Almost exactly four months ago, Texas had its season end too soon. In late May, the Longhorns were not chosen to play in the NCAA tournament.
It’s a new year, and Tuesday marked the start of fall practice for the team. The Longhorns hit the field with no thoughts about rebuilding the team after last year’s disappointing season. Texas finished the 2012 season last spring with a 30-22 record and 13-10 mark in conference play. The Longhorns were eliminated after two games in the Big 12 Championship and didn’t make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.
“That’s not Texas baseball, that’s not who we are,” said junior Mark Payton. “We know we have the talent. We always get the best talent. It’s whether or not we come together as a team. That’s how you win ball games.”
With the No. 15 recruiting class in the nation coming in this year, the team is ignoring all the “starting over” and “rebuilding” talk going on about the team.
“Every year is a new beginning and every day is a new opportunity, there’s no question about that,” head coach Augie Garrido said.
Garrido, who is college baseball’s winningest head coach, is trying to teach his players a new vocabulary and use last year as a learning experience.
The coaching staff wants the players to settle into their routines and do what they do naturally while also recognizing that they motivate themselves and can overcome any negative thoughts that might come into their heads.
“We are asking them to take one goal a day from offense,” Garrido said. “One goal a day from defense, and one goal a day from the mental game and see how they do with that one day at a time. Each day provides an opportunity for learning. There are no failures. Whatever goes bad or doesn’t work out well is an opportunity to learn what you need to do to correct it.”
For the players, they believe that rebuilding doesn’t represent Texas. Rebuilding for them sounds like a year-by-year process, but they believe they can fix their problems this year. All they want to do is move on and focus.
“We’re just starting a new year. We don’t need to start over,” said pitcher Nathan Thornhill. “We got a great group of guys in that locker room, some new young ones that’ll help contribute. We have a goal in front of us that we want to accomplish, and we can this year.”
With a lot of impressive recruits coming in, both freshmen and junior college transfers, competition will push them to their potential. Every position has multiple players that are good enough to play everyday.
“I love having competition. I love having competition everywhere,” junior infielder Alex Silver said. “There are no days off. We have off days Saturday and Sunday, and hopefully all the guys are going to be out here. It’s great that you can’t just throw away an at-bat. You have to embrace competition and take advantage of it.”
The Longhorns want to instill three main points during their fall practices and scrimmages: work ethic, the players’ willingness to sacrifice for the team and the competitive attitude of the team. Garrido compared his team to the Dallas Cowboys, saying you can have all the talent you can get, but without teamwork it’s nothing.
“We have two main goals in these fall practices,” Garrido said. “To get to know each other and to build our confidence. Until you know someone you can’t really help them. We don’t create the player; we reinforce the things they don’t do as well so that they themselves can be [better players]. We have to get to know them before we can do that, and they have to get to know us. One keyword is trust.”
While the Longhorns are viewing this year as a new experience, they have already forgotten about last year. In an interview Garrido jokingly asked a reporter what happened last year. They have already put it out of their heads. The start of fall practice and these scrimmages are a time for the team to learn about each other and get better as a whole. The six-time national champions are sure that this year can be different for them.
Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: Horns refuse to dwell on past