Recruiting coordinator Kurt Elbin next featured in Q&A series

Now up in our series of featuring Q&As this fall with the newest members of the Virginia Tech baseball coaching and support staff is assistant coach Kurt Elbin, who is in charge of the Tech’s offense, and is the program’s recruiting coordinator. Elbin spent the previous five seasons at VCU before coming to Blacksburg to work Tech. These features are used to help introduce these coaches and staff members to Hokie Nation (on the right are previous Q&As). The Hokies, who held their first team practice Monday, will have fall practices at English Field at Union Park over the next six weeks, including more than a handful of intrasquad scrimmages and a Fall World Series in the first week of November, which are all open to the public.

Q: Can you briefly talk about how you ended up with Coach John Szefc in Blacksburg?
KE: “(Coach Szefc and I) had spent about three hours together at a summer event just talking, this was the summer of 2015. And then I had an opportunity last summer with another school and I actually called him up and that was the only other time I had talked to him outside of that one event. So, I called him and just got his professional advice and, I had talked to some other people, but we talked about some things. It was funny, he kind of just directed me in the line of … maybe something better will pop up. As soon as he got the job here, I shot him a text and said ‘congrats’ and he called me up and that’s how it happened. It was that easy.”

Q: Your wife, Jaclyn (nee Smith), is a Virginia Tech grad (Class of 2006). Did she have any influence on your decision?
KE: “It’s funny, she had a really good setup in Richmond as a pharmacy manager. She ran the store and set the hours, so getting her to leave that job was pretty tough. But she obviously graduated from Tech, so it was easier to move the family to a place where she knew and was comfortable with and if it wasn’t a place she was comfortable with it would have taken a little more convincing on my end. But I didn’t need to convince her. I told her and she was giddy and excited the moment I told her that I had talked with Coach Szefc about the possibilities of coming here. It was easier than previous times that I brought up other jobs.”

Q: As is the case with the pitching staff, the Tech offense is not void of talent. In fact the Hokies return three All-ACC players (Tom Stoffel, Sam Fragale, Jack Owens) in the lineup. Is that promising from your prospective?
KE: “Absolutely! I think, having experienced guys in the lineup is always a good thing, especially in this league and being able to handle the rigors of the ACC schedule and the talent level of what we’re facing on the mound. And then having some younger guys that I think may contribute and having those older guys being able to influence them in how they work is certainly exciting. I think the biggest thing is getting those guys to understand what type of offense we’re going to try and run and maybe it’ll be a little different than what they’ve done in the past, but that can be good. It’s just a change of pace and having experienced guys that return that have hit in the ACC is an absolute blessing, especially in this first year, us getting acclimated. There are going to be a couple guys that I just say ‘Go’ … just put them in the lineup and go and we’ll talk about approach and making adjustments with each weekend. But having older guys in your lineup is a good thing.”

Q: However, you’ve lost the left side of the field – left field, third base and shortstop – along with the centerfielder. So, will this fall be an important one in filling those positions?
KE: “For me, in terms of coaching position players, competition is always a good thing when you’re talking about a fall. If we were to return eight of the nine starters from last year, it’s a different story. But when they understand – kids are smart, they know what returns and what doesn’t – so even though we have the middle of our lineup back, we do have some open spots. With that being said, competition is going to be something that is up and is going to drive our fall. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because the guys you are going to count on are here, the returners. But the guys that are going to step in are certainly capable, and have enough talent, it’s about finding the mix of who fits where and how they blend with the guys that return who are stapled in the lineup.”

Q: This was a home-run hitting lineup last year, but what will a Kurt Elbin offense at Tech look like?
KE: “Pressure, but that’s all driven on personnel and who you have, but being able to pressure the defense. What we’ll have to do is … we’re going to have to find ways to win on Friday nights without hitting. And sometimes you live and die by the long ball and it’s a good thing. I think playing at our park that is an advantage, but when we go on the road, we’re going to have to find ways to win without hitting, because parks are going to play differently on the road. And being able to get a dirtball read and then be able to drive a guy in when it’s a sac fly or hit-and-run, I think that’s going to be important. I don’t think we are going to be as standstill as they were in the past. I think we’re going to try and force the issue and pressure the opposing defenses and pitching staffs a little more. But having guys that can drive the ball out of the park is always a fun thing. We’ll let them swing and let them get it going, but we’re also going to try and get these guys to be more complete.”

Q: As the recruiting coordinator, can you see a difference in how you recruit players to Virginia Tech as opposed to your previous school?
KE: “I’ve been asked that a bunch of times. I think, yes, people want to go to this school. It’s such a great place in terms of the degree that it offers and having the VT on your diploma. But more so, just the community involvement in Blacksburg, it’s just such a great college town. So, bringing kids here, we have not had a visit – and we’ve had a lot of them – and a kid has left and said he didn’t like it. It’s been pretty easy getting those guys to say ‘yes,’ but it’s about getting the right guys to say ‘yes.’ Eventually, we’re going to have to win and once the park is completely done, you’ll see bigger dividends in the recruiting, but right now, we’re pretty happy with what’s going on. I would say that it has been easier to have conversations to get kids to come to campus, but we’re also recruiting a different kid. It’s a different conference, it’s a different level, but getting the recruits here is very easy. They all want to come check it out, especially with the improvements to the facilities and the upgrades, and all the excitement around the program. It’s been exciting to see them respond to phone calls and texts as we try to build this thing.”

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