June 13, 2014
CWS Press Conference | Corbin Interview | CWS Central
The head coaches from Vanderbilt, Louisville, UC Irvine and Texas met with the media prior to the beginning of the College World Series.
THE MODERATOR: We'll introduce from left to right in his 12th season at Vanderbilt making his second trip to the College World Series, head coach Tim Corbin. In his eighth season at Louisville, making his third trip to the College World Series as a head coach, Dan McDonnell. Our next coach is in his seventh season at UC Irvine making his fifth appearance at the College World Series, including winning the title in 2001 with USC, UC Irvine's Mike Gillespie. And finally, making his 15th appearance as a head coach at the CWS with three national titles with Cal State Fullerton and two with Texas, Longhorn Skipper Augie Garrido. We would ask each of you to begin with an opening statement, and I'll ask first Dan McDonnell to begin.
DAN McDONNELL: We're going youngest, I guess, in order. That's sort of a joke. We're honored to be here. Obviously want to congratulate the other seven schools here. We know how difficult it is to get here and how much parity there is in college baseball. But really proud to represent the University of Louisville and our great fan base. Got a great group of kids playing hard, great coaches, and a fabulous administration. This is an honor for us, and we're really excited to be here again.
Tim Corbin: Likewise, we're very excited to be here. It's our second time. We were here in 2011 with a new group, and this group is new, too. We have two kids who were on that team that were red shirted, so they didn't get to experience this, but we're certainly, after going through the SEC season and going through the tournament, thankful and fortunate to get through teams like Oregon and Stanford. We're playing well, and hopefully continue to do so.
MIKE GILLESPIE: I feel like we're the party crashers but glad to do it. UC Irvine I think as probably everybody in the room knows was here without me in '07 I think that was, so only a couple of our coaches were on that team, none of our players, of course, were here at that time. We've had an interesting road to get here. It's been exciting. We feel like we're a team that, like I suppose most coaches would feel if we pitch it pretty good and we catch it, then we've got a chance. I will tell you this, that Omaha, the College World Series, is dramatically different place from the last time I was here, and this event, which was great then, I can promise you, has blown up by 500. It's a spectacular opportunity, and I'm really, really glad our players get to experience this. This is sensational.
AUGIE GARRIDO: I think our story starts with the end of last season and when Mark Payton, our senior center fielder, and Nate Thornhill, the senior pitcher, decided to forego their opportunity for another year in professional baseball for the sake of the team. We had a rough year during that period of time. I was reminded that the team had finished last in the conference since 1956, and so they came back, and I did ask the question, I don't know what happened in '56, but what happened to them in '57, and they said they went to Omaha. And Mark and Nate paved the way for this to happen. The other great thing that I think both of them taught the rest of our players, and we do start three freshman position players, what they have to give up to be able to move forward as a baseball team. All of teams in this tournament have found the oneness that it takes to be able to execute and trust that their teammates will depend on each other to get the job done, or they wouldn't be here. But Mark and Nate are the ones that set the tone. I heard several of our players talk during their press conferences about how much that impressed them and made it mandatory for everyone on the team to be unselfish, and that's how we got here. I'm also thankful for the fact that those freshmen, Mark and Nate, are the only two that were here in 2011, and now we have probably six freshmen on the team that will be able to provide invaluable leadership to create their own journey to get back.
Q. First of all, coaches, congratulations for getting here to Omaha. I asked this question to the other coaches earlier. Just your thoughts on the style of defense that you play, speed in the outfield, arm strength, and your inner diamond, as well, shortstop, second baseman, catcher and center field as far as your defense and what that means to advance here and get to the two out of three.
MIKE GILLESPIE: Well, I really don't think that we're unique with any defensive philosophy. I mean, I think, again, like everybody, it's certainly a goal to limit extra opportunities for our opponent. They get three outs, it's not just about outs, it's about extra bases, it's about balks and wild pitches, and it's not always just theirs, it's about extra chances that people get. When we've been successful while we've been able to accomplish that, that doesn't always happen. Our outfield play I think is solid. Our center fielder can go get the ball in center field, and certainly -- and I do think that the two guys that play left field and right field are skilled and capable. They're not guys that can really fly, but they run decent, and in this park it's pretty evident that you do need to be able to go get it. Our junior shortstop, Chris Rabago, has been a real good player for us for two years, and he typically is very, very, very consistent, and he provides leadership around the diamond for us defensively. The second baseman is solid. That's Grant Palmer. We play a couple other guys there, depending on substitutions and that kind of thing. And our catcher, a fourth year junior, Jerry McClanahan, is certainly the guy that kind of runs that pitching staff, and he's done very well for us. He's been one of the key players for us. We feel reasonably good about our defense, and certainly we all realize how critical it is, so it had better be good.
AUGIE GARRIDO: I can say almost the same thing that Mike just said. We made a rule, and we hope they follow it, get your outs on time. It doesn't matter how, get your outs on time. But I think Mike described what our team is like, as well, defensively.
Tim Corbin: We're pretty new defensively, actually. We have a new outfield, a new second baseman, a new first baseman, and the catching has fallen in the hands of two freshman kids right now. I would say we progressively have fielded the ball better during the course of the season. We play a lot of games on turf, so we should, no mystery in that hop, but we've handled the ball relatively well. We've got some pitchers that get off the mound well, too. I like our shortstop play. It's a kid who's only made four errors all year, and the second baseman is very athletic and probably could play shortstop for us, but he's kind of grown into that second base position, so I'm pleased with how we play defense.
DAN McDONNELL: We've got two senior catchers in Gibson and Crain that got to play in Omaha last year along with a talented freshman in Will Smith. Our middle infield, Sutton Whiting and Zach Lucas, two juniors that I think are very talented. The impressive thing about Sutton Whiting, he went through a slump about a month ago where I didn't realize it was like an 0-for-30 slump, but you would have never known that. Played great defense. That's tough for amateurs, not take their bat to the field and not expose their struggles. Alex Chittenden, senior third baseman, has played great. I've got two first basemen in Danny Rosenbaum and Grant Kay, and in the outfield Jeff Gardner is the left fielder, but our other five guys who run around the outfield are center fielders, Cole Sturgeon, Corey Ray, Colin Lyman, Mike White and Logan Taylor. The emphasis of defense has been increased in our program with the change of the bats, and I'm not a big fielding percentage guy, but to me it's when you make errors as opposed to when you make plays is what really matters. So hopefully we'll continue to play good defense.
Q. Curious if you guys in both matchups feel like you play kind of a similar style of play as your opponent here. Obviously you guys are familiar with each other from last year and you guys have a long history together I think as coaches. Do you feel like there are similarities with your styles, and if so, how does that impact these matchups?
AUGIE GARRIDO: Mike is a lot more daring than I am. He'll push the envelope where I won't, and I think that's what kind of separates it, and what I mean by that is the squeeze bunts that he uses and the other things that he uses to manufacture runs goes beyond the types of things that I do. Outside of that, it's about the same thing.
MIKE GILLESPIE: One of my not so fond memories was in 1995, the college team that I was with lost to Cal State Fullerton when Augie was the head coach there, and I distinctly remember that Mark Kotsay was on that team, and I also remember that as outstanding a player as he was and outstanding of a hitter as he was, he hit second in the lineup and sacrificed, and he sacrificed in the first inning. And what I came to realize about that was that it was an immediate valuable contribution. Any player that executes a skill that moves a runner comes to realize and feels, actually, I think a sense of accomplishment with that immediate execution of a skill. It really for me was a valuable lesson in unselfishness, and it's something that I've always kept in mind because if Mark Kotsay, who was at the time the best, the best, player in college baseball could accept those roles, hey, listen, he got his at-bats, he got his swings, he hit his home runs, and he was, I think, in my view, of course he was Augie's player at the time but I've become familiar with Mark Kotsay over time and he's an exceptional person, so it doesn't surprise me that he would be that unselfish, but I've often thought if a guy like that would be accepting of those kinds of team values, well, it was a good lesson for all of us. So our players are really made to understand that this is what we have to do. It has to be on anybody to, if a sacrifice is needed and certainly move a runner, give us a productive out, give up yourself for the sake of the team. I think it was a great lesson for us, and it's something that we've had in mind over all these years.
Tim Corbin: I think when you're looking at Louisville, and we've played them a bunch during the past five or six years, there's some similarities in pitching staff for sure, always strong bodied kids who throw the ball well that know how to execute pitches. From an offensive standpoint, very athletic, can put pressure on you by the way they run the bases, the way they steal the bases, and their kids have a good skill set. Their hitters, from power hitters to gap to speed guys have the ability to do a lot of different things, so they can soften the defense. It becomes difficult to play in a lot of ways. They force pressure, and as you know, pressure in this game is very valuable when it's applied to the defense and you can't handle it. So you do have to be able to pitch to spots, and you have to contain the running game in order to keep them down.
DAN McDONNELL: Seems like a lot of similarities in our lineups. I think when you look at Vanderbilt and Louisville, I think the balance is there. They always seem to have a few guys with power, can hit home runs. They always seem to have some high stolen base threats in the lineup, they always seem to have a few guys that can bunt. Just seems to be 1 through 9 there's balance. There's never really a hole in the lineup or they're never one-dimensional in one area. They seem to be multi-dimensional, and they can do a little bit of everything, whether that's try to hit the doubles or the home runs or maybe even squeeze or steal a base or just seem to do a little bit of everything.
Q. When you have guys, players, 18, 19, 20 showing up, seeing this ballpark for the first time, this environment, any insights just by you observing them, aha experiences or words they said that kind of got you excited? Your thoughts about just observing your team show up here. They've all been on the field now, too, practicing.
AUGIE GARRIDO: They start trying to hit home runs. Just can we hit one out of here and that kind of thing. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think they're having fun, and I think they know what their hitting plan really is, and we'll get back to that when the game starts. I think the biggest thing that we've established between each other is trust. That goes a long way in teamwork. This whole thing is about teamwork.
Tim Corbin: Well, I just think they're kids. There's going to be a little bit of a tourist mentality if they've been here for the first time. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, either. But after some hours, maybe 48 hours, you get to the point where you become Gene Hackman and you get out the measuring tape and you say this is the foul line and this is the basket, and it's the same all the way around. I think 18, 19, 20 years old, they just have to be able to contain their emotions a little bit. But they are kids, and they will do what they do, regardless of what you say and how you train them. You just hope that they're able to execute properly.
MIKE GILLESPIE: Well, there's no question about the fact that in the case of our players, they are dazzled by this ballpark and they're loving it. They're excited by it. I think we'd all be stunned if that was not the case, as both Augie and Tim have said, and I'm good with that. I really am. It would be difficult to believe if they weren't really drinking it all in. They are. They are loving it, and naturally I am concerned that once we see the burnt orange on the other side of the field and we see the numbers of people in the stands, I am concerned about can they harness their emotions. There's just no question about it. I'm going to trust that they really do know who they are and that once the game starts that they'll be able to settle down and deal with it and play to the level that they're capable of playing.
DAN McDONNELL: I was fortunate to work with Mike Bianco for six years at Ole Miss, and of course he's from the Skip Bertman family. I was able to watch and learn, hosting regionals or super regionals. I used to talk to him about the media attention, and he had such great wisdom. So we tried to create an atmosphere where we call it controlled chaos. We've got seven little kids on our staff. I shouldn't say little because a couple are in high school, but kids running in and out of the dugout during the season. We have great media outlets and support in a city like Louisville, Kentucky, so you try to create as much of a crazy atmosphere as you can, but obviously it's just not at this level. I do like how both coaches use the word trust, and the fact that we just keep telling our kids, keep the main thing the main thing, and let's enjoy this and have fun, but at the end of the day, it's trying to play good baseball, and hopefully the experience of coming here last year, still, you're going to be impressed and aha'd by everything as I am, but hopefully you just -- you're a little more comfortable with it, a little more relaxed, because at the end of the day, you want to play good baseball.
Q. Mike, are your pitching plans to start Morales tomorrow?
MIKE GILLESPIE: Yes. They are.
Q. And as far as the finish of your season this year, was the team just so loose and relaxed going into the regional that it played so well, or was it just so focused to prove themselves, being one of the last four to get in?
MIKE GILLESPIE: I certainly don't think it was a matter of being so loose and relaxed. On the subject of the way our season ended and our conference, what I've tried to explain, because this question has come up a lot, and the conference that we're in, and Augie has a history in this conference, so I think he would be familiar with all these people, that conference is an underrated conference, and in my experience the conference this year was maybe the best that it's ever been from top to bottom. There were no gimmes in conference. We knew going in, however, that the toughest part of the conference was going to be at the back end because we would play Cal Poly, Fullerton and Long Beach State, all three of whom are really good, and all three are capable of having been here and done well here. We lost eight in a row to those three teams, and in five of those eight games, why, we had a lead in the eighth and/or the ninth. The point of that is that they're still losses, but they were dogfights of games. We competed very, very well with people who were going good and were good. So I kind of feel like had we played those three teams at the very beginning, I'd have a hard time saying the result wouldn't have been the same at the beginning, and if we had the same result with the people we played at the beginning at the end, then shoot, we would have been a strong finisher. Everybody would have said, that's a great club the way they're coming in. Our players knew that they could compete, and while it was well known that it was anything but a done deal that we would get in, I really felt that that conference warranted five teams being in, and certainly four. However, I knew that what might be right and what might be true might be two different things, that it was certainly right that we would get in. I felt we deserved to be in. I don't think we have to apologize for being in. But on the other hand, there was no denying the truth of the way the last three weeks went. So we could not by any means take for granted that we would get in. Once we got in, we didn't feel like we were just playing with house money and let's just let it all hang out and see how it goes. I think everybody was genuinely convinced that we'd be able to compete well, and if we followed the formula that everybody has, which is pitch and catch it and try to scratch together some ways to get a few runs, we might have a chance to really succeed, and that's what happened.
Q. For any of the coaches, Texas Tech against certain barriers will use some dramatic defensive shifting, put three guys on one side of an infield, etcetera. I'm wondering how often you've seen that from opponents this year and whether with your own, maybe using spray charts or your own scouting whether you use it yourselves.
Tim Corbin: I see way more of that on TV from a Major League standpoint than I do at the college level, maybe because of the information, and maybe really because of the unknown of what our pitcher is going to do. But we don't do a lot of dramatic shifting. We don't overplay too much. We try to balance the field as best we can based on the pitcher and based on what we think the hitter is going to do.
Q. Coach Gillespie, I was wondering if you could share some insight for us on Andrew Morales, had the pleasure of seeing him pitch last year in Stillwater and hearing his comments and then visiting with him earlier today on the field. He comes across as a very appreciative young man, really feels like he grew up and matured a lot. Wondered if you could give us some insight, 42-3 in his career in college baseball. That's hard to do when you depend on defense and bullpen and offensive sport. What's some of the secrets to his success?
MIKE GILLESPIE: Well, the Reader's Digest version is that while he was a successful pitcher at the high school level, and then went to community college because he was not recruited, and not by us, either, by the way, he was always thought to be too little and didn't look like they look and really didn't have the stuff of a Division I winning college pitcher. He was a right-handed 5'11", 5'10", high school probably closer to 5'9" kid, 150 pounds. While he could pitch, he was too little, at least he was perceived to be too little. He went to community college in Los Angeles, where he just got gooder. He was better. He won and he kept winning. His junior college team had a real successful year his second year, and of all the wins that he talk about, well, 21 of those were in community college. Still he was not recruited. He was 5'11", he was 87 miles an hour, threw strikes, but the truth of the matter is he just got missed, and we missed, too. Actually one of Augie's former players, Andy Nieto who coached with me at the former school where I was had coached against him in high school and really recommended him, really pushed him. But it's one of those deals, your scholarship money is gone and there's nothing you can do so we floated along and had some contact but there was nothing we could do. Fortunately for us he was available late, and very late. I'm talking at the very end of his second year. That's how we fortuitously came to have him. Came to us at still 5'11", he's still 5'1". He'll lie to you and tell you he's 6'1", but he's 5'11", but the 165 has turned into 192 or 195. This increased strength has brought with it increased velocity, increased everything, increased bite on his breaking ball. He's always been a very, very competitive guy, very bright guy, and intensely competitive I think I should say. He's been a great story, he really is. And I think what you described and what your conclusion was when you met him today is really right on. What you saw is what he is. He's a special kid, and what's so -- for us what's among the really gratifying things is that he was always too little. He didn't match up, didn't look like they looked, and so he's always been undrafted. So it was believable that he would be what we call a senior draft this year, one of those money saving, 10th round kind of guys that would get $2,000 and go out and play in Staten Island and maybe get released. But the fact is he pitched himself above that, and consequently here he is today as a second round pick, and even though he's a senior he's going to get himself a nice little paycheck, and that's good to see.
Q. Mike has already announced his pitcher for tomorrow, but could the other three coaches announce their starters?
Tim Corbin: Yes, right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer. He's a sophomore.
DAN McDONNELL: Sophomore, right-handed pitcher Kyle Funkhouser.
AUGIE GARRIDO: We'll start Nate Thornhill. He's a senior, and he's right-handed.