Auburn, Ala.--Even though his first season as Auburn's head baseball coach didn’t turn out like he hoped, for Butch Thompson it was a season to remember for many different reasons as the Tigers struggled to a 23-33 finish. Coming up short in a goal to reach the SEC Tournament in year one, Thompson said despite the results he has plenty of positives to build on heading into year number two.
“That I'm even more thankful to be here,” Thompson said of his takeaway from his first year. “I understand our vision. It was a a very challenging and unique season. I think we all reflect from an evaluation standpoint and looking back at the end of the year, we had some nice players, but I'm not sure we built a complete, cohesive team that was able to compete and have success in the Southeastern Conference.”
Part of that came with the coaching staff not having a full season to work with the team after coming on board following fall practice. Forced to play catch-up even during the year, Thompson said looking back on how the season turned out he wishes he would have done some things differently. Because of that he’s already started making some changes as he talks with his players that will be back next year.
“As the head coach, I gave our program a built-in excuse with the coaching change,” Thompson said. “I also feel like there was a lack of communication as we endured through the season.
“In making those adjustments and meeting with our players, we're trying to find everything we can constructive to make sure going into our first full year that we're going to do everything in our power to build around the team concept and develop an identity.
“You don't lose the principles that make you successful. You know that you have to have a great identity and a positive culture that everybody is pulling in the same direction. For probably several reasons we were unable to achieve that.”
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Already without number one pitcher Keegan Thompson for the entire season, Auburn was already in a tough spot because of a lack of quality depth on the mound, but when both Josh Palacios and Daniel Robert got hurt in the Missouri series it really put the clamps on the Tigers' offense as well. With no depth at the plate after losing two of the best bats on the team, Thompson said the team could have packed it in for the season, but they kept fighting and he’s proud of that effort.
“I thought for the most part our players and least gave us an opportunity to coach them,” Thompson said. “I thought they played hard for Auburn. I think they were constantly beat down and kept trying to do the best that they possibly could do and competed and I'm thankful for that. Whenever you evaluate a season like this I think you all have a takeaway where you have to get better but I thought for the challenges we had and everybody not feeling like they played their best baseball except for Anfernee (Grier), I thought the guys did the best they could.
“Just so many challenges through the year with Palacios missing basically the last six weeks of the season,” he added. “Those all seem like excuses that I could make at this point, but I'm not really willing to go down that road. I just say thank you to the players.
“We'll reorganize. They gave us great comments leaving. These guys leaving our program are always welcome to come back and will be part of Auburn for the rest of their life. They've given us good takeaways heading into our first year that I agree that we need to do and keep growing and implement to help us move in the right direction.”