Team chemistry is important.
As Todd Raleigh enters his third season as the head baseball coach at the University of Tennessee, chemistry, confidence and attitude are at an all-time high for the Vols heading to the diamond this spring.
A different attitude from Raleigh is also evident.
According to several of the upperclassmen for the Volunteers, Raleigh is more confident and more relaxed than he was during his first two years in Knoxville.
"You can definitely see a difference in the way Coach Raleigh is approaching this season," said junior catcher Blake Forsyth. "He is a lot more laidback than he was in his first and second years here. I have been here since day one with Coach Raleigh. He is allowing the upperclassmen to handle some of the little things. We know what he wants and expects from us as a team."
Coach Raleigh agreed with his players that he is approaching this season different than those in the past.
"I'm glad I'm calmer," Raleigh said with a laugh. "A lot of people don't like hearing this, but the first two years here exactly ended up how I expected it to. It was tough, we knew heading into that it was going to be. I didn't plan on being calmer this season, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are a lot better team than we ever have been."
Redshirt junior starting pitcher Brian Morgado agrees with that assessment of Raleigh changing.
"He is much calmer this year," Morgado said. "He knows what he has with this team. He knows he has a good team with the ability to win a lot of games this year."
Confidence isn't lacking from several of the upperclassmen, and it carries over from Raleigh and his coaching staff.
"We want to win the SEC and go far into the NCAA tournament," said junior first baseman Cody Haun. "We feel that we definitely have the talent to do so, we just have to put everything together."
Coach Raleigh agrees that this definitely should be the year for the Vols baseball program to turn the corner.
"We did a lot of good things at times last year, we just couldn't pull things together," Raleigh said. "I definitely feel that this is the year that we will make a run for the SEC title. I'm not the type of coach that is satisfied with just winning enough to stay here. I want to win it all. We feel that this is definitely the year it could and should happen."
One thing that has changed with this ball club is the fact that Raleigh has most of the players he has recruited in place.
"He has the players out there that he wants and trust," Haun said. "This is his ball club and everyone knows it."
One thing that has impressed the third-year coach is the fact there are less distractions surrounding this team than in years past.
"We have a lot less drama," Raleigh said. "At times during the first and second season, it was tough at times trying to figure out if some of the guys really wanted to be here. That's not the case anymore. The chemistry with this group is the best I have ever seen. They go to class, they do everything they are supposed to do and we have been very fortunate not to have any off campus issues or problems."
Baseball season officially will get underway this Friday with the first day of practice, and the Vols will have three weeks before they take the field for the first time Feb, 19 against Xavier.
"We have everything we need to be very good this year," Raleigh said. "We just have to come together as a team. So far, I love the chemistry and the work ethic of this group. They know that this should be the year. This group is very hungry."
Stay tuned to InsideTennessee.com for the most in-depth baseball coverage you can find anywhere on the internet. We will be doing player features, position breakdowns and much more over the next few weeks.