New Mexico first baseman Daniel Stovall recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Stovall is one of the top players in the Mountain West and is a returning sophomore for the Lobos. After being named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball after the 2004 season, the Texas native was recently one of only fifty-eight players nation-wide named to the 2005 Wallace Award Watch List. UNM will open the 2005 season with a three-game road series at Arizona February 4 - 6.
DANIEL STOVALL, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
SCS.com: You had an excellent high school career at Midland High School, hitting .429 as a junior and earning all-state honors in Texas as a senior. However, you were a third baseman in high school and are now a first baseman at UNM. How big of a change was it to move to the other side of the diamond in college, and what is the biggest difference between the two positions?
Stovall: "All in all, moving to first base was a pretty smooth transition. The toughest part was learning all the bunt coverages."
SCS.com: As just a freshman last season, you started 48 games, hit .347, and were tied for the team-lead with a dozen homeruns. Your .608 slugging percentage was third-best in the Mountain West Conference. Following the season, you were an All-Mountain West Conference honoree and named to Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-America squad. How were you able to step in and make a huge difference in just your first year on campus, and how honored were you to receive the accolades that you did?
Stovall: "I was just happy to get the opportunity to contribute to such a high octane offense. The coaches I have made such a difference and always gave me the best opportunities to be successful."
SCS.com: Coming into your sophomore season at UNM, the national recognition has not stopped. You were one of only 58 players nation-wide named to the 2005 Brooks Wallace Award Watch List. That honor is given annually to the nation's best college baseball player. What does this national exposure mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Stovall: "I think it is a great thing for our program. I just think it is a sign that our program is now on the national map. It is a great honor, and I feel lucky to have this opportunity."
SCS.com: The Lobos had a good 2004 season, compiling a 20-10 league record and tying for second place in the regular season in the MWC. The team played its best baseball late in the season, winning 24 of its final 41 games after starting the year 2-12. The Lobos went on to finish third in the conference tournament, coming up just a few wins short of an NCAA Tournament berth. After such a great conference season, how disappointing was it to have your season end so quickly in Las Vegas, and how will that stretch run late last year provide the team with momentum heading into the 2005 season?
Stovall: "We were a young team learning as we went, and to lose all of the sudden was a shock and a disappointment. But the journey we took last year will be nothing but beneficial this year. We all grew a lot from last year and now feel that we are a defininte contender."
SCS.com: This year looks promising for UNM. Five position starters return this spring, as do eight pitchers. Several of the players returning hit for better than a .300 average in 2004. What goals has the team set for the upcoming season, and how will you guys work throughout the year to achieve those?
Stovall: "A conference championship and regional birth are definintley in our sites, and we all feel that once a regional is reached, anything can happen at that point."
SCS.com: Playing at a school like New Mexico allows you to visit some of the nicest ballparks in the country. Last season, you and the Lobos made trips to Texas A&M, TCU, Nebraska, UNLV, and San Diego State to name a few. This year's schedule has visits planned to places like Arizona, Rice, and Texas Tech. Of the places you visited last season, which one or two stood out to you, and which trip are most looking forward to taking this year?
Stovall: "I would have to say that Texas A&M would have to be the most fun place to travel. Seven thousand ecstatic fans were there making for a great atmosphere. I am ready to head to Arizona this year because it will be what sets the tone for the rest of the season."
SCS.com: While it is interesting to visit other parks, playing at home is always nice as well. UNM's home field, Isotopes Park, was named 2004's top college baseball field by the SportsTurf Managers Association. The facility seats over 11,000 fans, and the university set an attendance record last season. How big of an advantage is it to play at home, and once you are on the field and the game is underway, do you actually hear or pay attention to the fans in the stands?
Stovall: "We are very lucky to play at a place like we do. I feel honored to play there, and there is a defininte home advantage. The fans definitely play a positive role in the game."
SCS.com: New Mexico baseball is known for its offense. The Lobos were 10th in the nation last year in slugging percentage, 11th in batting average, 12th in homeruns, and 22nd in scoring. What makes this so interesting is that the team is able to hit for a great average (.326) and also hit for tremendous power (1.34 homers per game). What factors lead to the team being able to hit the ball so well on a consistent basis?
Stovall: "Obviously the coaches have to have a huge role in this, seeing that we are consistantly among the top in the nation in offense. The philosophy taught to all of us hitters puts us in a great position to be successful."
SCS.com: Though you won't be eligible for the MLB Draft until after your junior season, three of your teammates from a year ago, pitcher Joe Salas, shortstop Josh Mader, and pitcher Cooper Eddy, were selected in the 2004 Draft last spring. Have you had a chance to talk with any of those guys (or any other pro player), and if so, what advice have they given you regarding your current college career and possible future in pro baseball?
Stovall: "I haven't really talked in-depth with them because they have been off playing, but it is just something you keep in the back of your head. Who wouldn't want to play baseball as long as they could and get paid for doing that?"
SCS.com: Your head coach, Rich Alday, is entering his 16th season at New Mexico and is the school's all-time winningest coach. He has won over 900 games in his college coaching career and has been named conference coach of the year three times in the last twelve years. What makes Coach Alday such a great college coach, and how is he able to continually have a team that hits the ball as well as UNM does each and every year?
Stovall: "Coach Alday really cares about his players and his program. All of the coaches seem to mesh very well together, giving a great attitude that goes throughout the entire team."
SCS.com: What is your favorite memory from your baseball career, whether it be little league, high school, or college?
Stovall: "My favorite memory would have to be beating UNLV in the final game of the regular season when we were down four in the bottom of the 9th inning. Winning a State Championship in high school is also a great memory to hold onto."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that they have to guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the field and one person you admire off the field?
Stovall: "On the field I would have to look up to Laynce Nix of the Texas Rangers. He went to my high school, and he did so much for me as a player and a person. Off the field it would have to be my mom and dad. There hasn't been a time in my life when they weren't there supporting me."
SCS.com: What are a few things you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Stovall: "I have some great roommates who are also baseball players, and we just have a good time hanging out."
SCS.com: If a young baseball player was reading this and aspired to become successful in the sport, what advice would you give him?
Stovall: "I would have to say that anyone that works hard can get what they want, if they deserve it. And once you get there, do everything with class because you never know who is watching."
SCS.com would again like to thank New Mexico's Daniel Stovall for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Lobos the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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