2009-02-26 / Sports

10 questions with WHS grad Shane Kroker

Shane Kroker Shane Kroker In the second atbat of his second career college baseball game, Wake Forest freshman shortstop Shane Kroker hit a grand slam.

It was a spectacular beginning for the 18-year-old Westlake High graduate, a three-year member of the Warrior varsity squad during his time with the program.

Last weekend, after helping Wake Forest win its first four games of the season, Kroker picked up his cellphone and answered 10 questions.

Q) So, Shane, how's life in Winston-Salem, N.C.?

A) Life in Winston-Salem is pretty awesome. The weather, on the other hand, is pretty awful, especially right now. On (Sunday) we were playing in 38-degree weather in our game against Marshall.

Everything else is awesome, though. It's a lot different out here; there are a lot of trees and stuff. It's different than Westlake or Thousand Oaks, places like that.

Q) You're a baseball player, but that's basketball country. How much do people love hoops in that part of the nation?

A) Oh, man, it's huge out here, especially when we had the No. 1 ranking earlier this year. We've struggled lately, but the wins against North Carolina and Duke were amazing. After the wins we go down to the quad and put toilet paper all over. We call it rolling the quad. That's a fun tradition.

But, yeah, they take basketball real serious out here. Most of the games are sold out.

Q) Tell me about the first basketball game you attended?

A) It was against Indiana, the school my dad went to. We actually got on ESPN for that because me and another guy had a big sign. The student section was going crazy the whole time.

Q) Have you traveled the famed Tobacco Road yet?

A) No, I have not. Q) You're starting at shortstop as a freshman. How did you land that job so fast?

A) We have a senior who played shortstop last year, but he moved to second base about halfway through the season. Right then I thought I had a chance to immediately start here.

There was another freshman shortstop, but I guess I just beat him out during the fall. I won the job during the fall, and I've kept it ever since.

Q) It was your eighth official at-bat in college when you hit the grand slam. Can you walk me through that trip to the plate?

A) It was my second at-bat of the game. The first at-bat I struck out against the same pitcher, and this was kind of redemption.

I saw a ball on the first pitch while waiting for a fastball. On the next pitch I got (a fastball) and put a good swing on it. When I hit it I thought it had a chance to go out, but I wasn't sure. When I hit first base, I saw the ball go out. It was awesome. I didn't think my first college home run would come so soon.

Q) What's the first thing you noticed when transitioning from high school baseball to college baseball?

A) The first thing I noticed was that baseball is very timeconsuming; you stay very busy. We did some running when I first got here— and I didn't think it could be more difficult than what I did at Westlake under coach (Zach Miller), which was pretty brutal—but it was actually more running than high school. It was intense because everyone was competing to get better.

Baseball-wise, the first thing I noticed was the speed of the game. It's a lot faster; ground balls come to you harder, and there's better pitching. In the first four games, I'd say the pitching has been comparable to a really good Marmonte League pitcher.

Q) Looking at the Wake Forest roster, most of the players are from the East Coast. Do those guys play the game differently than the West Coast players?

A) I don't see a different mentality at all. A few guys have a lot of passion, but I wouldn't say they play the game differently. Sometimes their slang terms are different, like on a pick-off move, but I wouldn't say it's too different.

Q) What advice would you offer a high school player who's trying to earn a college baseball scholarship?

A) The biggest things I'd tell them is to work hard. That's the main key. But it really starts before high school. My dad helped me a lot by giving me lessons early on.

Q) What's more likely to happen this year, Wake Forest makes the Final Four in men's basketball or the baseball team wins the Atlantic Coast Conference title?

A) Oh, man. I want to answer with baseball, but I think the basketball team has a great shot at the Final Four. I think we'll compete for the ACC title, too.

— Stephen Dorman

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