Tom Walter Press Conference Quotes
June 16, 2009
Statement from Athletic Director Ron Wellman
"Good afternoon and thank you for coming to this very important event this afternoon. It's an exciting day for Wake Forest and Wake Forest baseball in particular with the announcement of Tom Walter as our new head baseball coach. We want to welcome Tom and his family to Wake Forest, his wife Kirsten, their daughter Kasey and their son Chase. They promise to be big Wake Forest fans. I asked Casey last night at the airport if he was happy to be at Wake Forest and he bowed his head because he was in a New Orleans baseball hat, but before long he will be a Demon Deacon.
This announcement comes at the conclusion of a national search for our baseball coach. We had some outstanding candidates for this position, but ultimately Tom is the one who is going to lead us back to the top of the ACC. He has had wonderful coaching experience at two different institutions. He has taken two institutions and resurrected their baseball program. The first was at George Washington, which was a real challenge. George Washington has not been a great baseball school in the past and when Tom got there, their program needed some work. One of his opponents told me that they probably played in the worst baseball facility in America. Yet, he was able to recruit very effectively to that facility. During his tenure at George Washington, he led them to the NCAA Tournament in 2002. That team played at the Wake Forest regional. We played them at that regional and I remember that team very well. The thing that stood out to me about that team was that they played hard all the time and didn't make critical mistakes. Tom had 26 players sign professional contracts from George Washington and six players were drafted from the 2002 team. His overall record at George Washington was 275-184.
After George Washington, he and his family moved to the University of New Orleans. His five-year record at New Orleans was 153-147. He led his team to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2008. He had seven players drafted off of the 2008 team, seven players who had never been drafted before. That tells us that Tom has the ability to develop players very effectively. His teams at New Orleans have typically been ranked in the top 10 in many offensive categories, especially home runs. His teams have a lot of power and with the distances to the fences in our park, that plays into our scheme of things at Wake Forest. His 13-year record overall is 428-331.
Those are the statistics behind the man. But I will tell you that we didn't hire him because of those statistics. We hired him because of the intangibles and what he stands for. During the interview process and talking to other people about Tom, the first thing that stands out about him is he understands the academic process. He understands what it is like to coach at a strong academic private institution. Tom graduated from Georgetown University. He was a catcher and an outfielder on those Georgetown teams. While he was coaching at George Washington, he earned his MBA from that institution. He has taken a team at George Washington that was not all that competitive, but has built them into an NCAA Tournament team.
He has the highest expectations of his players, both on and off the field. He holds his players accountable. He expects them to succeed athletically and that means winning championships. But equally important, if not more important, he expects them to graduate. He expects them to go to class and he expects them to do everything that they can to live up to their potentially academically as well as athletically.
Thirdly, he develops players. He knows how to take a raw talent and develop it. The statistics I've already cited about the number of players that he has drafted after not being drafted out of high school has to be one of the tops in the nation. We know he can develop players. In talking to a couple of his former players, they've indicated that he is an outstanding coach and that he knows how to get the most out of them. He is an excellent recruiter. When you talk to him, you can envision him in the living room of a young man with his family. You can envision them wanting to play for him."
Fourth, his teams improve year after year. If you look at the records of his teams, they improve practically every year. We want him to stay at Wake Forest for a long time and eventually we'll be undefeated if his teams continue to improve every year. Next, he gives a lot of care and attention to his players. I'm not even going to try to recite his experience after Hurricane Katrina. He was a new coach at New Orleans at that time and what he did to salvage that program and to make sure that they were able to play that season is behind anything I can ever imagine. Next, his players play hard for him. He is a person who motivates his players and he gets the most out of them and they seem to enjoy playing for him. You'll see that in our future teams at Wake Forest. Finally, Tom is a communicator. We were talking to him for three hours in our interview and it seemed like an hour. He knows how to communicate. He captures your attention and he's just fun to be with because he is such an effective communicator."
Wake Forest Head Coach Tom Walter
Opening statement... "Thank you Mr. Wellman. That was certainly a touching and thorough recount of my past and I really appreciate the kind words and the confidence in me leading this baseball program forward. First and foremost, I want to recognize my family. My wife Kirsten was gracious enough to be here today and that thrills me to no end. Certainly, without her support through Hurricane Katrina and then all the trials and tribulations at George Washington, I can honestly say I wouldn't be in coaching now. There were many times, especially after Katrina, where I talked about getting out of coaching because Kirsten and the kids were in Michigan at the time. Kirsten was the one that redirected me to coaching. Certainly without her support, I wouldn't be standing here today. Chase, our oldest boy, is the first recruit of the Demon Deacons' class of 2018. We saw what Micah Owings did at Tulane as a pitcher and a hitter and I think we're headed that way with Chase as a two-way player. He's our first and our only boy. To Chase's left is our daughter Kasey, who just turned seven years old. Kasey is not much of a sports player. She played soccer one year and she told the coach that she would rather follow him around then go out on the field. Kasey is the apple of my eye and I have a very difficult time saying no to her. My father, Ralph Walter, is here today too. He drove up from Atlanta to be here. My love of baseball comes from him. He had a baseball and a bat in my hand as long as I can remember. He and his father, Doc Walter, basically gave me my love of baseball. I'm a Yankee fan and the reason is that was the first Major League game I went to with my dad.
I also want to think the players that took time out of their day to come here. I can assure you that we are going to grow this program together and we are going to do it with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We're all an equal part of this. I promise to give you all I have over the next few years. We have not named a staff yet. I can assure you that the staff we bring in, their number one commitment is going to be the players on our roster and helping you develop not only as baseball players, but as young men.
When the job came open, the first reason I was interested is because it was in the ACC. It's the number one baseball conference in the country. They've sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament every year this decade. They've had as many as three teams in the College World Series in 2008. The baseball is just fantastic. You look at what schools like Virginia and Boston College have been able to accomplish and the level of play in the conference has steadily improved over the last few years.
Moving forward, it became very clear to me that Wake Forest was a unique and special place and not just athletically speaking, but the university itself. I got to have dinner with a bunch of folks and met several folks the next day. One person after another spoke about how great it was at Wake Forest and the family environment here. That was the thing that first struck me. That atmosphere really captured my attention immediately. Then, Mike Buddie and Mr. Wellman spoke about their vision of the baseball program and the vision and success of all the programs here. The success of the various programs at Wake Forest goes on and on. That tells me that it's an easy recruit and that the school sells itself. Also, to see the vision for the baseball program and the plans they have for the upgrades to Wake Forest Baseball Park, it all came together. If they had offered me the job on the spot, I certainly would have had to call my wife and ask for permission, but I would have taken it on the spot. It was very apparent to me that this is the place that I wanted to be and was the perfect situation for me and my family.
As far as the type of ball club we'll have, that will certainly depend on our personnel. But Mr. Wellman is exactly right, I like to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Those are teams that I've had in the past and have had success with. We've also managed to steal some bases, so I want some athletes that can run situationally and run in certain counts. I want to have power, but I don't want to be a one-dimensional team, where if we don't hit any home runs, we're not going to be able to score. I want to be able to beat you in other ways too, so we're going to try to put together a roster of raw athletes and try to turn them into baseball players.
As Mr. Wellman mentioned, I'm very focused on the development of the total person. When we recruit a player, we're very clear about what our objectives are for that person. Objective number one is that you graduate. I want you to graduate from here and I want you to graduate as quickly as possible. Goal number two is to help you become a better person and be more prepared for life challenges. Number three is to help you become a better baseball player and to help you develop as an individual. Baseball is a very individual sport. We talk about team a lot. We're not going to be out there with a bunch of selfish players. But, you have to get better individually, if we're going to win as a team. If you don't get better individually, you're not going to play with confidence and if you're not playing with confidence, you're not going to help us win in the long run. Our fourth objective is winning. We're here to win. The players will know that we want to win baseball games and win championships. We're going to have specific goals each and every year for our team. I'll tell the guys right now that just making the ACC Tournament is not an acceptable goal. That's not good enough for our program. We're better than that. We shouldn't be looking at that eighth spot and hoping we sneak in the back door. That's not the kind of program we want here. We've got bigger and better goals for our ball club than that.
I know there's a lot of talent in the program, especially in the freshman and sophomore classes. I'm looking for great things for years to come."
On the time frame on filling his coaching staff... "This week. I met with Jon Palmieri today. I coached Jon in Cotuit in the Cape Cod league. He is an outstanding coach and an outstanding person and he is in strong consideration for an assistant's job with us. I'm only going to talk to three hitting coaches and Jon is one of those guys. We sat down and talked about his hitting philosophies and his recruiting philosophies and the conversation went great. I'm going to speak with two other people and then make what will undoubtedly be a hard decision. Jon is certainly in the mix and I'll probably talk to him some more before making a final decision. The other position is going to be a pitching coach position and I'm not sure where that is."
On how to succeed at Wake Forest with 11.7 scholarships... "I think the formula is less players on bigger scholarships. If I had to guess how it's going to pan out, I'd say we'll probably have 20 to 22 players will have 95 percent of the scholarship or maybe even 100 percent. I'd say 12 position players or eight pitchers is probably the formula. With this new schedule, with the season being extended by a week, you probably need seven pitchers to be competitive. The formula to me is less players on more money and don't miss."
Wake Forest Players
Sophomore Infielder Bentley Heyman
Reaction to Walter's hiring... "My reaction is that I'm excited. I'm excited for what he's going to bring to the program. It seems like he's got a great attitude in terms of building championships and building the program."
Thoughts on Walter's offensively oriented coaching style... "As a hitter that's a good thing. That's what I want. I'm a hitter so I want him to take what success he's had at other colleges and maybe teach me a few things. We'll see how that works but I'm excited about it."
"I think [his coaching style] fits in well. I feel like last season we were a good hitting ball club, we weren't a great hitting ball club. He says he likes to hit home runs, we've got some guys that can hit home runs. He says he likes to steal bases, we've got some guys that can steal bases. We've got a lot of athletes so hopefully with Coach Walter coming in, we can put it all together and have a good offensive year."
Junior Pitcher Mark Adzick
Reaction to Walter's press conference... "I was very impressed with his introduction. Mr. Wellman has put together a really good athletic program at Wake Forest, so when I went to talk him about coaches, I told him I knew he would make a great decision and I think he has. I think Coach Walter is going to do a great job. He's got past experience and his past history has shown what he can do."
On Walter's fitting in with the program... "Wake Forest is so special because we already have the talent. It's not like going to George Washington where the talent level isn't as high and it takes four years to get a good recruiting base going. At Wake Forest you already have some great recruits so all he has to do is mold that talent and that's when we start winning games."