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perhaps the new normal for college baseball

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Slavering Gug

Joined: 17 Oct 2017
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:27 am    Post subject: perhaps the new normal for college baseball Reply with quote

When Monte Lee arrived in Clemson in 2016 to assume control of the Tigers’ baseball program, the former College of Charleston head coach became the “newest” boss in a state known for having had veterans in charge at most schools.

It took only two seasons for that picture to change – and for Lee to become, almost overnight, an “elder statesman” among South Carolina’s college baseball coaches.

This past spring, Chad Holbrook – Lee’s former fellow assistant coach at South Carolina – resigned under pressure after the Gamecocks missed the NCAA playoffs two of his final three seasons in charge. Holbrook wound up at Charleston, replacing Cougars coach Matt Heath, who had a 59 57 1 record in two seasons after succeeding Lee.

Elsewhere, The Citadel, also with a history of long tenured coaches, hired 1991 graduate Tony Skole to replace Fred Jordan, who retired after 26 seasons. Brett Harker was hired as Furman’s baseball coach in 2016.

Sort of gives new meaning to “can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” doesn’t it?

Lee, with a wry chuckle, said that’s perhaps the new normal for college baseball, especially in South Carolina but elsewhere, too.

“There’s been a lot of movement, but we all understand the business we’re in,” he said during a recent visit to Columbia, where on Oct. 25 he’ll serve as co chairman of the 18th annual Healthy Learners Champions for Children golf tournament, set for Fort Jackson Golf Club.

“I think the more visible our sport becomes, what with being on TV regularly now with ESPN in the ACC and SEC, and more visible nationally, too, with more money being put into facilities – with all those things, expectations will continue to rise.

“Baseball isn’t a revenue sport per se, but it gets a lot of national attention. As it gets more visible, expectations go up. That’s the nature of the beast.”

That’s especially true in Lee’s home state and across the Southeast, he said.

“Here in the heart of the SEC and ACC, baseball is the best,” he said. “We get more attention in this state, in part, because we are the pro sports for South Carolinians. People here care way more about their college teams than any pro team. That’s why it matters more.

“Both programs, you know about the expectations because of the great jobs done by coaches Bill Wilhelm and Jack Leggett at Clemson, and coaches June Raines, Bobby Richardson and Ray Tanner at South Carolina. They built their schools into national powerhouses. So we all know what we signed up for.”

Such high stakes expectations also tend to drive speculation about coaches. So after two successful seasons with Clemson – 40 plus wins each and accompanying NCAA bids – it wasn’t a shock that Lee’s name arose during USC’s search for Holbrook’s replacement. The Gamecocks ultimately hired South Florida’s Mark Kingston.

Hearing such rumors might’ve been uncomfortable for Lee, except he said the idea of returning to Columbia as coach never entered his mind.

“I never had any discussion about the USC position,” he said. “I’d made it abundantly clear that once the season was over, and questions came up about South Carolina, I was happy where I am.

“I worked six years for coach Tanner now USC’s athletics director , so I was expecting the questions. But in my statement at Clemson, I said it’s a destination job, a job you work your whole career to be part of, and I fully intend to be at Clemson as long as they’ll have me.”

Along with pressure to succeed, Lee said, holding one of the state’s top baseball jobs also means, to him, a responsibility to use the position to help others. Both Tanner and Holbrook established foundations during their USC tenures, and Lee said the Healthy Learners golf tournament was a chance to do the same.

“ Co chairman Matt Younginer reached out, told me about Healthy Learners and what he’s trying to do,” Lee said of the tournament, which donates Tavien Feaster Jersey proceeds to provide health services to children without access to those services, including vision care, dental care and hearing evaluations.

“It seemed like an opportunity to be part of something that helps underprivileged children in South Carolina,” Lee said. “I’m a South Carolina native, lived here all my life. I want to help great causes, and Healthy Learners is one of the best out there.”

Younginer, who works for Husqvarna and ESPN2 Radio, said Lee was an easy choice to repeat as the charity’s celebrity co chairman.

“We’d been fortunate in the past to have Ray Tanner and USC women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley,” he said. “When we were talking last year about who to get next, I mentioned getting some Clemson flavor, considering all the success they’ve had. We had so much success with Monte as chairman in 2016 , the board asked, ‘Any chance he’d do it again?’

“We’ve never had a celebrity chairman do it twice, but if you’d heard Monte speak before last year’s tournament, you’d see why so many players want to go to Clemson and play for him. It’s exciting to have him be a part of this again.”

Having recently hired a new assistant coach in former Houston Astros minor league manager Russ Steinhorn, and with a contract extension through 2023 in hand, Lee is now deep into fall practice. The Tigers , ranked in the top 25 throughout 2017 and as high as No. 3 in April, drew an average of 4 ,625 fans per home game, first in the ACC and 11th in the nation.

Clemson this coming spring returns All American Seth Beer, one of the nation’s top hitters, but lost a number of veterans from its pitching staff. “We’re unproven on the mound, but the competition has been high,” Lee said. “This fall is crucial to develop guys to compete at a high level.

“It’s my job to get the very best out of my team this year. If we focus on that, we’ll get where we want to be at the end of the year. And the results will take care of themselves.”
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Slavering Gug

Joined: 02 Feb 2018
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Slavering Gug

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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