By Anthony Yifeng Zhao, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, April 11, 2011
Big Green baseball shortstop and captain Joe Sclafani ’12 leads a team with high expectations this season. In his freshman year, Sclafani was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball as well as First Team All-Ivy for shortstop. Last season, he was Baseball America’s Preseason Ivy League Player of the Year and Second Team All-Ivy. This season, he is third in the League in batting average, hitting at an even .400 mark this season with three home runs and 22 runs batted in while the reigning League Champion Big Green stands at 15-6 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
I sat down with Sclafani to talk about his expectations for the season.
What have you been working on to improve your game?
JS: We strive to be the best team in our league at throwing strikes and playing good defense. I’ve worked really hard on improving my defense overall and tried to prepare myself to be the best hitter I can be.
How important do you think it is for you guys to go down to Florida for your spring training trip? Do the games there pit you against tougher competition?
JS: I think our spring trip every year is extremely important to our season. We get the opportunity to play different teams and typically they’re better competition. Seeing pitching from some Big Ten schools and other big programs helps prepare us for Ivy League play.
Were you guys able to have fun and bond while you were training?
JS: Absolutely. The spring trip is always an opportunity to become closer as a team. It’s literally just wake up, play a game and hang out for the rest of the day. It’s probably my favorite time of the year.
This is a pretty seasoned team. As captain, do you ever worry about the team getting complacent given its recent success, or do you feel like that provides maturity and motivation for getting back there again this season?
JS: I definitely worry about that sometimes. Nothing is a given in our League. Our entire season is played in five weekends, so there is no room to have a bad couple of days. Given our success the past couple of years, I worried that guys think we can just show up and win, but our coaching staff does a tremendous job reminding us that last year was last year and everyone in our League starts off 0-0 at the beginning of the Ivy season. That being said, I feel like the success we’ve had definitely helps us in a lot of ways because we have a lot of guys who have been in tough situations before and found a way to come out on top.
How upset were you after getting swept by the University of Pennsylvania last weekend?
JS: Overall, we were pretty disappointed with our showing at Penn. After playing extremely well against Columbia [University] the day before, we kind of had a let down and didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked. They outplayed us, and we’re going to try to prevent anything like that from happening again this year.
You’ve been swinging the bat really well so far this season, do you think you could keep it up and finish above .400?
JS: I’ve been pretty fortunate to have had success this year so far. I definitely think that is possible, but all I’m really worried about is helping my team win in any way possible. Winning a third-straight League championship is the main goal, and I think those other things will work themselves out along the way.
How do you think your role on this team is different this year than in previous years?
JS: My freshman and sophomore years we had some older guys who were the real leaders on the team. They set a standard and led by example, and I was just doing anything I could to help us win. This year is pretty much the same deal, but I am now one of the older guys who are looked to for some leadership. All of the older guys on the team have seen it all and been in difficult spots and found ways to win, and I think that resonates with the younger players.
What kind of pre-game routines do you have to get you prepared? Any music?
JS: I’m not one of the most superstitious baseball players you’ll meet, but I have a certain pre-at-bat routine that I do, along with waking up the same time on game days and eating certain meals on game days. Anyone familiar with baseball would tell you that there are far more quirky routines out there.
Have you started looking into opportunities to play professionally after college?
JS: It’s definitely a dream of mine. That would be ideal, but for now, I’m just concentrating on us winning another championship. I think if we do so and I continue to be fortunate enough to have success, that will take care of itself.