April 16, 2008


Nine Innings with Mike McRae

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


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 the start?

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.

Second 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 the field?

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 conference tournament?

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 year.

Eighth Inning – You played baseball at Colby College. How did that experience prepare you to be a college coach?

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 this year?

I am biased, but as a diehard Flyers' fan (Bernie Parent and the Broad Street Bullies), I have to go with the Flyers.