Innings with Kyle Russell
By Patrick Hyde
Kyle Russell owns one of the biggest bats in
college baseball - a bat many college pitchers didn't think
they'd have to worry about after 2007. But Texas' star
outfielder, who led the nation with 28 homers and batted .336
with 71 RBI, declined to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals after
being selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He's back,
and he's looking to lead the Longhorns to a trip to Omaha.
Russell took some time to catch up with
CollegeBaseballInsider.com on his favorite road trips, Reece's
Peanut Butter Cups and Robert Earl Keen.
First Inning - After such a big season last
year, how did you go about improving in the off-season to have a
more successful year this year?
I think I told myself during the off-season that
I really wanted to cut down on my strikeouts. I really wanted to
prove to people out there that it's not always about home runs
and strikeouts. It's about getting the ball in play and doing
what is best for my team; to do what I can to help the team get
Second Inning - The Cardinals made a
significant offer. Why did you decide to come back for another
The Cardinals did make a significant offer, but
UT is a great school and an education is very important to my
family and me. I think that my parents have drilled me ever
since I was a little kid that making good grades is very
important. It was very hard to turn down. The Cardinals are a
great team, and I would have loved to play for them, but things
just didn't work out, unfortunately. It's OK though because I
always know I can live to see another day, and hopefully things
will work out for the better. And maybe the Cardinals will come
back with another offer next year.
Third Inning - You had a big opening weekend.
With the uniform start date, has it been tough to get ready for
the season? What are the keys to getting off to a good start?
I think the keys to getting off to a good start
are just clearing your mind set. Everyone is really nervous, the
freshmen are just as nervous as we are, but I think when we show
our leadership on the field, it calms us down and calms them
down as well. It feels great to start off with a bang,
especially against a great team like Virginia Commonwealth.
We're looking forward to the rest of the season, and I think
we're headed in the right direction.
Fourth Inning - After last year's success --
All-America, Big 12 player of the year, Golden Spikes finalist
-- what are your personal goals for this year?
I really want to go to Omaha. I'm not thinking of
it as an individual sport. I really just want to be here for my
team. I haven't been to Omaha yet, and I remember when we went
up to the University of Nebraska last year, and we had the
opportunity to walk around Rosenblatt Stadium. I was just
thinking to myself that I really wanted to be there. Not from an
individual standpoint, but from a team standpoint I would really
like to go to Omaha.
Fifth Inning - How do you handle all of the
attention that you receive?
It's funny because when you're in a town like
Austin, all you really have is UT athletics. The guys on the
team are experiencing just as much attention as I am, and I
really think that helps us mature because of the exposure we
receive from the media here. It really doesn't put too much
pressure on me. I feel that keeping a level head and focusing on
the game at hand really does calm it down and make it not too
Sixth Inning - Do you have any superstitions
If you're going to be a baseball player, you have
to have some superstitions. I always eat two Reese's Peanut
Butter Cups before each game. It started last year before we
played Stanford. I was really hungry and decided to have two
Reese's and ended up hitting two home runs.
Seventh Inning Stretch - What did the
Longhorns learn from last year, and how does the team get back
to Omaha in 2008?
To get to Omaha, you have to have three things:
pitching, hitting and luck. We fell short in the Regionals for
the past two years, and we really learned from that. [Junior
catcher] Preston Clark and I have really stepped up and become
leaders on this team.
Eighth Inning - How has the coaching staff
helped you continue to grow as a player?
You can't ask for a better coach than Coach
Garrido. The numbers speak for themselves, the winningest coach
in baseball history. To be able to pick his brain and understand
baseball is great. Everyone says that this game is 90 percent
mental and 10 percent physical, and Coach Garrido really
emphasizes the mental side of baseball. I have matured and
learned so much since I've been here at UT that it blows my mind
how much he really has taught me. This coaching staff is one of
the best. You have Coach Harmon, who has really helped me with
my swing, and Coach Johnson, who really works with the pitchers.
They're the best in the nation, and they're really showing it.
Ninth Inning - Where is the toughest place to
play on the road? Any favorite places to play on the road?
The Big 12 Conference is always a pretty tough
place to play. The fans are awesome and it's fun to head into an
environment where not everyone likes you. Three places that I
think of are Nebraska, they're unbelievable. They're really good
fans, and they're appreciative. When we would win a game, they
would tip their hats and tell us great game. The other two would
have to be Baylor and Texas A&M. They're always going to be
there with that in-state rivalry thing. Every place is pretty
crazy, but those are the most phenomenal.
I also like Minute Maid Park a lot. It's the
place where I hit my first home run. The other is Baylor
Ballpark; those are the most fun for me. The environment is
always hyped up. I really am fortunate enough to play on a team
that travels to such great places. I've been all over the nation
playing on this team. You can't really compare all of them
because all of them are phenomenal.
Extra Innings - Any pitchers or opposing
staffs make it particularly tough on you? Do you approach them
The one pitcher who really got to me last year
was [Nebraska left-handed pitcher] Tony Watson. He played me
well; he got me out every single time. He hit his spots, and I
would say he was the toughest pitcher I faced last year. When I
approach guys who are great pitchers, I just tell myself I just
need to shorten up and get the ball in play, treat them like any
other pitcher. Sometimes they'll get me, but I know during the
next at-bat, I'll have a better chance because I've already
What are you currently listening to on your
I'm a Texas boy, and Texas boys like to listen to
what they call "Texas Country." My favorites are Roger Creager,
Robert Earl Keen and Hank Williams Jr. I'm a country boy. I like
my Texas Country.