Q&A with Senior Shortstop Vance Albitz
Senior Vance Albitz has already produced a storied career at UC San Diego but he wants to add a long chapter on the 2010 postseason. The Tritons, ranked No. 1 nationally, will begin the NCAA Tournament on Thursday with a 2 p.m. matchup against Hawaii Pacific at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Taking his usual spot at shortstop and hitting out of his typical leadoff role will be Albitz, who has 323 hits through his four years as a Triton. Senior Day arrived on April 25 this season and appropriately enough, Albitz became the UCSD's all-time hits leader in that afternoon's 9-1 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills. In 2009, the Torrance native became the Tritons' fourth-ever ABCA/Rawlings All-American and earned the National Defensive Player of the Year award. Before the team hit the road for this season's playoffs, Albitz took a few moments to talk about the direction of the Tritons, respecting the game with a touch of swagger, his political science studies and a hypothetical presidency.
Q: Your first opponent in the West Regional is Hawaii Pacific, a team the Tritons last challenged in 2007. What do you expect out of the Thursday matchup with the Sea Warriors, considering there is such a lack of familiarity between the two teams?
ALBITZ: I think we all expect some pretty good baseball. Who we're playing really doesn't mean anything. At the beginning of the year, we even went as far as not mentioning who we were playing all week. If we play our game, there aren't a whole of teams that could play with us.
Q: In 2009, UCSD captured the California Collegiate Athletic Association title, the CCAA Tournament title, the NCAA West Regional title and won two games at the College World Series. Can you talk a little bit about the mindset of the team over the offseason through all the preparations for 2010?
ALBITZ: [Senior catcher] Justin Robles put it the best when he said, "Watching Emporia State celebrate at home plate last year was inspiration enough during the offseason."
Q: For most of this season, you've had junior transfer Grant Bauer as your double play partner. The two of you have combined for just six errors in 2010 and at second base, he leads the infielders with a .995 fielding percentage. At this point of the year, how high is the chemistry level between you two?
ALBITZ: The two of us get along really well, which is important when talking about middle infielders. The thing with Grant is that he brings a lot more to our team than just his play on the field, not to mention the fact that he only has one of the six errors.
Q: The die-hard UCSD fans out there know about the routine when you step up to the plate. They get into a timed clapping rhythm as your intro song, "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes, blares on the speakers at Triton Ballpark. Can you describe that ritual and tell us how that got started?
ALBITZ: Most of the time, I don't even know what's going on. I'm thinking about my at-bat. It's pretty cool that people cheer for me when I walk up to the plate though.
Q: The "Unwritten Rules of Baseball" are never really discussed, but they are consistently defended by players when dicey situations arise in games. Without mentioning any names, what has been the worst offense by an opponent to these "codes of the sport" during your time as a Triton?
ALBITZ: I don't like when guys overly watch their home runs, especially when they're losing. I remember one instance when a player practically walked around the bases after a homerun he hit. The only thing was that it was late in the game and we were smashing them. He might as well have taken out a megaphone and announced to the crowd, "It's all about me." [Tritons' outfielder] Danny Susdorf took off his batting gloves while running around the bases this past weekend after a homerun. I liked that. That was way different. It was a statement that, yeah we're going to respect the game, but we're also going to have a little swagger too.
Q: On May 8, UCSD captured another conference title with a win against Cal State Dominguez Hills. Given that both your parents are graduates of CSUDH, do victories over the Toros carry a little more significance?
ALBITZ: I think beating Dominguez carries more of significance because they have been competitive with us over the last four years. We have built up a bit of a rivalry with them based on the sole fact that we both play the game hard.
Q: Despite standing at 5-foot-8 and weighing 160 pounds, you still averaged 14 points a game on the South Torrance High School basketball team during your junior and senior seasons. The tallest player on the UCSD baseball team, Daniel Simmons, at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, tallied highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds while competing at Chatsworth High School. Who wins in a game of one-on-one?
ALBITZ: If it were a dance competition: Danny. Stand-up comedy routine competition: Danny. Throw your glove after you strike out the opposing batter competition: Danny. One-on-one basketball game: Me.
Q: Your hometown of Torrance is only about 10 miles from Compton, the site of this year's West Regional. How many friends and family can we expect in the Albitz Fan Club at the MLB Urban Youth Academy field?
ALBITZ: Well, the only guarantees are my parents, my brother, and my uncle Mark. I'm sure my girlfriend and her family will be there as well. Regardless of where we play, as long as we have the fans that have travelled along with us since day one, we will be ready to go.
Q: Barack Obama needs a break from his presidency in 2011 and asks you to hold down the fort. You need to fill the cabinet quickly with your Triton teammates. Who do you select for these four positions: Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Education?
ALBITZ: Vice President would definitely be Evan Kehoe. He has been vice president of the High Sock Club for quite some time now and has done a phenomenal job. Secretary of Defense would have to be Rob Sedin due to his defensive prowess. The Secretary of Agriculture would be Kyle Saul and Guido Knudson so we can get free wheat grass shots for cleansing and detoxification purposes. Secretary of Education would be Eric Abraham because he likes to make me feel bad about how hard his engineering classes are compared to my Poli Sci classes.
Q: When you were a freshman, UCSD got knocked out in two games during the West Regional. Now look at where the Tritons are - ranked No. 1 nationally and aiming high for a Division II title. Can you discuss what the ride has been like during your career in La Jolla and what's left to accomplish?
ALBITZ: The program has come a long way over the last four years and continues to grow. The last four years have been something I will always remember, probably some of the best times I'll experience in my life. Much like the De La Salle Football Team, the final chapter of this year's book is entitled "Brotherhood," not a championship. However, the success of this season will be based on what happens this month.
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