June 28, 2012
Inside Michigan Baseball with Coach Bakich
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Opening statement ... "Thank you everyone for coming. This is an exciting day for me, my family and for Michigan baseball. Like (Michigan athletic director) Dave (Brandon) said, you're going to see a lot of passion exuded from this guy right here. Without further ado, I'd like to thank Dave Brandon for this incredible opportunity. I actually knew that before I even met Dave that I wanted to work for him. His leadership style and the fact that how his life had been impacted by a coach in Bo Schembechler and how my life had been impacted by my college coach as well, I knew that I wanted to get on board and I wanted to be at Michigan, first and foremost because of the tradition and what this elite university is, but also because Dave's here. I'd like to thank Bitsy Ritt for making that first phone call to me. I certainly appreciate that. That certainly got the ball rolling and I wouldn't be here without her. The University of Michigan is one of the elite universities in the world and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this university and this storied tradition. I wanted to recognize coach (Rich) Maloney and his staff for the 10 years they invested into this program to build these beautiful facilities; to have a hand in that. It's certainly one of the reasons that makes this job extremely attractive and one of the reasons why we have one of the best baseball stadiums in the nation and to build upon the success that staff had four and five years ago and that's extremely important. The other thing I'm extremely proud of is the coaching tree that I come from and I wouldn't be here today without the impact that those guys have had in my life. The college coach that I played for, a guy named Keith LeClair, who I played for at East Carolina. He taught me more about being a man and about character and about integrity than anyone I ever met and certainly changed the direction of my life at the time when I was thinking I was going to go in one direction after baseball when was over to knowing that I wanted to have the same impact on baseball players and student-athletes that he had on me and my teammates. He has passed away now, but he was a tremendous, tremendous influence on me and the guys that I played with. Jack Leggett at Clemson, who gave me my first coaching job as a volunteer coach at Clemson, ironically enough coached the player who I played for and coached with, coach Leggett, so I was able to stay in that same tree. The things I learned about coaching, it's a whole different ball game once you cross that line from player to coach and to be able to get started at a young age and to see how a class program like Clemson was run was certainly extremely important to my development as a coach. When I got there I met a guy name Tim Corbin who was the recruiter at Clemson at the time and we spent one year at Clemson in 2002, advanced to the World Series, had a great season and had the opportunity to go with him to Vanderbilt and spent seven great years at Vanderbilt and learned everything I know about recruiting from Tim Corbin and that enabled me to get my first head coaching opportunity at Maryland and then ultimately allow that success to be able to have this position here today. Coach Corbin is a tremendous friend, he's another person I'd consider a mentor and a leader in my life and I wouldn't be here today without him so I wanted to make sure I recognized those coaches that have been an extreme positive influence in my life.
"I wanted to thank the University of Maryland for giving me my first head coaching job. The players and families, those relationships, a lot of tough phone calls made in the last couple of days, but those relationships are what this is all about and those relationships will continue and I want to thank those players and families that were a part of that program for the last three years. The coaches, the donors, the fans and the administration there I would be remiss not to mention them. And then most importantly, my wife Jiffy and my son Colt. Jiffy is a rock of stability and support in my life and I would not be standing here today if she was not tolerable to 21-day recruiting trips and a lot nights sleeping in the office. She is almost eight months pregnant now, when we found out pretty much last winter that she was pregnant and we were talking and said, 'Well, we're pretty much guaranteed were not going anywhere this summer.' And she said, 'Yea right unless Michigan calls.' She'll tell you that, and that was true. I've had my eyes on this place for a long time after getting our butts kicked by them at Vanderbilt in '07. If you would have told me five years ago that I would have had the opportunity to lead this program, I don't know if I would have believed you because this is a tremendous, tremendous privilege and a tremendous, tremendous opportunity.
"My big guy Colt right there, thank you to Jan Brandon who gave him a bat. He's hit every wall on the way here. All he wants to do is hit in the cage I'm surprised he's not in there right now. Once he saw this place he said 'Wow, this is nice,' and then he immediately committed to the 2027 class; we are ready to go! He's a left-handed hitter so we've got a good start on that.
"Michigan to me is about excellence and it represents a standard of academic and athletic excellence that is unparalleled and it is one of the elite institutions in the world and it was just a place that I wanted to be a part of. I couldn't have jumped at this opportunity fast enough. I made that very clear throughout the interview processes and I couldn't be more excited for my family and I to be standing in front of you today. That excellence is going to be upheld by our coaches and by our players. In my opinion student athlete are not just student athletes in the games, their standard of excellence is going to be upheld not only in the games, but in the way we practice, the way we train, in the classroom and in the community. In those four areas that standard of excellence, it's a privilege not a right to be here and we're going to make sure everyone is accountable and responsible for what this university represents on a daily basis.
"When I think about the Big Ten, I think about Michigan. To me the Big Ten is Michigan. And when I think about Michigan I think about that standard of excellence. I think about the Big Ten, I think about the Big House packed, I think about the Maize and Blue, I think about championships. We are the class of the Big Ten and we take a back seat to nobody, and we're going to make sure that's going to be the case in baseball from here on out. It's about restoring the glory like Mr. Brandon said. We've had some great success in the past. Four and five years ago we did some great things here with regionals, and super regionals, and hosting regionals. The teams in the 80's with coach Middaugh and all the great players whose pictures you can see throughout the stadium and the history and the storied tradition. It's about restoring that passion, that tradition, that excitement and that enthusiasm of what is Michigan baseball, and that's going to happen, not overnight, but it's going to happen quickly. We're going to make sure of that because we're going to put a staff together that's going to uphold all of those values. This program is going to be predicated on recruiting and player development. One of the reasons I'm here is because of some of the success of the programs that I've been a part of in recruiting. Great players make great coaches a lot of times and it's amazing I became a much better hitting coach when Pedro Alvarez was hitting third for us at Vanderbilt, but you've got to have good players and that starts with your own state. The teams that have been the most successful at Michigan have had the best players from Michigan and we are going to make sure from now on, that the University of Michigan gets the best players in Michigan and that's going to be our battle cry moving forward, that we're going to win championships here with residents of the state of Michigan and the very best players in Michigan, the very best players in this region and the very best players in the nation and those guys are going to represent that standard of excellence academically, athletically and they're going to have the right character and the right make up that we're looking for that's going to be the heart of the identity of Michigan baseball.
"It's all about the relationships and those relationships start in the recruiting process, they strengthen while these students athletes are playing there and then they get even stronger once these guys graduate and leave. That leads into player development because our goal is not only to develop these guys as baseball players, but that's just part of it. It's our goal to develop these guys academically, athletically and socially. We've got to make our players the best people that they can be. One of our goals for sure is going to be to get these guys to reach their maximum potential and we're going to be talking about that a lot. If our players will reach their maximum potential in the classroom, on the baseball field, in the weight room and as people then the winning is going to take care of itself. The championships are going to be a byproduct of that effort and that s something that we're going to work on a daily basis with a very process-oriented approach of getting better every single day and it's going to be reiterated on a constant basis with our players, with our coaches and with our teams. Academically the goals are going to be to achieve excellence in the classroom. We're going to have things in place: 100 percent attendance policy, were going to have a goal to have a team GPA of 3.0, we want to have a 100 percent graduation rate, just the things that should be evident in any baseball program or any college sports program. These guys are here to get degrees. Baseball is a small window of everybody's life and you've got to be a successful contributing member of society when life after baseball comes because life after baseball comes for everybody. We're going to make sure we're very successful in the classroom because a degree from Michigan, the name recognition alone, is something that is extremely valuable and these guys are going to understand they're here to get their degrees. Athletically, I think that's probably the part that we're going to see the fastest results. It starts with the physical development. These guys are going to engage in an individual strength and conditioning and nutrition program that is baseball specific. It's an accelerated development program where we're going to measure and they are going to see their personal results skyrocket in a short amount of time and they're going to gain confidence from that. That development program is one of the big reasons why a lot of players, the track record in the programs I've been a part of in the past a lot of players had the opportunity to not only have a great deal of success in the college game but also have an opportunity to play professionally because they were able to maximize that development.
"What's most important though is their social development and I would split that up into three categories, one being teaching these guys about servant leadership and putting the needs of the team and other people ahead of their own and that's something we'll work on a daily basis. We're going to have a leadership training program that falls in line with the great leadership that we have at this institution and in our athletic department. We're going to teach these guys about perspective building, their outlook on how they view things and we're going to be very, very strong in the mental game. Teach these guys to control the things they can control, to have performance routines. In baseball it's a game of adversity, there's failure a lot of times and you have to be able to have a routine when the garbage hits the fan because the garbage hits the fan a lot in baseball. These guys are absolutely going to be able to make sure their confidence is at an all-time level because it's making them learn that you're going to have to fake it before you make it sometimes with confidence in baseball because confidence is the key.
"From a recruiting and a development standpoint, those are going to be the pillars; those are going to be the backbone of this program. Then for our program, the goals are about championships and understanding championships are not just about winning the championship game. Championships are about being a champion on a daily basis and controlling attitude, perspective and effort and having that process-oriented approach of getting better every single day. Of course, were going to set a goal of winning a national championship, that's what all the competitive teams in this country are doing, but understanding what it takes to get to that point, not just focusing on a national championship and focusing on Omaha, that's too far away. That's the destination; we're going to be focused on the journey. It's about winning the super regional championship, winning the regional championship, winning the Big Ten conference championship, winning the Big Ten regular-season championship and then winning practice that day and getting better every single day that we have the opportunity to.
"This program, as you can see, is going to be built on relentless energy. That's one of the things that I will commit to bringing every single day, my energy level will never subside. We've got to catch Hutch (head Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins). Hutch has set the bar. The softball program gives me tremendous optimism of what baseball can do here and not just do it once in a while, but do it on a consistent level. She is someone I've enjoyed meeting and I'm looking forward to spending time with and picking her brain on exactly how she does it. Like I told Dave in the interview process, I'm not from Michigan, I never lived in Michigan, but I believe I have the values and the beliefs of what I think a Michigan Man is and I want to raise my sons to be Michigan Men. I cannot tell you enough how fired up I am to be at Michigan. Go Blue!"
On belief on whether a northern school can achieve high levels of success of a consistent basis .. "The Big Ten has not reached a College World Series since 1984. The last team who did it was Michigan. So it's been done. I think coach Hutch has built a tremendous program of consistency and in baseball we've got to find the things that are consistent among championship teams. When you build a team to win championships you build it based around pitching and defense and that's certainly where we are going to spend our scholarship dollars and make sure that we are very, very strong on the mound and defensively. The whole concept of it being a drought or it's been a long time; I don't buy in to that. There is no reason that if we get invited to the dance we can't get hot and do what a couple of other northern teams did this year, to reach and advance to the World Series because once you get to the postseason, it's not the best team it's the team that's playing the best so we're going to make sure we have every opportunity to get invited to that field of 64."
On how recruiting strategy changes being at a northern school ... "I think the experience at Maryland, which may not be as north as Michigan, but certainly that concept of being in a colder climate. It's getting the kids to see the advantages of your institution, getting them to see what the strengths are. You look around Michigan, you see a commitment to baseball, a tremendous baseball facility, a tremendous academic institution, one of the elite in the nation and what you see is opportunity, opportunity to recruit the right guys from our state, from the region, to come in and win championships. That's going to create the opportunity to advance further and further into the postseason."
On ability to assess differences in the program since Coach Bakich last encountered it in '07 ... "Like I mentioned, what I saw four and five years ago in '06, '07 and '08 and the teams of the 80s were the best players in the state of Michigan coming to the University of Michigan and we want to make sure that's our number one priority from a recruiting standpoint is securing those guys. That's a tremendous amount of pride for a player to be from the state of Michigan and get the opportunity to wear Michigan across his chest with his college uniform and we're going to make sure that happens."
On whether coach Bakich has recruited the state of Michigan before ... "Yes, I've recruited nationally at Vanderbilt for seven years and had players from all over, been in every corner of this country and that's the opportunity and advantage you get at an elite academic institution like this is and like Vanderbilt is. I look forward to putting together a staff that has connections to the state of Michigan, but also has connections throughout the country. You mention Hutch, her roster is filled with Michigan players, player from Illinois, players from the Midwest region and players from California as well as a few other sprinkled in, so I think we're going to follow that same model."
On whether coach Bakich will use current connections down south to recruit players there as well ... "The great thing about Michigan is that it's a web that's connected all over this country and there's probably going to be some players down south that may have a connection to the University of Michigan. We absolutely wouldn't rule out any part of the country, but I think our focus is going to be right here in the state and then in the region and then we'll branch out after that and if that means we go to California, Florida or down into the sun belt in the south then we certainly can."