Third baseman Joshua Anthony (above) is one of the group of impressive newcomers for the Tigers this fall.
Auburn, Ala.--Nearing the end of his first fall practice session as head coach of the Auburn Tigers, Butch Thompson was looking for a way for his team to have fun while giving himself and assistant coaches Brad Bohannon and Doug Sisson a chance to evaluate the team.
The answer for the Tigers was a Fall Series with a very different twist.
Taking part in a player draft on Tuesday night with seniors Kyler Deese and Blake Logan picking the teams, Auburn will have split practices on Thursday before the teams meet in private to set up signals and strategy a weekend series that will be coached by the players themselves.
Anxious to see how his team responds to making decisions on lineups, strategy, etc., Thompson said this is a time that is not only good for the players, but for the coaches as well because it will allow them to see the team from the outside for the first time this fall.
“Number one, we’ve asked so much of them this fall,” Thompson said. “They’ve worked so hard as a team trying to get 20 new players and 20 returners to find a common ground together and grow as a ballclub. From the the early morning workouts to a whole full practice and even the Ft. Benning trip is symbolic of what I’m talking about to get to the point of playing a three-game world series like most teams do.
“I want them to enjoy this process. We’ve got all these things in place with hard work and development, sacrifice and them having a great time with this experience has got something to do with it as well. I want them to have a blast number one as well.
“Number two, I want to be able to evaluate and step outside of the framework so to speak. I want to see our players, for us to be the best team we can possibly be. I want to see some conviction and ownership. How do they see each other?
"I think the players have a very similar feel for our roster and what the players can do as our coaches," Thompson said. "It’s a pretty neat experiment for them to have to come up with a team. I think it creates a huge investment for them, but it also allows them to put some ownership in the program.”
Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize are expected to be two of Auburn's weekend starters this season
The Orange Team will face the Blue Team in a three-game series this weekend with Keegan Thompson matching up with Gabe Klobosits in the opener at 3:45 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday it’s Casey Mize taking on freshman Davis Daniel at 9:45 a.m. Sunday’s starters are listed as TBA for the 2:15 p.m. game, something Thompson noted that he did on purpose to let the players take some ownership of not only the three games, but the team itself.
“Whoever develops into the best teams at the end of the day you know you need a baseline of skill, a team that believes in one another and has great conviction, and ownership," he said. "Those are going to wind up being the best possible teams. How do we grow ownership of our players? We let them run their own show.
“I don’t expect it to be perfect, but I think it’s an opportunity. We’ve been on top of them. Our coaches have been showing the way. At the end of the day if we’re going to build our best team I think our players leading the show and our players leading the way creates an even stronger team. It’s an opportunity for them to be out front and do that.”
All three games this weekend will take place at Plainsman Park and are open to the public.