Garrido’s Longhorns deal with NCAA rule changes, diamond foes
· 2008 Texas Baseball: |
Ask "Augie-Wan Knobi" about the NCAA rules changes' effect on the 2008 season and the venerable Texas coach says, "May I look at them in hindsight?" Augie Garrido punctuates that comment with a laugh. He has been around too long to be baffled or amazed by anything.
The teacher in him is never stymied by whatever outside forces bring to bear.
The ever-popular alumni game is no more because the NCAA pushed back the start of the season three weeks, with practice beginning Feb. 1, and the Horns first encounter on Feb. 22 in the newly-renovated UFCU Disch-Falk Field against Virginia Commonwealth.
"The cancellation of the alumni game is disappointing," Garrido said of the event that has been played annually since 1984.
"Those guys are Longhorns for life and that game was a way to have them back, to keep them a part of what we're doing," Garrido said. "I don't care how we do it, but I want a way to get them back."
Garrido, who has won two National Championships and made five trips to the College World Series since coming to the Forty Acres in 1996, is concerned about the rule changes because of the impact it has on relationships -- those with the alumni and those with his current team.
"That's the most important ingredient, the relationships," he said. "The development of a team comes in part because of the relationships between the coaches and players."
The loss of practice time in the new, condensed 52-game schedule also is a concern for Garrido with regard for the development of the players on his team and all teams in college baseball.
For example, the Longhorns will play 10 games in the first 13 days of the 2008 season. The week beginning Monday, Feb. 25 (an off day) has the Horns playing Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Friday-Sunday games are at the Houston College Classic, meaning that Thursday will be a travel day.
"When do you practice? You don't," Garrido asked and answered.
"It will be deeper into the season before you see teams rounding into shape," he continued. "This schedule is a challenge not only on the field, but in the classroom. It is a challenge to make certain we're meeting the academic commitments of all of the players.
"Playing all those games in a week -- what about pitching? I don't think any of us is so deep in pitching that we'll have five guys ready to go each week."
That said, the winningest coach in the history of Division I college baseball is excited about his 2008 club, which is ranked No. 6 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason poll. Texas returns five of its top hitters from last year's team that went 46-17, winning its 74th conference title and its second straight. UT finished 12th in the country in 2007.
Junior outfielder Kyle Russell, a preseason All-America, is among that group. Russell set a Texas record with 28 home runs last year, recording 75 RBI and hitting .332.
Fellow juniors Preston Clark and Jordan Danks are back. Clark, a first-team All-Big 12 Conference catcher, hit .286 with 45 RBI and Danks hit .332 and drove in 37 a year ago.
"Those are our proven leaders," Garrido said of that trio. "They are energetic and they are disappointed that they haven't been a part of a National Championship. They are committed to work hard and to set an example for the younger players on the team."
The 2008 squad also features the return to health of pitchers Kenn Kasparek and Riley Boening, as well as 10 new additions to the staff -- six freshmen and four transfers, including Casey Whitmer from Florida State and Marcus Tackett from Oral Roberts.
With it all, Garrido said the NCAA-mandated changes would not be an excuse for failure.
Nor does he expect such.
"Tommy Harmon (assistant coach) may be the greatest recruiter in the country," said Garrido, who also praised Skip Johnson, his other assistant, for his work with the pitchers.
"We've got players who came here to do what they could for Texas," Garrido said. "Those are the guys we want here -- guys who want to do for Texas, not guys who want Texas to do for them."