As Price was preaching the potential of Kansas baseball, Konzem began to see potential of Price’s future at KU. Price sold Konzem on his big dreams for the program, making Konzem the first of many happy customers to buy what Price was selling at KU.
After gathering his staff, Price began his next series of sales calls – the most important pitches he’d have to make. Price next needed to reel in the 25 guys left behind by former KU skipper, Bobby Randall. He hit a homerun.
We all saw just how difficult coaching switches can be on players when Roy left his boys this past April. While no Jayhawk baseball players were saying that they’d given their right arm for Randall, the team definitely needed their new leader to come in and put their minds at ease. Price did just that. The KU coach immediately won over his players, allowing the transformation to begin of a 22-29 team in 2002, to a team that won 35 games this year.
Here’s how the baseball salesman sold his new players on staying at KU, playing to their potential and exceeding it as well.
- He clearly laid out his vision for the immediate future of KU baseball. While
other coaches on the Hill have promised to get it done at some point during
their tenure, Price gave specific goals and dates for their fulfillment. The
goals were easily measureable, but not all easily attainable. He told
his new players that in year number one, he wanted to make the trip down
City for the school’s first ever Big 12 tournament appearance (mission
accomplished). By his second year, he wanted his team to reach the NCAA
tournament and in year number three, his dream was to have his Jayhawks contending
for a spot in the College World Series.
As anyone whose ever spoken to Coach Price will tell you, he speaks with more conviction and certainty in his voice than just about anyone you’ll ever come across. He told his new players how he’d make them winners and they immediately believed in their new coach.
- After making the players believers in himself and his dreams for KU baseball, Coach Price next taught the players to believe in themselves and each other. With some players it took a position switch or role change to set their progress in motion. Other sparks were lit, simply from a pep talk by a coach who truly believed in the players' ability. Price set the bar higher than any of the KU players had ever seen it raised and expected more out of them than anyone ever had before. He asked a lot from his players, but also instilled in them that he wouldn't be challenging them with so much, unless he truly believed their were capable of achieving it.
- Price treated ALL of his players like superstar student-athletes. From the team captains who hit above .375, to the bullpen catchers that rarely saw action, the were all “big time” in coach’s eyes. He addressed them all as the men that they are, not talking down to them like boys. He had their respect from day one, and coached his first season without ever having to jump down someone’s throat to get his point across. He also treated his players to some of the best meals and hotels they’d ever had. Weekly trips to Outback Steakhouse (instead of the cheeseburger joints of years gone by) went a long ways in winning the players over.
Once his players were on board, the baseball salesman let their efforts do the talking. Price won more and more people over as his club won more and more games. Baseball chatter fired up in Lawrence in mid-February when the Hawks swept #6 LSU in Baton Rouge. It continued with more and more success and the baseball excitement peaked on May 2nd when 2,106 fans showed up for KU's Friday night showdown with the defending national champions, the Texas Longhorns. KU won that game 10-1 in front of the record crowd, and afterwards, Price made one final sales pitch. This time I was on the receiving end.
Coach told me, "Brian, this is what it's all about. It's one of my biggest dreams to give the University of Kansas three seasons of big time sports. Tonite was a glimpse of that."
In a nutshell, Price told me he wanted the Rock Chalk Chant to be sung all the way through finals week on Mount Oread. He wants the sports enthusiasm on campus to run rampant beyond just the end of basketball season. The excitement and fan support shouldn't stop with just basketball and football at Kansas.
Just like all those before me, I bought into his idea and have every reason to believe Price can make it happen over the next 5 years. If last year's success is any indication, it may happen even sooner.
Thanks to a pursuasive coach with big dreams, baseball fever is in the air in Lawrence. If you're not yet sold on the new KU skipper, just wait. His plans for year number two are even better!