University of Pittsburgh second baseman Jim Negrych recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Negrych is one of the top players in the Big East and is a returning sophomore for Joe Jordano's Panthers. After being named the Big East's Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American following last season, Negrych was recently named to the NCBWA's 2005 Preseason Third Team All-America.
After losing two of their first three, the Panthers have won four straight and are now 5-2 on the young season. In those seven games, Negrych is hitting .355 with a trio of doubles, a triple, and a homerun. The sophomore has also scored seven runs and driven in nine more.
JIM NEGRYCH, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
SCS.com: Coming out of St. Francis High School in Buffalo, New York, what other colleges did you consider, and why did you ultimately choose Pittsburgh?
Negrych: "There were a lot of schools that I got letters from and what not. But the Big East and Colonial Athletic Association schools are the ones I talked to the most I'd say. When you look at a school like Pittsburgh and see how they're a program on the rise and the facilties we have, it's hard to turn down. The most important thing was the chance to stay close to home and play right away."
SCS.com: You started all but one game last year as a true freshman, tied the school's single-season record for hits (76), and broke the school's record for doubles in a season (20). You led the Panthers with a .378 batting average, .464 on-base percentage, 22 multiple-hit games, and 33 walks. What was the key factor in your ability to come in and play so well even though you were just a freshman?
Negrych: "Confidence and working hard...you have to believe you are capable of performing and being just as good as anyone out there."
SCS.com: Following last season, you were named the Big East's Rookie of the Year and became Pittsburgh's first player to ever earn Freshman All-American honors. You were also honored with All-American status from Baseball America and Louisville Slugger. Describe how it feels to be chosen as not only one of the best in your conference but also in the entire country.
Negrych: "It's a great honor to just be mentioned with the kids on those teams. It felt really good."
SCS.com: The national honors have not slowed for you. Coming into the 2005 season, you were one of only 58 players nation-wide to be named to the Brooks Wallace Watch List for national player of the year honors. The National College Baseball Writers Association named you to its Preseason Third Team All-America, and in mid-December, the Big East chose you as its Preseason Player of the Year. What does this national exposure mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Negrych: "For me, it's only as good as the team. So hopefully it puts our university's name out there and lets people know that Pittsburgh is a contender each year."
SCS.com: You helped lead Pitt to a 38-18 finish in 2004, which was good enough for a tie for second place in the Big East. The season ended on a sour note, however, as the Panthers went two-and-out in the Big East Tournament and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. How disappointing was the ending to last season, and how will it motivate you and the team for the 2005 campaign?
Negrych: "We don't want to have to feel the way we did coming home on the bus from the Big East Tournament, then not being invited to a regional. We thought, and lots of other people will agree, that we desevered to be in a regional last year, and we don't want to have to feel the same way as last year."
SCS.com: The team lost plenty of talent from last year's squad, including a trio of infielders, a catcher, and a fabulous pitcher. The Panthers, though, were still picked for a third-place finish in the Big East this season. What are your personal goals as well as your goals for this team in the upcoming season?
Negrych: "My personal goals are to just keep improving each and every year and do whatever it takes to take our team to the next level. Our team goal is to win a Big East Championship and take our success to a national level."
SCS.com: Playing at a Big East school like Pittsburgh allows you to visit other big-time programs like Virginia Tech, Rutgers, and West Virginia. This year's schedule has big road games at Miami and St. John's. Where is your favorite place to travel on the road, and how do you find the atmosphere to be away from home in general?
Negrych: "My favorite place to play last year was Virginia Tech. It was a beautiful place to play. To compare playing at home or away, there's no difference once you're on the field. It's just baseball."
SCS.com: Though you will not be eligible for the MLB Draft until after the 2006 season, three of your teammates from a year ago were taken in the Draft last summer. Have you talked to any of those guys or any other players currently playing professionally, and if so, what advice have they given you?
Negrych: "Yeah, I have talked to P.J. (Hiser, 2004 Big East Player of the Year), Nick (Evangelista, 2004 Big East Pitcher of the Year), and T.J. (Gornati), and they all love playing the game still and all three of them had great seasons this year. I hope they all continue their success."
SCS.com: Your head coach, Joe Jordano, was named the Big East Coach of the Year after the 2004 season. He has turned the Pitt program around in his seven years on campus, winning nearly 200 games for the Panthers. In fact, the past three seasons have marked the program's best three-year stretch in the 96-year history of Pittsburgh baseball. From 2002 to 2004, the Panthers won a toal of 110 games. What makes Coach Jordano such a great coach, and how has he begun getting some of the top baseball talent to come to Pittsburgh?
Negrych: "In order to be a great head coach, you need great assistant coaches, and we have those. Coach Jordano is very good with the players, and we enjoy playing for him. His record speaks for itself, and hopefully we can continue to get great talent to come to this school."
SCS.com: What is your favorite memory from your baseball career, whether it be little league, high school, or college?
Negrych: "I'd say my first game in college down in New Orleans was a great experience for me. It was night game against one of the best pitchers in America." (Editor's Note: Jim hit the game-winning homerun in the seventh inning to give Pitt a 2004 season-opening 3-2 victory over the University of New Orleans.)
SCS.com: If a young baseball player was reading this and aspired to become successful in the sport, what advice would you give him?
Negrych: "No matter where you are from, if you work hard and play hard everyday, you'll get noticed and recongized."
SCS.com would again like to thank Pittsburgh's Jim Negrych for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Panthers the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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