STS: The people of Boston love the Red Sox. Does that love of baseball translate to Boston College's squad, or do the Eagles kind of play second fiddle once the Sox season begins?
BCI: As great of a baseball tradition the city of Boston has, Boston College, unfortunately, hasn't even been a blip on that radar. People don't really notice college baseball in general. It's not on the radio, and it's not on television. BC doesn't have lights, which means they have to play their home game in the middle of the day, which negates any draw for midweek games and given the lack of knowledge and general appeal of college baseball - limits the draw on the weekend. The hope is that the new stadium announcement will inject more local life into the program, which operates in a way that would shock most ACC fans. It's a totally different culture, but it's one that makes this team tougher and more seasoned than some of the other teams out there.
STS: It's been a rough academic year for BC in the ACC. Was there a lot of pressure on the BC baseball team to get those wins last weekend vs NC State?
BCI: I don't know if there was pressure on the baseball team given what happened in football and basketball, but it definitely breathed life into the fans. I think a lot of people don't notice the baseball team when they're bad, save for a couple of short-sighted people who thought the program should be cut back in 2012 at the lowest low point (coincidentally, those are the same people saying BC should've stayed in the Big East rather than go to the ACC - or gone to the Patriot League with Holy Cross and Army). But now that the team's put together some marquee wins and is receiving some notoriety, the fans are really latching onto it. I think they want a team they can buy into and support as a winner, and I think they have a chance to get that in baseball.
One other element that makes baseball kind of appealing, besides it being the American Pastime, is that it's a pretty big sport in the ACC. Competing in hockey is great, and the women's hockey team being undefeated into the Frozen Four is a huge accomplishment. But there's something about that sport that is more niche. There are only 60 Division I hockey programs, and it lacks the national appeal because the only power conference is the Big Ten (plus hockey itself is a much more niche sport with roots up here in New England and out in Minnesota). Even though a national title would be huge and would absolutely electrify the fan base, there's something about winning in the ACC that fans want.
STS: What are the general expectations for BC baseball? Is the program trending positively or negatively?
BCI: I'm not sure what the expectations externally are, but internally, the goal this year is to get into the ACC Tournament and have a shot at going to the NCAA Tournament. You don't have to finish first in the ACC to get into the NCAA Tournament since the league gets eight or nine bids. But jumping from 14th to ninth is easier said than done when you're dealing with Clemson, NC State, Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame in your own division.
Mike Gambino has done a tremendous job building this program. When he took over, he really didn't have a recruiting base, so he had to wait for everything to bottom out while he was putting everything together. Given the nature of baseball recruiting, he didn't really get his own guys in until his fourth or fifth year. If you look back, the team really bottomed out in 2012 when it was full of guys he either didn't recruit or weren't ready for Division I baseball. Then things started getting better, with a couple of draft picks and now this is a team comprised how he wants it, in the image he wants it, able to play the game he wants. They were trending down when he took over, but there's no question they're starting to trend up.