OMAHA, Neb. -- Media Day at the College World Series in Omaha features all four coaches on a single side of a bracket speaking at the same news conference, and conversing a bit.
For today’s proceedings, it seemed at times like a reunion. Dan McDonnell knows former Louisville assistant and current Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis from their days at The Citadel. He’s the godfather of one of Lemonis’ children. McDonnell and Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin are longtime friends.
In between the baseball, they talked a bit about their friendships with each other.
Below is a transcript of the questions fielded by McDonnell and Corbin, whose teams will face off on Sunday at 2 in their opener, televised by ESPN. MSU and Auburn will follow at 7.
McDonnell got things started with an opening statement. To read a full transcript of the news conference, visit ASAP Sports by clicking here.
McDONNELL: Thanks. Honored and excited to be here. This never gets old, and we know how difficult it is to get here. There's so much parity in college baseball that it's a great accomplishment. Really proud of our players, our coaching staff, our support staff. We win with a lot of great people at the University of Louisville. I'm really proud and happy for them.
Also want to congratulate the other seven teams here. As I said, it's just not easy to get to Omaha. This is a goal that we set out at the beginning of the year, and even before the season started, so it's just a lot of hard work that goes behind this, and honored to be here. Obviously, I got one of my best friends here to my left (Lemonis), and this guy to my right (Corbin), we've coached against each other for many, many years. Something we've always said, if we had to play each other, we'd much rather play each other in Omaha. That is just not fun going against these guys in a regional or a Super Regional because the goal is to get to Omaha, and you hate knocking off somebody that you're friends with or you respect so much. So here we are, about to play each other.
Q. Tim, the seasons of each of these guys, each of these programs are defined whether or not you get to Omaha. Now that you're at Omaha, how do you -- do you reset the expectations? How do you keep the guys from just being appreciative that they got here as opposed to being hungry to get further into the bracket? How do you balance those things?
CORBIN: Well, I just think it's completely different than what you've gone through. It's a championship season, so it doesn't resemble what you've done up to this point. Some ways when you get here, you take a deep breath because it's such a struggle, as Dan and Butch alluded to in terms of getting here. But then once you get here, then you just kind of redefine what you do, and I think it's just about trying to play the best baseball you can in this environment. The game doesn't change. The outside, the ancillary components of the tournament change a little bit, but it still just becomes baseball.
But where we're taking a group of guys that haven't been here before is unique in some ways, but everyone gets here at some point for the first time, and it's just really about settling in and just trying to center yourselves mentally and physically to play good baseball.
Q. Thoughts on your defense? The park plays big. Thoughts on your defense, shortstop, second base and thoughts on your arms and the outfield?
CORBIN: Yeah, they're okay. I don't know, it's three pretty good solid outfielders. I think we've got pretty good defensive skills. We played pretty good defense all year for the most part. Percentage wise statistically I think we're .981, but I'm always looking for better.
I think when you get out here, it's so spacious, you just want to be able to cover the ground, and like Dan, we play on turf, so it's just managing the grass and dirt for the first time and the ball speeds. But no, I think we've handled ourselves pretty well from that standpoint, the arms in the outfield. I can't say the enemy is standing right next to me, so I don't want to say that. But no, it's fine. Our defense has been pretty good.
McDONNELL: Yeah, like Tim, we play on a turf field, but we feel Jim Patterson Stadium is a good-sized college park. There are some small ones out there, but I think for our outfielders, our center fielder Lucas Dunn is comfortable roaming in a big space. Our right fielder Drew Campbell I think plays in one of the more challenging right field ballparks in all of college baseball. So we definitely don't feel like when we get out here that this field is too big for us.
But as Tim mentioned, being from a turf field, we take pride with good infielders, good defense, and the leagues that we're in, we played at NC State and we played at Clemson and we played in the Durham Bulls park when we played Duke. So a really tough ACC league with natural surfaces.
We've been pretty solid, pretty good defensively all year.
Q. For each of you, you all understand the demands of your profession. Can you imagine coaching at the age of 75, and if you can't win this whole thing, does a little piece of you hope (Florida State coach) Mike Martin does?
McDONNELL: I remember Chris and I were assistants at the Citadel and we went down and played at Florida State during the regular season. We got sent there to the regional one year, which was not fun. But I just -- I get a lot of respect for coaches and look back as to how did they treat you when you were an assistant, and I just remember how well he treated us.
Five years ago I had my first conference call with the ACC coaches on the phone. I don't get star-struck too much, but every coach called out their name and what school they were from, and I'm just sitting there in my office sounding bold and confident, and I'm thinking, wow, man, there are some legends in the game in this league. You'd better be ready to compete.
Over the five years, it's been a real joy just coaching against them because you know if you beat him, he's going to be so complimentary, and if he beats you, he's going to be so gracious and never to make you feel bad. It's one of the neatest handshakes you can have after a game, win or lose. You can tell it's a genuine, sweet, kind person, and I think the older we get, the more we realize we can be successful because we're pretty good with X's and O's and we can recruit and work hard, but there's a lot more factors that go into being successful, and you learn from a guy like 11, as we call him in the ACC, how you treat people, and it goes a long way.
CORBIN: All of them and I think that's the part that we all see and you respect so much. It will never be done again. It will never be done again. He's coached generations of players and adapted with each generation like no other, which is so difficult to do. You think of today's kid versus -- and it's not even the kids, it's just what surrounds the kids in order to change their behaviors. He's always adapted. He's a fantastic guy. He got to coach Mike Yastrzemski, Sr., and then I got to coach Mike Yastrzemski, Sr.'s, son and we played against Florida State in that Super Regional there in Tallahassee, and I'll never forget how he treated him in that entire situation.
He's a gem. He's real. We're going to miss him. It's almost like when you're sitting next to him, you feel like he can't go anywhere. He's still vibrant and sharp, mind works quick. He's sharper than most. It's going to be unique not to have him around.
Q. Dan, obviously your offense isn't built on power. You didn't have a home run last week in your super regional. Because the ballpark plays so large, do you feel like the way your offense is run kind of allows you guys to carry that over into this week?
McDONNELL: We hope so. We've never been one to live and die off the home run anyway because I talked about the dimensions of our ballpark a little earlier. We just want to be balanced. We want to run the bases the right way. We want to put the ball in play. We want to put pressure on defenses. I think we're more into doubles and situations like that than we are the home run. I get it, man, the home run is a sexy part of our game right now, but it's a good feeling knowing you don't live and die by it, and I think we've shown that in the postseason and just got a good lineup with balance up and down the order, and whenever I speak at baseball clinics or conventions or things like that, it's just about scoring runs. However you can score runs, I don't know if anybody really cares. Stick your chest out and say we did it this way or that way. It's just you've got to get that guy to cross home plate.
Q. Tim, you played Louisville earlier in the year. I'm curious your thoughts on the balance they have offensively from the top of the lineup to the bottom because the bottom is hitting really well recently, as well.
CORBIN: Louisville is Louisville. When you look at Dan's teams, always plenty of speed. You get to that point of the season when we play them, it's in May, and I always follow him from afar, but I never look at them statistically, and every time I look at the stats, I go, holy cow, they're running just as much as they did last year, and we certainly don't see their weekend pitching, but we're very familiar with it, and they don't see ours but they're very familiar with theirs and ours.
But no, it's much like what we've seen in the past. I mean, we just play them the one time, but very observant of what he does. I say this about Dan, too, and he wouldn't want me to say this, but he's texting my wife when they get done, they get done before anyone, and he's texting my wife to make her feel good during our super regional, which was kind of him, and just telling her to hang in there.
You know, it's more than -- I know our teams will just be playing one another, but we've become very close through the years, and if he continues texting her during our game, I guess it's good and bad. It's good that he's distracted, it's bad that there's something going on that I don't know about. (Laughter.)
Q. Tim, I think the Wall Street Journal reported that high school players were drafted at a declining rate over the last seven years, and I just wonder from your perspective why you think that is, more college players being drafted?
CORBIN: I think the front offices of Major League teams have changed a little bit. I say a little bit, probably a lot of bit, in the last 10 years. They're more collegiate in nature, and because of that, they've probably taken an approach to drafting college kids because they think they're more trustworthy, when you're 21, 22 years of age and you've experienced college or the ACC or the SEC or the Big 12 for a point in time and you've been successful at it, then there's a trust factor that goes into spending money on a young man, and they've got business to do, and if they're going to make an investment, their investment is more towards a nice stock of trustworthy stock, and I think that's what's happened.
Q. Dan, we heard Chris talking about y'all's relationship a little bit there, and I know you've been a head coach before, but to sit back and watch his journey and to watch what he's done with Mississippi State this year, now there's a chance that he'll be in the opposite dugout to you at some point in this tournament, what emotions go through you to see the success he had throughout the year and what emotions will go through you if you get that chance and you guys are in opposing dugouts?
McDONNELL: Like Tim mentioned about Erik, you know you wouldn't be where you're at with the success without great people around you and got the chance to coach with Chris at the Citadel and at Louisville. So people I knew down at Mississippi State when he got the job, I just said, hey, man, you got a star, and I don't know if all your fans realize that, but they will soon. We know inside of college baseball usually who the stars are. Sometimes we don't, but I was very clear this guy is a star, and no doubt he would run in there and do great things. As these guys mentioned, you're playing, you're trying to help your team advance, but your eyes are on the other games, as well, and the relationships you have and the people you're pulling for, and don't let Tim fool you now, my wife Julie Ann is good friends with Maggie, and we meet up in the Cape and we have dinner, and I think the longer we do this, our wives go through this -- the good and bad, the highs and the lows.
So just so proud of him because we played together. We coached together. We were in each other's weddings. It's family. I mean, it's -- his daughters and my sons, they act like family. Our wives are best friends. So it's really neat, and you don't ever want to coach -- I got to coach against him when he was at Indiana, and it wasn't a lot of fun. But as I said, you know if you're going to have to cross paths, this is the place to do it as opposed to the earlier stages.
Just so much respect for him, so it's fun. It's fun the older I get and the more relationships I have just following other programs out there. And it's not that you're ever really rooting against the other team because there's a good chance you probably know that coach and you know how hard he's worked. But there are those special relationships, and I think for Chris and I, it's been a celebration of the Citadel just because that's where we came from, a small military school in Charleston, South Carolina. I often wonder how his players think, this guy went to a military school? Just with his personality and how jolly he is. But as I've often said, man, it's a fierce competitor, so don't let the smile and the jokes fool you. When it comes time to compete, what I've always loved about him and probably the whole group I played with at the Citadel, man, we were some competitive kids with a chip on our shoulder.
This is a proud moment for not just the two of us but for all those Citadel guys we played with, all those guys we coached, all the alumni of a really neat, neat institution.
Q. Dan, after the Super Regional win, you said that you want to come here and be better prepared. So what have you learned in your past experiences here, and where did you want to be more prepared this time?
McDONNELL: Oh, man, I remember I learned a lot from Mike Bianco in my six years with him at Ole Miss. Are you allowed to root for both schools, Ole Miss and Mississippi State? I know there's probably not a lot of people that do, but I do, so that's an unusual combination where I'm rooting for him and rooting for Chris. I just remember him giving me advice from Skip Bertman just about how overwhelming it could be. So the first time we went in '07 I called Mike and he gives me the Skip Bertman lesson and I preach it to my players, and I probably preached it every year, but I go back and you go, man, I don't know if I did a good enough job myself because it's overwhelming, there's so much going on. You want to be respectful and you appreciate the love that everybody is giving you. But you've got to manage your time wisely. So I met with our team Sunday and challenged them of the challenges ahead, and let's stay prepared, let's stay focused, so I just try to day in and day out -- I've probably done less interviews this year, which is a little disappointing because the kids laugh because usually when I do interviews with people that don't know me, I get called Coach McConnell or some off name of my last name and the kids just have a blast with them. The players love -- any time I can pick on a coach they just love it, so they call me Donnie McDonnell. So that's the one thing I miss of doing these interviews with coaches that don't know me because they get my name wrong. But just trying to stay balanced and keep the main thing the main thing. We all got here because we played great baseball and we just want to prepare to play great baseball, and however that is, each coach has their own way of doing that. I just want to be myself and keep doing the things that we've been doing to this point.
Q. You mentioned with this team being so young, 18 new players, how have they handled this Omaha experience so far? Anything surprise you? Are they handling it better than you expected, or have you had to corral them in a little bit?
McDONNELL: Well, it's been six years since I've been here as an assistant for John Cohen, and the layers, the Major League game last night, there's been a lot added in the last six years, the depth of what -- distractions is a word. But these kids deserve this. I'm just thankful that every one of these student athletes that play for these great schools get to experience this, and especially our guys, to go through it.
To me, whether you believe in momentum or not, when you have a good rhythm going, you want to keep it going. At some way -- I just try to apply the bell curve to everything, so as soon as we leave the Super Regional, we're just easing back into meetings and lifting and then try to build back up. We actually had hitters facing pitchers yesterday, so that was the top of our curve, and now we're coming back down.
But from being here a couple of times, I think the first couple of times, I don't think I enjoyed my trip here. We're going to find a way to win this championship, and you're not going to have any fun. You've just got to stay driven. We'll see how this plays out because I want them to enjoy this experience. This city, the NCAA, everybody is invested and worked so hard to keep putting this together to make this one of the most unique championships that we host with the NCAA that I want our guys to enjoy every second that they're here and still love to try to go out and compete and play as well as we can when they start on Sunday.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports