Following Vanderbilt's practice on Friday at TD Ameritrade Park, members of the media spoke with a few members of the team and Head Coach Tim Corbin. The four coaches playing on Vanderbilt's side of the bracket - Mike Fox (North Carolina), Augie Garrido (Texas) and Kevin O'Sullivan (Florida) then gathered with Corbin for a joint press conference at 2 p.m. CT at the stadium. The transcript of the press conference is below the two videos.
THE MODERATOR: Let me introduce everybody as we begin. First of all, Tim Corbin from Vanderbilt in his ninth season, and he's taken teams to 7 NCAA Tournaments. In that time, this is of course the first trip for Vanderbilt to Omaha. The Commodores were 52-10 this year winning the national regional and super regional. Mike Fox of North Carolina in his 12th season. He has been to NCAA Tournaments every year except one, and we won't talk about 2001. The Tar Heels were 50 14 this year winning the Chapel Hill regional and super regional. Florida, Kevin O'Sullivan in his fourth year and his third NCAA Tournament. The Gators were 50 17, and winning the Gainesville regional and super regional. Augie Garrido in his 15th year at Texas, 13th NCAA Tournament with the Longhorns. They were 50 13 this year winning the Austin regional and super regional. And of course, Augie, to paraphrase Barbara Mandrell, he was bunting when bunting wasn't cool.
So, first of all, Coach O'Sullivan, give us a quick overview of your club, and welcome to Omaha.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: We're delighted to be here. We know how difficult it is to get here. To be one of the last eight teams still playing, we feel very fortunate. Played a really tough regional at our place. Played a rival in Miami and they gave us everything that we could handle. And obviously, Mississippi State played outstanding this past weekend.
Like I said, we're just fortunate to be here. Excited about the field. We know how tough this field is going to be and look forward to getting the tournament started tomorrow.
CORBIN: I feel likewise. We're certainly happy to be here. Being here is better than the alternative which would be recruiting. We don't want to go there yet. We've had a good, consistent year. Our regional at home which was nice, and got to play an Oregon State team that you guys were familiar with here in Omaha and outlasted them. And look forward to getting started tomorrow.
GARRIDO: We are happy to be here, our fans are getting restless, we missed last year, so we're happy to be here and have a chance to be in this tournament.
FOX: We're also very thrilled to be here. I can't say when the season started that we expected to be here. But somehow over the course of the year we started playing well and our kids started believing and we feel very fortunate to be in this field. It's scary to look at all the other teams here and just how good they are.
This should be a great World Series and what a great facility this is and we're excited to be a part of the inaugural World Series here, especially to play the first College World Series game here.
Q. This is a question for all the gentlemen. In fall camp and getting ready for this season in January and starting to play the regular season now, what have you learned about your ballclub that makes it something that surprised you that you learned about your team as you progressed to get here to Omaha?
FOX: Oh, well, I think the most important thing I learned about my team is the kind of leadership we had. We've had some adversity as all teams do. We've had some pieces that were not there, but somehow our players believed, and this might be the hardest working team that I've seen or been a part of. They've been very committed. You have to think those kind of teams help you get rewarded and these kids have, I think.
GARRIDO: I think it's the surprise of the contributions the freshmen made to the program. We have a freshman catcher and third baseman who is leading the team in hitting. Right fielder, our closer is a freshman, and our top set up guy is a freshman.
So the five freshmen added to the incentive that Cole Green, Brandon Loy, Tant Shepherd to name a few who provided the leadership and how that came together was a surprise.
CORBIN: I don't think we had any surprises. I felt we had a chance to be pretty good. We got the chance to go and play Augie's team during the course of the fall a couple of times, and that was good. I think we got the season started before it actually did.
But I can't really say there was a lot of adversity through the year. I think there was adversity in small moments, but not stretches of time that we have had in the past. It's been pretty consistent that way. We just worked as a group, and we've had moments throughout the year.
O'SULLIVAN: I guess for us, I don't know about any surprises, but I'm definitely pleased with how we've been able to handle expectations and that type of thing. Last year we had some freshmen contribute and had consistent years. But then to come back this year as sophomores and not let up and continue to work hard and try to improve their game, you know, was awfully good to see.
I think all the teams that were here, obviously, you've got to have some leadership, and we certainly have that and you guys too. But just to be able to handle all the expectations was awesome to see.
Q. Kevin, Johnson and Maddox have something to work on. What can you expect from him at this point?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: First of all, our medical staff has done a phenomenal job with Brian. Very unfortunate situation to have happen there. But he is now cleared to play. He's passed all of his tests on Tuesday. Austin threw bullpen on Wednesday, and looked really sharp, took batting practice today, and looked good.
So I think certainly Brian's going to be full go for this tournament. Maddox is certainly going to be a guy that we're going to use on the mound tomorrow. But hitting wise, I'm not quite sure yet.
Q. Tim, can you talk about the big three in the east this year? You guys dominated the conference, and then to all end up here, how fitting it is that you've all made it this far?
COACH CORBIN: Yeah, that's something that I haven't seen in the NCAA in the nine years that I've been there with Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt being there at the beginning and being there at the end and all showing up here in Omaha, I think that's an anomaly. Three team that were very consistent through the year. Got a chance to obviously play Sully's group four times and Ray's group four times.
But playing them both in the regular season, at least I felt it that they were going to end up here at some point. We were just hoping we could get as many teams in as possible from our conference.
Q. A couple years ago when you were here, you didn't really want to be here after that one regional. But could you talk about getting over the hump? And just how you built this program in the last seven or eight years?
Tim Corbin: We've come close. There is a difference to having regular season success and postseason success over the years. But in 2004 we played Augie's group down in Austin, and we probably had a little too much success too quick to the point where you thought could it be right this year, but it wasn't logical.
We were just getting to the regionals the last couple of years, and we were very frustrated this last year. We thought this group could take us forward, but you never know. It would have to go right.
We're fortunate to play here, and just glad it's probably a relief for some people. But now that we're here, we just want to play ball.
Q. Kevin, same question for you. Looking at the three teams your team battled all year long, did you expect the three of you could possibly be among the final eight?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I think when you look at our league there are other teams that are not here that are certainly worthy of being here. I think that's the least to say on any given weekend you could be losing to any team. Doesn't really matter who you play, it's about how you're playing because everybody's fairly equal. You know to have three teams from the SEC on the other side of it, all three teams are from the east is pretty remarkable.
Like I said, the biggest thing is all teams have had expectations this year. And sometimes, as you know, teams don't handle it very well. But all the coaches are proud of their teams and able to handle the expectations that were put upon them when the season started.
Q. You guys have all been here before to Omaha with teams. Just curious how did your players' reaction to the new ballpark compare to the first reaction going up the hill to the old stadium?
O'SULLIVAN: It was awesome. You know, obviously it's a little different than our home ballpark. It's a lot bigger, more spacious. I think this is beautiful. I think it's more money that's spent, it's everything and more that I think any college baseball player would want to play at.
Our group is staying at the hotel, and we can stay at the hotel and see the lights on at night. And the players were commenting this morning on how beautiful it was that night. So it's much better than advertised, that's for sure.
CORBIN: Well, we've never been here before. So obviously the kids have never seen Rosenblatt, and Josh and I have. So I think the cool thing about it is the one way you can get here is by being a great team. You can't be a Triple A player anymore. It's obviously state of the art, very spacious, and nice.
GARRIDO: I think we were having a conversation in the outfield about the field maybe the greatest sports movie ever made was Hoosiers when he walks in and measures the basket I had to go to that one and say, hey, there's a diamond inside all this other stuff. That's where we know how to play. The rest of it surrounds it and embraces it. It's come in a very positive way. But I think it's a great endorsement to the future of college baseball.
FOX: I think our players when they all saw it for the first time, it is different, certainly. But the pictures of this place sure don't do it justice. Just walking around the inside, you can tell there is a great deal of thought and detail put into this stadium. I can't imagine being a college player and getting to play in a stadium like this on this stage. So I think our players will relish it.
Q. What's been your impression after the first year with the new bats and has it changed the way you coached at all? Augie, maybe you want to take a crack at this one?
COACH GARRIDO: Well, after looking at our offensive statistics, the committee decided they didn't need to test our bats. We hit 81 home runs last year and we hit 18 this year, so there's been a change. Whether that's better or not, it doesn't make any difference. It's the way it is. So that's the way it's affected us. We'll just have to find a way to score a run every now and then. Kevin's got more guys with home runs than our team.
CORBIN: Not really. I think personally I like the bat. I think it balances out the game a little bit. I think at first there was a lot of talk about it, but midway through the season there was less talk because the subject, quite frankly, was tired.
I think kids started learning to hit with it. Bottom line, if you hit the ball, it will take off. (Indiscernible) and that proves it to you. I just think it's a balance for the game, and I personally like it.
Q. You guys went through a lot of adversity with losing Brian and Austin for the regionals and super regionals. Is there any concern in getting them back, because those guys fell so hard that you could have a chemistry problem there, and you're inserting these guys back in the lineup?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I would hope not. I think this stage of the game you would hope that everybody is in it for the team and the team's success. But I do think, you know, where there was adversity not to have Brian and Austin in the regional or super regional.
I do think in another way it brought our team together and helped some other guys step up. I thought Tyler Thompson, and Daniel Pigott had great regionals and super regionals in the conference and did a really nice job over at first.
So I think they created more depth and brought our team closer together. I think we're anxious to get those two guys back because they've been with us the entire year. To get to this stage of the game right now, like I said, it's about team success.
Q. Tim, when you brought your ballclub to Austin last October, could you tell from the competition against Texas that they were this caliber? And, Augie, could you tell that about Vanderbilt at the time you guys had the two games last October?
COACH CORBIN: Well, the answer is yes, not just because he's sitting here but because of the pitching that they had. It was our first look at a Texas team. And just knowing how they play, the confidence level for how they play, and his experience through the years in taking clubs there, it was quite possible. You definitely could see that. And that's exactly why we went there to get that experience against a team that we felt would be here.
COACH GARRIDO: My impression of their team was they were extremely well structured and that's what brought consistency throughout the year. Just that the team is not made up of individual stars. They're made up of very talented people that compliment each other. They have good balance between their pitching and defense and the offensive players.
Q. Coach Garrido, what have you seen from this Florida team and how different are they from the 2005 team you played in the Championship series?
COACH GARRIDO: I watched their games on television, and the contrast between the team that I see play all the time which is ours is their offensive power combined with their defensive skills, which always includes pitching as the corner stone of it all. They're very well structured, extremely competitive, and they're talented athletes with lots of strength and speed.
They hit balls hard. They hit them far, and they hit them often, and that is surprising for me.
Q. Kevin, do you feel like this place, this stadium might be a problem for you guys? Yours is smaller, like you said.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: You know, Tim can speak about this as well, he played in Hoover in the SEC Tournament and it's a very big ballpark. We did some things differently there that we hadn't done a whole lot all year long. We bunted a little bit more. We hit and run a little bit more. And we manufactured some runs.
So we've gotten that game. But the bottom line is we've got to somehow figure a way to get a leadoff man on and get through one of the best pitchers in college baseball. When we do get some runners on, we've got to get some timely hits and it's going to come down to that.
I think both teams are, you know, they've got good pitching and straight really good defense. Both have lineups that are very, very capable, and I think it's going to give us opportunities.
Q. Kevin, you talked to your pitchers about Texas hitting, and the fact that they're only hitting .272. Are you afraid they'll have a false sense of confidence against them?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: No, our players know what Texas is all about. They know the history and the pride. A lot of these players know each other over the course of summer circuits and that type of thing. So our players are fully aware of how talented Texas is. You know, they know we have our hands full, there is no doubting that.
Q. Kevin and Tim, you've both been here with Clemson as assistants. Now here you are back together with different teams. Just tell us what that's like, and just the memories you two have?
COACH CORBIN: Obviously good ones. We worked together for six years in 2000, 2002. In 2002, we thought we had a great chance to win it, and we got deep into the tournament and got beaten by South Carolina twice. We just have great memories.
Both of us are head coaches now, and we get to share in the same tournament, same bracket. We might not be playing with each other, but that's okay. We've had some good games against one another and each other's teams this year. We've enjoyed those battles.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, you know, just I think after we worked together, it doesn't seem that long ago, but it's ten years ago. It just seems like it flew by. We, Jack and Tim still stay in contact on a week to week basis. They're like family. Tim and I are very, very close, just like we are with Jack. Our families know each other. It goes well beyond the baseball side of things.
Speaking on my part, I don't enjoy playing Tim. I felt because I know number one, his team's very prepared and it's not going to be easy. But number two you hate to see anybody lose, and that's where your heart gets involved. That's one of the reasons I don't really have a desire to play them unless they pit us together.
But I have a great deal of respect for Tim and always have. And we're very lucky to have been put in a situation are where we were able to work together.
Q. For Mike and Tim, if you'd weigh in on this too. Omaha fans have a reputation for embracing the first year team to make it here. Just kind of your thoughts on whether or not you expect the fans to be on Vanderbilt's side come tomorrow?
MIKE FOX: Oh, probably so, probably a lot of them. They embraced us in 2006. The neatest thing about Omaha is we stay in touch with a lot of these people. Our host, our bus driver, we hear from a lot of them over the course of the year. We've actually had several of them visit Chapel Hill. They've just had family there and come by, and I think that's one of the neatest parts about this place you really can make friends here for life. I saw a lot of them today. You know, the host club is hosting Vanderbilt, and we've stayed in touch ever since.
The neat thing here now is the fans. More than anything else they cheer for good baseball, and that's another neat thing about playing here.