Innings with Mike
By Phil Stanton
Mike McRae is in his fourth season as the head
coach at Canisius. The Golden Griffins are off to a scorching
start, winning 26 of their first 30 contests. The team is fifth
in the nation in batting average and 27th in fielding
percentage. Canisius is on top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic
Conference standings with an 8-1 mark.
Coach McRae recently took time to answer our
questions about the Griffs, and to talk a little hockey.
First Inning – Canisius is 26-4 after 30
games, including 8-1 in the MAAC. Are you at all surprised with
That is kind of a tricky question. As Bob Knight
once said, "If you are asking me to predict our record, then you
are asking me to predict losses." We are not shocked or
surprised to be off to a good start. Throughout the offseason,
we believed that we had a talented group. However, it has been
very refreshing to respond in such a competitive manner right
from the outset.
Inning – Your team batting average is .344. What makes the
Golden Griffins such a good hitting club?
The simple answer is that a good hitting club has
a lot of good hitters! Yet there is more to it than just strong
bodies. Our middle of the order guys are extremely proud and
possess tremendous competitiveness, which ultimately results in
success. However, the key is that we have good depth in our
lineup, which puts pressure on our hitters to stay focused. They
realize if they have a bad day, there is a good hitter on the
bench ready to take their spot. You cannot have a good hitting
team if you take AB’s and games off.
Third Inning – Kevin Mailloux sat out last year with a knee
injury and this spring is leading the team with a .398 batting
average with seven homers and 32 RBI. How was his work ethic
during rehab and then this year in the preseason?
I will never question Kevin's work ethic or
drive. He experienced some tough days last year during his
injury, but I believe this is common when a young man, who has
never been hurt before, experiences his first injury. Often,
they do not know how to handle it. Nonetheless, Kevin never lost
sight of his goal and worked diligently to get healthy and
strong. At the end of the season, I actually believe Kevin will
have a greater sense of accomplishment because of the adversity
he had to overcome.
Fourth Inning – The Griffs also have a solid
team fielding percentage at .972. What makes them so strong in
Several factors contribute to our defensive
success. First, we have several players who have really matured
and developed in that area. For example, our shortstop, Alec
Cabello, averaged one error per game as a freshman. As his
confidence grew, we began to see the player we recruited – a
gifted defensive player. Second, most of our positional players
have a ton of game experience. They have “been there and done
that.” Lastly, we work very hard on the defensive aspects of our
game. In practice, we try to put them in situations they will
face on game day. When the game is on the line, I want our guys
confident they will make the play.
Fifth Inning – Redshirt freshman Shane Davis is 7-0
with a 2.38 ERA. What has made him so successful as a young age?
Shane Davis is a great story. He has really
bought into our pitching programs and philosophy. He struggled
in his first collegiate start by trying to be too fine. This
approach resulted in walks and good hitting counts. As he moved
forward, Shane started to see the value of attacking the strike
zone and getting ahead of hitters. He works quick, pumps
strikes, and, as a result, we have played good defense behind
him. Shane is prepared every time he goes to the mound. Now, you
can see his confidence grow with each start.
Sixth Inning – Canisius played its first 18
games away from home and posted a 16-2 mark. What was the key to
the strong start?
I really believe our strong start was a
reflection on last year's finish. Once our team captured that
feeling of "belief," we became a tough team to play. Three weeks
into conference play, we were the last-place team in the MAAC.
We rallied to make the conference tourney. That feeling and
atmosphere carried over and has put us into the position we are
in right now.
Seventh Inning – How will the experience of
the 2007 MAAC Tournament help the team with this year’s
Getting to the tournament was huge for us. None
of our players had experienced postseason play. I feel it is
very difficult to win the tourney on your first trip. Hopefully,
last year's experience will provide us with the familiarity and
confidence necessary to make a run at the conference title this
Eighth Inning – You played baseball at Colby
College. How did that experience prepare you to be a college
My wife always says "things happen for a reason."
To this day, I often wonder why I chose Colby. My experience
there entrenched a love of the game that propelled me to a
career in coaching. I have been very fortunate that some
outstanding coaches (Paul Kostacopoulos, Joe Hudak, Jim Mauro,
Joe Bauth) were willing to take a chance on me. I hope the day
will come when I can "pay it forward" as those men did for me.
Ninth Inning – You were also a goalie for the
Colby hockey team. Did you play hockey all four years?
I only played hockey for one year. I chose Colby
because I wanted to try to play two sports in college. However,
I quickly learned how difficult that was. (Two concussions as a
freshman didn't help either – that may explain some things!)
Extra Innings – Who do you think will win the Stanley Cup
I am biased, but as a diehard Flyers' fan (Bernie
Parent and the Broad Street Bullies), I have to go with the