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The Program Builder

John Savage is riding high after his second successful season as the head coach of a resurgent UCLA baseball program. He recently sat down with CSTV for an interview.

The interview gives us the impression of an head coach who like Coach Howland is in total control of a resurgent program and set up for success in the coming years. Here are some highlights.

Unlike a certain head coach we write about lot here on BN Savage gave credit to his players and his assistant coaches for all his success:

Q: After two consecutive Regional appearances and a berth in the Super Regionals, what are your thoughts on the 2007 season and the program's future?

A: We like our team and the makeup of our team. We feel that our roster will be very talented for years to come. To go from where we were in 2005 to 2006 and then advance to the Super Regionals in 2007, I think that a lot of credit must go to the assistant coaches and, certainly, to the players.
He described how his team sucked it up and battled early in the season when confronted with injuries:
Q: Prior to the 2007 season, you mentioned that the Bruins' success would hinge on being able to replace starters Dave Huff and Hector Ambriz from 2006. Give us your assessment on the pitching staff being able to fill these holes in the rotation.

A: We had so much adversity at the beginning of the season. We had so many injuries - I had never seen anything like it. With Blair Dunlap, Jeff Rapoport and Charles Brewer injured, and then the third base situation, we really overcame a lot. We knew that we had a very difficult schedule. We got through the first 22 games with an 8-14 record, and then we just took off. After that, we felt that we were the hottest team in the country and that we could play with anybody. With Jermaine Curtis coming back, we played very well through those first five weeks of our conference schedule. We were 12-2 in Pac-10 play, and it was just an exciting time where everything really came together. It was an impressive run by a bunch of young players. I haven't quite seen that type of run from that much youth in the Pac-10 in a long time.
Notice in addition to not making excuses for injuries, Savage wasn't making excuses for his team being (forever) young. Gee I wonder I like pointing that fact out.

Make sure to read the whole interview. Savage goes over the loaded freshman class which has become the foundation of his succesful program, his young aces, and the monster recruiting classes he has brought in last two years and this upcoming season. Yeah, it didn't take him four freaking years to bring in star studded recruiting classes to Westwood.

Lastly, Savage indicates what needs to be done to take our baseball program to the next level:
Q: In your three years as head coach, you've made significant upgrades at Jackie Robinson Stadium. In 2006, over 1,000 chairback seats were installed. Last winter, a state-of-the-art net was hung behind home plate. What other plans do you have for Jackie Robinson Stadium in the near future?

A: We're putting down a brand-new major-league surface in August. That will be completed by November. It will be one of the nicest surfaces in the country, and we feel that it will be one of the best surfaces on the West Coast. We need to continue improving our facility. We need to have the capabilities to host a Regional and a Super Regional so that we can have a home-field advantage that a lot of West Coast teams are having right now. We feel that we have created a positive atmosphere at the ballpark for fans and young kids. It was a fun environment this year for our fans and our team. There were a lot of exciting games, and we want to continue improving our facility with additional seating, new dugouts, a new hitting facility and a new clubhouse. This offseason, the main goal is to get that new surface down.
Upgrading Jackie Robinson Stadium so that UCLA can host super regionals is the least Morgan Center can do to support one of its real program builders in its athletic programs. Just like Coach Howland, Coach Savage deserves our praise and suffort for the getting the job done in Westwood. We sure hope UCLA will step up and recognize him for what he has done to restore pride and promise in what should be one of the premiere programs in West Coast if not the country.