One year removed from losing to Dartmouth in a one-game playoff for the Red Rolfe Division championship, the Yale baseball team aims to end a two-decade Ivy title drought. Captain David Toups ’15, who started 28 games last year, talked with the News about the team’s outlook, its efforts to recover from last year’s conclusion and the program’s sesquicentennial.
Q First off, reflecting on this past offseason, what did it mean to be named captain of this year’s team, the 150th in school history?
A It’s a tremendous honor. Just thinking about the past captains that have come through this program, it’s an incredible honor and opportunity that I’ve had the blessing to live out for this year. It’s something that I definitely appreciate and [I] don’t take a day for granted.
Q How long did it take as a Texan to adjust to practicing within mounds of snow and single-digit temperatures, if you have adjusted over the past few years?
A I haven’t. I have not adjusted, and I don’t think I ever will. Growing up in Texas and getting used to playing year-round, we would get bundled up for 40 or 50 degrees. We would do anything to get a 40 or 50 degree day right about now. It’s been a challenge, but you don’t dwell on it. You need to go out there and get your work in. What I’ve learned over the four years is to not let it get the best of you. Freshman year, it was extremely easy to complain about the cold. Once you understand that there’s not a whole lot that you can do about it, you just kind of suck it up and get your work done.
Q Last year, there were obviously some great highs. You had the win over LSU and [came] within striking distance of the Ivy title but it did end with a disappointing defeat to Dartmouth in the Rolfe Division Championship. What is the team carrying over from last season and has that final loss lingered as motivation for this season?
A [The loss] has definitely served as motivation for all the returning players. The taste of the opportunity to play for an Ivy League championship was something the program hasn’t had in quite a long time. It’s definitely motivation and it showed our players what we can be capable of if we put together a decent season. The team has returning starters and that’s great, but obviously this year is much different from last year. We can’t take anything for granted and we can’t expect to be in the same situation that we were in last year and I think our guys have done a great job of understanding where we got last year but then hitting the reset button and looking forward to the 2015 year.
Q You have a freshman class that your coach [John Stuper] has talked very highly about, and they see that you guys had a lot of success last year, so as a senior and the captain, do you feel like it’s your job to make sure that they’re grounded?
A Every freshman class comes in looking to make a name for themselves. Obviously, most freshmen come from successful high school programs, so they understand that you don’t get to the end result that you want without hard work, putting in the time and effort and playing consistent baseball all year. As a senior, we have certainly talked about last year with the underclassmen and the freshmen. They weren’t here for it, so everything’s still new, and I don’t think that they would take anything for granted, and they haven’t showed any signs of that. They’ve done a great job, they’ve worked hard, and I definitely think they’ll contribute to the team this year.
Q You guys carry a very deep roster this year. Where do you see the team’s strengths and maybe more importantly, the team’s weaknesses?
A Obviously we’re pretty deep this year — we have the most guys on a team since I was a freshman, which definitely helps in baseball … We have a lot of arms: Chris Lanham ’16, Chris Moates ’16, Chasen Ford ’17, all returning. Lanham had a lot of success last season, as did Moates, who is making the transition into being a starter for us. Chasen has worked really hard, too, and we have a lot of other arms who we’ll be able to use throughout the season. And we have returning starters that have a lot of experience out in the field, and that will be one of our strengths. As far as weaknesses, I wouldn’t say we have none, but our guys are definitely doing a great job of working hard. We’re not at the level we need to be right now as far as preparation, and that’s been pretty difficult because of the weather. The weakness right now is not having as many practice reps under our belts as we would like.
Q Obviously you look forward to all the conference matchups, but is there one game in the non-conference [schedule] that you’re particularly looking forward to?
A I was looking at the schedule, and the Wesleyan game in April definitely stands out. That was the first game that Yale ever played … It’ll be so special to play that game, and I hope the players and fans realize the sentiment behind that game, and how special it is when you’re recognizing the 150th anniversary of Yale baseball, which is much older than so many baseball programs in the country.
Q The team hasn’t captured an Ivy League title since 1994 and hasn’t reached the title game since 1995. You came within a game last year. What’s going to be the key to getting over that hump?
A Consistency. Our Ivy League season is 10 days long. We play doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday for five weekends, so [the key is] consistent baseball and playing with a lot of energy and focus, and just enjoying the game. You try not to have bad days snowball into worse days. If you drop a game, you’re back out there in 30 minutes playing another one. If we can play with consistency, I definitely think we’ll be in a pretty good situation at the year’s end.
Q For those who haven’t followed Yale baseball in recent years, how would you describe this year’s squad?
A This year’s squad is a bunch of hard-working individuals. We have a lot of resilient guys, as far as I can tell from the offseason. It’s definitely a great group of guys with pretty solid team chemistry. We have a lot of guys who enjoy playing the game. The work ethic of this team has been tremendous, and a lot of guys have shown incredible enthusiasm ,and they’re getting better, no matter the weather or anything else. Obviously, last year we came a game within the championship series, but that helped because this team wants to prove we cannot only get back to that point, but get beyond that point.