PUTTING A BOW ON LAST SEASON
It’s been a rough but uplifting offseason for the Longhorns baseball program after suffering the type of heartbreak they did in last season’s College World Series.
Nobody expected them to get to Omaha, much less finish third in the country.
“It was almost spiritual the way people would respond to the way the team played in the College World Series,” Garrido said. “We finished third and normally if you finish third around here that's not good enough. I think that they recognized that whether they weren't that much of a baseball fan at all, didn't know a whole lot about baseball, they liked the spirit of the team. I think that's what they admired.
“I think they recognized the honest effort and they acknowledged that and they were satisfied for the most part with the team and what they did and what they accomplished, so I thought that was pretty significant.”
But how do you weave last season’s success/heartbreak into the fabric of the 2015 Texas program? There’s a fine line there but one Garrido has balanced on many times before.
“My experience is that no matter how good a team might play in any given season you don't want to take it for granted the next season,” he said. “They ate a lot of verbal ice cream during the course of the summer. So now, we're going to have to see how willing they are to get back to the hard work that allowed them to have the confidence and to develop into a championship type team.”
The first step toward doing this, Garrido said, is making sure this team’s attitude is where it needs to be. That’s the most important piece to any program, he said.
“What we will do is get on with the real issues, most of them mental,” Garrido said. “The players know how to play baseball, that's why they're here, but they don't know how to be a teammate. Up to this point they've been prospects. They've gone through select baseball, they're trying to get drafted by major league baseball, they're trying to get college scholarships, for the most part they've played for themselves.
“This is the point at which they have to start to make the adjustments mentally to play for the team because that's how you get paid in Major League Baseball, being able to help the team win the game. I know agents talk about statistics all the time on an individual basis, but that isn't why the Red Sox won the world championship. It's about teamwork, and that team that emerges unified, and when they take control, like our team did last year, of what's going on.”
Garrido certainly hasn’t lost any of his passion for the game entering his 47th year of coaching (overall record of 1,874-871-9).
He said he still hasn’t gotten over the heartbreaking 10-inning loss to Vanderbilt in the last season’s College World Series that ended Texas’ season one game shy of the championship series.
“I'm still not over it. I'm not over it,” Garrido said. “I don't want to get over it. I want to be motivated by it. I'm excited to get it started. Let's go. We got three years. We're going to win. We're going to win again.”
A NAME TO KNOW
The Longhorns, like last season, will have several freshmen that could make a big impact on this team. Perhaps none more so greater than heralded catcher Michael Cantu.
He was chosen in the 30th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs but would have likely been much higher had he not expressed a desire to come to UT.
The dude can flat rake at 6-foot-3 and 237 pounds. He was ranked 112th overall and the top overall catcher in the state by Perfect Game. He hit .352 for his career with 14 home runs and 109 RBI at Corpus Christi Moody.
Garrido mentioned that Tres Barrera, who took over the catching roll last season as a freshman, is going to have his work cut out for him to keep his starting spot.
“He is a prospect at this point,” Garrido said of Cantu. “I've really been impressed with his work ethic, his commitment to team, the way he handles and talks to the pitchers is mature beyond most prospects. They're usually very self-centered when they're as talented as he is. He's actually stronger than Barrera. When the ball jumps off his bat it goes farther than Barrera. Now, don't tell Barrera that, but that's true.”
If nothing else, Cantu could be a great DH option.
NEW NAME AT THIRD BASE?
Garrido mentioned that Bret Boswell, who suffered a wrist injury that caused him to miss his freshman season, could play third base and Zane Gurwitz, who started at third last season, will likely move to the outfield.
Boswell’s glove is just too solid to not put at the hot corner, while Gurwitz’s bat and motor are too vital to leave out of the lineup.
One thing you’ll notice about this team that you didn’t see last season if just how big the guys are physically.
A few freshmen that stood out to me were catcher Michael Cantu (6-3, 237), pitcher/infielder Parker Joe Robinson (6-4, 240), outfielder Kaleb Denny (6-1, 201), infielder Travis Jones (6-3, 200), catcher outfielder Patrick Mathis (6-0, 193) and pitcher Tyler Schmipf (6-4, 207).
WILL TEXAS HAVE A BENCH TO RELY ON?
Something else you can expect to see from the 2014 Longhorns that wasn’t the case last season was a deeper bench.
Garrido mentioned that 20 of the 21 recruits they’ve signed over the last two seasons are on the roster, which is huge and will go a long way toward helping this team stay fresh throughout the season.
“No question we're deeper,” Garrido said. “The last five weeks of the season, we had three substitutes on the bench for position players. You didn't see us have a pinch runner, you didn't see us have a pinch hitter, you didn't see us make a defensive adjustment, and we didn't even change the lineup. There was nothing else. That was it. What you saw was what we had. It would be deeper if we had one more guy. We probably have six guys that are going to really push.”
All 10 players that Texas signed in its most recent class are on campus.
“It starts there,” he said. “We saw the value of the freshman class last year as it gained more and more experience as the season went on. It's about the same kind of recruiting class as we had with the other group. It's going to be harder to make the team though for this group of freshmen because the other one was pretty good. So, we're excited about that.”
FRENCH RETURNS FOR SENIOR SEASON
Parker French will assume the roll of ace on Texas’ staff this season after he announced that he’d return for his senior season.
“I talked to a lot of people, former players. I talked to Austin Wood, Cole Green, Nathan Thornhill about their experiences, and it just came down to I love playing with those guys and developed a really close bond throughout the season last year,” French said. “And I just knew that if I didn't come back and give this another shot at a national championship that I would regret it. I wanted to work on my leadership and come back for this group of guys.”
French went 7-5 with a 2.41 ERA last season while finishing second on the team with 62 strikeouts and 104 2/3 innings pitched.
Perhaps his most notable outing came in the CWS when he threw 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts in a 4-1 victory.
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