Most recently, Horner coached the Seattle AA minor league affiliate Jackson Generals. Here’s his exclusive interview with Cougfan.com.
Cougfan.com: What’s it like to be back in Pullman coaching at your alma mater?
Horner: “It’s great. I’m loving every minute of it. I loved going (to WSU) and have always wanted to get back (to Pullman).”
Cougfan.com: Was there any hesitation about accepting the offer to join the staff of Coach Lees?
Horner - “No. Absolutely zero. I had to call my wife. She knew that I always wanted to get back (to Pullman). When we got married I was still playing in pro ball we always told each other that if we could we'd like to get back to Pullman and raise our family. She went to U of (Idaho) and I went to WSU. We both liked the area. She was actually on her drive to Tennessee when I called her, about a day into the drive. She asked, ‘Should I stay or come?’ I told her I was going to be here for a month and to return just because I hadn’t seen her for a long time. She turned around and came back and came up to Pullman.”
Cougfan.com: Do you have children?
Horner: “I have four kids. My daughter is actually in her first semester at U of I. I have a 9th grade boy and a 7th grade boy. And I have a little girl in the third grade. The boys are doing good (in school). My youngest daughter probably had the hardest adjustment, but that’s just because she left so many friends. She’s doing much better now. ”
Cougfan.com: What changes around Pullman have you noticed since returning?
Horner: “The field (in Bailey-Brayton Stadium) is turf now. I kind of like the turf because I remember having to pull tarp on a regular basis when I was in Pullman with all the rain you got. We had a Denny’s when I went to school there and I miss that. That was kind of nice. Other than that it’s pretty similar.”
Cougfan.com: Are there differences in how you coach college-athletes as opposed to minor league players?
Horner: “The same age group is not different to coach. The kids I was working with for the Mariners were the same age group, but the rules in college baseball with the time constraints makes it different.”
Cougfan.com: Do you believe there are differences in putting together a roster through recruiting as opposed to pro ball where players are sent to you?
Horner: “You’re still looking for talented kids. The only trick is you need to convince them to come whereas in pro ball they’ve already signed and are given to you. In college baseball you get to go out and recruit the kids you think that you like. In pro ball the kids you get are the kids you get. If they do well they move up so you lose your best players. Or if they do bad they move down or get released. When I was managing in pro ball, they give you a roster and that’s your AA team. In college baseball, I get to go watch a kid and say, ‘Yes, I like that kid and I want to get him to come to Pullman because he fits our team.’
And when it comes to getting kids to come to WSU, in my personal opinion, I think Pullman sells itself. Now if you’re a big city kid and you want to be in a big city, it doesn’t sell it. But the simple fact it’s a small town and it’s a university town, meaning that everything is about the university, that’s what I loved about Pullman when I went there. You can go down the street and people knew who you were because it is a small town.”
Cougfan.com: Do you think kids view your advice differently because of your pro ball experience?
Horner: “I don’t look at it as though, ‘This is where I’ve been so you should do it this way’. A lot of them knew (my background) as soon as I got hired. They probably Googled and found out everything they could on the internet. I’m not sure I know how to do it, but they know how to do it. If they ask me questions about (pro ball) I answer them. That’s something they can benefit from.”
Cougfan.com: Is there a special bond between you and your players because you are a Coug?
Horner: “That’s the definition of a Coug, isn’t it? ‘Go Cougs!’ That’s what we say all the time. That’s what we believe and we believe in each other.”
NOTABLE NOTE: WSU (7-12, 0-3 Pac-12) opens a three-game series at at Stanford (10-5, 0-0 Pac-12) on Thursday.