Winthrop outfielder Daniel Carte recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Carte is one of the top players in the Big South Conference and is a returning junior for the Eagles. After being named a Freshman All-American by multiple publications following the 2003 season, the West Virginian was recently named a Preseason First Team All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. WU will open the 2005 season on February 10 at home against Wake Forest.
DANIEL CARTE, WINTHROP UNIVERSITY
SCS.com: Coming out of Hurricane High School in West Virginia, you were named the state's Player of the Year. In a state as large as West Virginia, that is an incredible honor. Talk about the highlights of your high school career, both on a personal and team level, and talk about what an honor it is to be named the best high school baseball player in a state with over 1.8 million citizens.
Carte: "I was blessed with a great high school baseball experience. The biggest highlight for me personally was breaking the career homerun record my senior year. The previous record was 50, and I beat it by one, hitting 51. But the thing that will always stick out in my mind as far as high school baseball goes is winning the AAA state championship in 2002. Hurricane had never won a state championship in any sport in the history of the school, which dates back about 80 years. There was so much excitement in the town, and we had a huge turnout at the game with over 5000 fans, which was the most of any baseball game in West Virginia history. People still talk about it today when I go home for breaks. It's something I will never forget."
SCS.com: When it came time to look at colleges, what other schools did you consider, and why did you ultimately decide on Winthrop?
Carte: "I always prayed that God would make my decision of where I went to school an easy one. I was recruited by a lot of high profile schools like Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and more. I had never really heard of Winthrop University before, but Coach Hudak came to see me toward the end of the recruiting period and actually came to my school on September 11, 2001. I agreed to come on a visit and liked the area a lot. At the same time as he started recruiting me, all of the other schools except WVU backed off at the same time. I wanted to go down south, so my decision was really made easy. I've had an excellent experience at school and in baseball and am very pleased with my decision."
SCS.com: You had an unbelivable freshman season for the Eagles and started all sixty of the team's games in 2003. You led the team in homeruns, doubles, runs scored, total bases, and slugging percentage in your first season on campus. Those numbers were also among the best in the Big South Conference. What was the key to your incredible success as just a freshman in a conference as competitive as the Big South?
Carte: "My freshman year gave me a lot of confidence and made me realize that my dream to play pro ball was within sight. Playing in West Virginia, you don't see the best competition day in and day out, so you really don't know how you stack up with the rest of the players in the country. With all the honors, not only do others have high expectations, but you also have higher expectations for yourself. Coming in, I never knew how I would fare in college baseball, but after my freshman season, I set my sights a lot higher. I never really felt pressure to perform better though. You just have to go out everyday and play to the best of your ability, and everything will fall into place. In baseball you are going to fail, but the way you handle the failure is a major part of how successful a player will be."
SCS.com: The national recognition is picking up for you as we head towards the start of the 2005 season. Both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball named you a Preseason First Team All-American. How much does that national recognition mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Carte: "It's a tremendous honor personally to be recognized as an All-American, but I would much rather be an All-American at the end of the year rather than in the preseason. I think that it helps Winthrop University a lot as far as recruiting goes. Everyone who plays college ball strives to be an All-American, and by this recognition, it shows that you don't have to play at a major D-I program to accomplish that. I've had a great experience here, and nothing would make me want to play baseball at another school."
SCS.com: You are one of those guys that does the small things on the field that wins games. You led the Eagles last season by getting hit by pitch eight times, and you also successfully stole 16 of 22 bases, second-best on the team. While homeruns and batting average are important to everyone, how important are stats like these that can make a huge difference in a close game, and is performing well in those areas something you pride yourself in?
Carte: "I think being an all-around player is more important that just hitting homeruns or stealing a lot of bases. You're only as good as your biggest weakness."
SCS.com: The expectations for Winthrop baseball are at an all-time high in 2005. The team has been nationally-ranked in the preseason by several of the country's top publications. Baseball America ranks WU 25th in the nation, while Collegiate Baseball has the Eagles placed at number 28. How much pressure do the high expectations put on you and the team, and what goals has the team set for the upcoming season?
Carte: "I don't think that the preseason ranking has put any more pressure on us. Last year we were ranked in the preseason and had a sub-par year. Since we are returning a lot of guys, I think we really learned a lot from that experience. Last year we played not to lose; we weren't aggressive, and then once we lost a few games, I think a lot of people's confidence dropped. This year I think we are tough enough mentally to know that there are going to be bumps in the road, and this year we need to overcome them, unlike last year. I believe if we can play one game at a time, we will be higher in the rankings come the end of the season when it really matters."
SCS.com: Playing at Winthrop allows you to visit some of the best ballparks in America. In the past few years, Winthrop has traveled to big-name schools like Clemson, LSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Mississippi State. This year's schedule even has trips planned to Malibu, CA and Honolulu, HI. Among the places you have been, which two or three have been your favorite, and which trip on this year's schedule do you have circled on your calendar?
Carte: "LSU was definitely the best atmosphere we have ever played in, but the game that I enjoy the most is Clemson. It's an in-state rival, and everyone around campus seems to care about it the most....along with the fact that Clemson is where I dreamed of playing when I was younger. We've come up a bit short the past couple years, but that is the most enjoyable game for me each year."
SCS.com: Your head coach, Joe Hudak, has led the Eagles to three NCAA appearances and a couple of conference titles over the last ten seasons. Four seasons have ended with forty-plus total victories. Coach Hudak's goal from the very beginning has been to have the team competing on a national scale, which he is obviously doing. What makes Coach Hudak such a great coach, and how is able to continually get top baseball talent to play for the Eagles?
Carte: "I think Hudak does a great job once he gets the player on campus. Winthrop doesn't get the top 100 prospects year in year out like a LSU or South Carolina do, but he does a nice job of recruiting players with good work ethic and character. After hard work in this program, they are able to compete with the best teams in the nation."
SCS.com: If a young baseball player was reading this and aspired to become successful in the sport, what advice would you give them?
Carte: "To work hard and stay dedicated. There are always tough times but to press through them. Come to the field to learn something everyday. You learn more from your failures that your successes."
SCS.com would again like to thank Winthrop's Daniel Carte for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Eagles the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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