. I know there's always talk about that.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: It's not unprecedented it would be here, but it's not unprecedented for NCAA. We have some other divisional sports that do that. I think we did it in D-II basketball this year.

I think the challenge you have there now is when you do that, are you looking at their entire body of work for the entire season or are you looking at that from the Regional through their Super competition, and how do you balance that? I think that becomes a little different. It's selections, everybody, we're looking at every game they've played, narrow that framework, I think that changes the perspective a little bit.

And then I think there's a little bit to the Hoosier effect. Everybody is in there and you play your way through, and then you've got to win. You've got to beat some folks to win the championship. And I don't know if -- and I guess I'm a little bit of a baseball traditionalist, I would say you line up and play the people in front of you. I don't know. But it's certainly not unheard of. But I don't think we've had any discussions of that to this point.

RAY TANNER: And I don't have all the answers. I have a lot of opinions, at times. But I like our 64-team field. I like the regionals and Super Regionals and what it takes to get here.

Being in the committee room for the last three years, it's not easy. And the reason it's not easy is because you don't want to leave anybody out. You certainly want to give teams that have a deserving resumé the utmost attention.

And we do time and time again, and you probably don't understand the voting process, but it's very thorough. And it's long.

And I've been on the side where you get left out. And being in the room, it's tough. But our metrics are great. The commitment from the NCAA, the technology that we have, we do our very best.

And having been on the committee for three years, always go back home after the World Series and I think about two or three teams that didn't get to play.

And because I have lived on that side, it does strike you a little bit. But I think we've got a good format. And it's not perfect, and maybe some things get tweaked. I'm a purist, but I don't think four-hour baseball is the answer.

I think we go back to Lou's question, if we could play, it's okay to have a pitcher's duel for 2:12, 2:15, but if we played 2:20, 2:30, interview the outstanding player and the coach, out in the three-hour window, that's pretty good television I think. We'll see where it all goes.

Q. This year, the draft and Regionals overlapped. And during the draft broadcast, Rob Manfred said that that was something that they were working with you guys to address. So I just wondered where is that process and where would you guys like it to go?
CRAIG KEILITZ: We've had the opportunity to meet with Rod Manfred on this. He's willing to work with college baseball to make it the best for our sport. With that said, they have a window of Monday and Thursdays that they need to clear because that's when Major League teams typically have their day off and traveling day off and so forth. He needs to have it either on a Monday or Thursday.

With that said, there's a good opportunity they could have it on a Thursday and run into our Super Regional. That is the best date, according to our coaches, and we've talked with them at great length because they need to find out what their team's going to look like.

So having it after the World Series, if it's in July, you don't know what your team looks like for high school-drafted kids or your sophomores or junior that are draft-eligible that go and what your team's going to look like.

So the earliest opportunity is best for the majority of the teams. This year we had a situation where a couple teams are playing while their kids are getting drafted, and that's unfortunate. But it affected just a few kids rather than all of the teams around the country.

So I think it's the best date for us right now based on the majority of the teams.

KEVIN LENNON: I guess the only thing I can answer to that, Anthony can chime in from the NCAA perspective, we want to make sure we're focusing on the NCAA model and what makes the event unique and distinct for people here. And we've talked about the growth in college baseball. We don't want to do anything to take away from it, and we want to do things to best support our student-athletes.

And Craig just talked about some of the dynamics that are at play anytime you reintroduce draft issues into the environment that we have here, but can certainly share with you it continues to be a topic of conversation and we want to do, first and foremost, what's best for college baseball, the collegiate model and student-athletes.

Q. As Craig mentioned, the game, the scoring and all seems to be at a good point. But obviously you're always trying to improve the game. What are the areas that as you look at it right now for the college baseball game that are the areas for room for the biggest improvement kind of going forward or things to be done to make it even better going forward?
CRAIG KEILITZ: Just going back to pace of play, I think that's our trouble spot right now. I think we need to improve in that area, and I think everyone understands that, student-athletes, coaches and certainly our fans. With that said, we have a survey that's going out next week to all of our Division I coaches about pace of play.

We've been fortunate to be able to work closely with the NCAA on that, and they're asking for our help to get that survey back.

Talking about a lot of things that the Major Leagues are looking at right now. The Big 12 Conference put in the pitch clock this year which is experimental rule, and that seems to have gone very well.

Two conferences, SEC and ACC, that used experimental headset between the pitching coach and the catcher communicating. And then we also have rules such as the automatic walk or the third-to-first pick-off move and some of the other things we may take a look at, and we're asking coaches' opinions on, would be the number of mound visits by in-fielders or catchers.

So those are some things, and we just need to see the way the coaches feel on that. And if we have a good majority on any of those, we'll probably be likely to move forward with those, with the help of the NCAA Playing Committee.

RAY TANNER: I would add to that, again, there's a lot of discussions to be had, but the no-huddle offense -- let's play. Let's keep the game moving. We don't want to take out the purity of the game, a little cat and mouse that goes on between managers or guy in the bullpen or guy on deck. We've got to leave that part in the game.

But we've got to keep playing. We've got to keep the game moving whether they're staying in the box or putting the limit on a coaching visit to the mound or all the players, we've really got to sit down and tweak it. We have to have more action.

And game's going to be the same. And when we use the clock in the SEC, whatever it was, three, four years ago, the clock was hardly ever in play. But the guys knew that they had to keep moving. So our time of length of game was better. So I think there's some work to be done. But we can get there.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: The other part about that you touched in terms of changes and expansion of reviewable plays potentially in terms of replay, but again there has to be a balance in the one sense we're talking about pace of play and then if you add additional replay options, what's the balance and what's that look like, but certainly that's a part of the discussion when you ask the question about what things are you looking to do to improve the game.

Q. First of all, the draft, Major League Baseball has expressed some interest in having it in Omaha before the College World Series. Is that something that's still a nonstarter for you guys, or do you see the upside of potentially growing the game by having it here before the World Series? And secondly, as far as replay is concerned, you've got it in Super Regionals, seems like it's a similar setup with all the games on TV. Any talk of having the same procedure where you've got a central command center reviewing the plays for the Regional round?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: I'll take the second part ask Kevin to help me on the second part. The replay part, yes, they'll be part of the discussion, the Rules Committee discussion this summer about the expansion of replay moving to the Regional levels as well. But it's not as simple as that.

There's a cost, there are the Regional sites set up for it. We had some overlap this year, which was fortunate, Regional sites were also super sectionals in those cases, Super Regional, excuse me, sites. So, yes, the discussion is ongoing. Kind of what the timeline for that is, I wouldn't want to speculate. But certainly it will be explored and I can anticipate there can be some movement there.

In terms of having the draft here, I just want to say that, again, new to this role, but we've had some great initial discussions with MLB and Commissioner Manfred's office and a number of his folks, and I think I'll share with you that there are things that are coming out of that are very positive.

So I'm hoping that that collaboration and that relationship helps us to then better define what that looks like, does it make sense for the draft to be here.

Craig made a great point about the timing for them isn't ideal. Well, it's not ideal for us to have kids on the phone in the dugout kind of celebrating their draft status during games either.

But where is the balance for that. And if we can get to a better place where that works for everyone, we absolutely are open to it. So I don't know if I would say it's a nonstarter. It's tough for us because we've got to have some delineation.

Q. Ray, just following up, you mentioned about pace of play and the keeping the action going. In your time in the game, what do you see as kind of the game has slowed down over the last 15, 20 years? You've been involved in this a long time. What do you see as kind of the reasons that the pace has slowed down?
RAY TANNER: Can I get in trouble here, probably? (Laughter.) I just think coaches are a little bit too involved, and probably unfair to the pitching side of it, but I think it slowed the game down a lot.

We experimented with the headsets this year in the SEC and with communication. But that slows the game a lot. I did an informal survey many years ago about -- I kind of took this from Coach Bertman. He always talked about heightened awareness. When you can get your team on and off the field, you play better defense. Pitchers get the ball. They're back on the rubber after it hits the catcher's mitt. They don't walk halfway to the plate to receive the ball. They start backing up. They get a little momentum going.

The only thing that can stop that is the umpire and the hitter. And I think we've -- coaches work hard. There's people committed in this game like never before.

And it's not fair to criticize them, but I think it's just their intensity and the involvement in the game. And it probably has taken an effect that it slows down a little bit the strategic part, you go out discuss it, you sub your defense, you have how you're going to pitch the next guy and we're taking a little bit too long, I think. Not just blaming the pitchers, but we've got to stay in the box, get on and off the field. Television is great. We need television. So that to me is not part of the equation. We've got to do a better job between the lines.

Q. Ray and Anthony and Craig, one thing I've noticed during the course of the year, the differences between, say, conferences on how they are looking at some of these things. For example, SEC and Big 12 difference even in the pitch clock, 15 seconds, 20 seconds. Things like that. The earpiece for the SEC. Is there thoughts about looking toward more uniformity for those kind of things, much like how the 3-point line went in college basketball for years before it settled in at 19:9?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: I'll start there. Absolutely. We want it to cascade down from the national office to the rules committee. But we serve at the pleasure of the membership. And it's incredibly important for the Big 12 and the SEC to do those types of experimental things for us, and then share and collaborate with that information.

I think that will be a part of the next step. Now that we've done that, what this looks like in terms of the timing here and share that stuff with our rules committee.

But absolutely, it only works if there's consistency. Otherwise you get into the postseason and it may not seem or look fair to everyone.

RAY TANNER: I would agree. And I think we're all working, we all care. The coaches care, the fans. Everybody cares about the length of the game and sometimes we say, hey, this was a little bit too long. But let's not mistake the fact that we really have a great product. But I think we can improve upon it. And the more action, the more often I think is better than any sport. And I think we do need to collaborate and get on the same page and try and improve what our great game is all about.

Q. One question for you would you share about the article you told me about and the study about baseball and how much actual game time was performed when game was in play?
LOU: Wall Street Journal did a story back in 2013. They wanted to find out what is the actual game action time in a baseball game in Major League Baseball. 17 minutes, 58 seconds. And so what is happening with the other amount of time they actually broke it all down what all the rest of that 90 percent of the time is and maybe that's something statistics department can figure out for baseball. I don't know. But it's fascinating, though.

RAY TANNER: Gotta have a little bit of marketing, Lou. Do a few commercials.


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