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June 16, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're going to start off with opening statements from the coaches, and then we will open it up for questions.
On the dais, Pat Casey of Oregon State, the No. 1 national seed and national champions twice in '06 and '07. Beavers' sixth trip to Omaha, their first since 2013. Rick Vanderhook of Cal State Fullerton. They've had four National Championships at Fullerton. This is their 18th trip to Omaha and their first since 2015. Oregon State and Fullerton play tomorrow afternoon at 2:00. Of course, Paul Mainieri of LSU, six national champions at LSU, their 18th trip to Omaha and their first since 2015. And Mike Martin from Florida State. The Seminoles' 23rd trip to Omaha and their first since 2012. LSU and Florida State, the 7:00 game tomorrow evening.
Let's start off with a statement from each one of the coaches. We'll start with you, Pat.
PAT CASEY: First of all, like I'm sure all the coaches up here were very fortunate and excited about being here. Everybody knows how difficult that is. So congratulations to all those coaches up here.
The deck's stacked pretty good. I'm looking to my left, and there's 59 World Series appearances between the three of them, and I've got six (indiscernible) universities, I guess I'm on my own again. It's exciting. You work all the time, talk all the time about getting to Omaha, and to see kids actually have the opportunity to experience that is special for your program, your university, your fan base, and everything else. So we're excited about being here.
THE MODERATOR: Rick?
RICK VANDERHOOK: Thank you for having us. As we were signing autographs, people were thanking us. It's like thank you for having us be here because it's better to be signing autographs than it is to be back at school recruiting or doing something else.
It's a privilege to be here with Coach Martin, Coach Mainieri, and Case. I got to watch them for many years as an assistant, and it is an honor to be here with all these guys. I hope we have a good series.
THE MODERATOR: Paul?
PAUL MAINIERI: What Rick just said is absolutely the way that I feel as well. The man to my left, Mike Martin, is clearly a legend in the game, one of the greatest coaches in the history of our sport. When he retires, he'll be the winningest coach in history without a doubt. I've long admired him, having grown up in the state of Florida.
And just to be out on the field with him, it's the same way I felt when I coached against Augie. You know you're in the presence of greatness, and it's such a great challenge for you as a coach. I'm just really looking forward to it.
And these two guys to my right, I think Pat Casey is probably the most underrated coach in the history of college baseball, two National Championships, so many years, just a phenomenal program that he runs. And Rick has been a part of so many great teams at Fullerton, my goodness. Just being around these three programs is such an honor, and I'm glad that we were able to get to Omaha. Our team has been playing pretty good baseball for the last several weeks. I'm glad we were able to get here.
As a young coach -- and these guys will probably tell you the same thing -- I used to lay awake in bed at night and pray I could get a team to Omaha. Any time we get a team here, it's a great deal of self-satisfaction.
MIKE MARTIN: I noticed you two didn't say anything about our National Championships (laughter). I'll just speak for all of these guys also. This is what it's all about. You start working in August, and you get here, and, sure, it's something that we all dream about. I don't give a flip how many times these guys have been out here. It still feels new, and it's the result of a lot of hard work by their staff, by their players, and no matter what happens out here, you can never take that away from all of us.
This is -- it's fun for us to be here to mingle with you guys. Let's face it, this event wouldn't be what it is without the media attention that we get. So thanks to all of you for being here and supporting this great event, and let's just hope that the weather's not anything like Tallahassee's weather.
THE MODERATOR: Something's wrong when I've got a ring and Mike doesn't. Something's wrong. That's wrong.
Questions now. We'll start Eric back here. I didn't want to say it but --
MIKE MARTIN: Well, let me see it.
Q. The obligatory, who are you guys, each of you, going to start on the mound in your opener?
PAT CASEY: Jake Thompson.
RICK VANDERHOOK: Connor Seabold.
PAUL MAINIERI: Alex Lange.
MIKE MARTIN: Tyler Holton.
Q. For all the coaches, just the when the defense gets to this level and everyone is pretty much equal, how important is the clean play in the field and not giving teams extra outs at this point in the game?
PAT CASEY: I think defense is something that probably got us all here, part of that. Obviously, we played in a yard where the ballpark isn't going to play small, that's for sure, so you've really got to defend. We feel like we've got good defenders. We've got kids that make that something that's a point of emphasis for us is to defend.
RICK VANDERHOOK: Same thing. It's about catching the ball and not giving away 90 feet no matter how it comes up. If it's walking guys or hitting guys or making errors. The better you can keep them to earn everything that they get, the better chance you have. It's a pretty pitching-heavy series, Lange and his two guys have been here a couple times, and I've watched them on TV a lot. Case's pitching staff is pretty good. Ours is okay.
Coach Martin, I haven't paid much attention to yet, but I've watched him in the Super Regionals, and it comes down to playing catch. Nobody's going to score -- I remember one game where USC scored like three touchdowns against Arizona State years ago. The days of that are gone, and it's about how you catch it and pitch it. It's a big deal of how you win.
THE MODERATOR: I'm sorry. Paul, go ahead.
PAUL MAINIERI: We made a very conscious decision with some of the rule changes that have taken place in college baseball, specifically, the roster limits and then the bat changes. I just don't think it's possible anymore to put together a team that's good enough offensively that can hit that well that you can win based on offense. I think most of us feel that way in this business now.
So you start by building your team around pitching and defense and hope you can find enough hitters to score enough runs. But defense, to me, has been the hallmark of our program really over the last several years.
MIKE MARTIN: We have three sayings up on the wall when we go through the area, and it's pitching, defense, and base running. So I don't think there's any question we're all in agreement that the pitching and defense can win a lot of ball games for you.
Q. For Coach Martin, what is the biggest difference in this event and for you personally since you took -- today from when you took your first team here?
MIKE MARTIN: Well, 1980 was Arizona won it, and I'm having a senior moment. Who is the manager of the Cleveland Indians? Terry Francona, thank you. I knew it would come to me (laughter). Anyway, Francona was the right fielder for Arizona, and Mike Yastrzemski, rest his soul, Mike lost a flyball in the sun in the seventh inning, and Jerry Kindall's team just took it to us.
So I don't remember a lot about the World Series, but I will say this. In 1980, it was probably a capacity of 14,000, 15,000, and they had not yet remodeled Rosenblatt. But this series was just as exciting because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work. As far as it being changed, it hasn't changed in that respect. It's just bigger and better as a result of the attention that's been given to it by you folks.
PAT CASEY: You brought a team here in 1980? I just graduated college. What about you guys?
RICK VANDERHOOK: I was playing that year.
PAUL MAINIERI: I was in high school.
Q. Rick, can you -- you guys over the years have had a lot of success against Pac 12 teams. Can you kind of speak to what the key to that success has been over the years?
RICK VANDERHOOK: We don't have to play against them every week, week in and week out. That's the truth. I was fortunate enough to work in the Pac for three years. The rest of my career has been in the Big West, and we have good teams.
But the Pac is a grind, as the SEC and the ACC, they're a grind. Every week you're on a plane going somewhere. You have to actually go to Pullman, Washington. I do not wish that upon anybody. Sorry, Marty, but I don't. The two times I went there, we stayed in Lewiston, Idaho, which I think is 90 miles away. It's pretty far. So I never will go back. There's no traffic, but you have to grind. It's every week. It's a grind every single week. And you get tougher as you go through that schedule and finish the end of it.
You know, we've been fortunate. We play a lot of Pac teams midweek. This year we had Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA in the midweek, Stanford and USC on the weekends. Next year we go to Oregon State. Just so that we set that up last year and we end up playing tomorrow.
But it's just baseball. That's what's great about our sport. I was talking earlier. In football, you are the most physical and biggest and athletic team, you are going to win a lot of the time. In basketball, you're the most talented, athletic, physical, big team, you are going to win a lot of times. In baseball, anybody can get anybody. That's why they have so many Major League teams and they do what they do. When the Kansas City Royals win, it's amazing. But it wasn't amazing. They were a super good baseball team, and everybody here is a super good baseball team.
It's going to come down to probably talent and luck because we all need luck in this game. Everybody wants it, and whoever gets luckiest will have a chance to win.
Q. Pat, with the off-field distraction you guys have had with Heimlich, could you just kind of describe the challenge that you have as far as keeping your guys' minds right when they get into an event like this? And just what you tell them to do as far as keeping focus.
PAT CASEY: Well, I don't think it's something that anybody that has been a parent hasn't had to experience and figure out how to tell somebody in their family that they -- we've got an issue, we've got a problem, or here's how you handle this situation. So our guys have handled it well.
We've got great kids. I really haven't talked about it a whole lot because I think our guys are a really tight-knit group of guys. I think that they have been able to handle that with class.
You prepare for distractions. I tell guys at the beginning of the season every year, one of the toughest things you have to do every year if you win is lock out distractions. They can come from your family. They can come from people that love you. They can come from people that hate you. They can come from anywhere, and you've got to be prepared for that because, when you play as many games as college baseball teams play, and there's such an opportunity for injury playing day after day and the involvement of the professional level and people that are trying to help these kids get to the next level, you know, just so many things are around it. So just another distraction our guys have done a great job with.
Q. First of all, congratulations to everybody. Question for everybody. From fall camp to now, what have you learned more about your team that maybe you're surprised with, pleased with as far as how they developed?
THE MODERATOR: Pat, you begin, please.
PAT CASEY: Well, I'm surprised that some of the younger guys have had as much success as we've had. We didn't anticipate as many freshmen guys having an influence. Our catcher is a freshman, and he also kicked on the football team. So we didn't have him in the fall very, very often. Surprised how well he's adapted to being a front-line catcher in a Power Five conference.
But most of all, just their ability to -- and Hook said it just a minute ago -- is to get through the grind. It's a long, long deal. So we've been able to use a lot of people. We've been able to get through some situations on the road and particularly where the ball bounced our way. But I'm just pleased with the way our guys have found a way to do the little things to help them win.
RICK VANDERHOOK: How our guys have overcame stuff. We've had a few things go on within the program, and how they've overcome like losses and different things as it goes. We were written off for dead probably a while ago. We had no chance against Long Beach State because they beat us 5 out of 6 -- three by one run. But how they've just overcome.
We lost -- we're not the deepest team here, I can tell you that much, but how they overcame Colton Eastman going down in week two and missed him for ten weeks. Guys stepped up and did roles they weren't supposed to do and I didn't think they could do.
I'm probably closer to Case than these guys. I'm a grinder, as some guys know, and they handled it. Since we've gotten postseason, I've stepped away. I've stepped away. It's not up to me right now. I get to write nine names on a lineup card and make some pitching changes, but how my older guys have taken over and taken possession. Everybody wants leadership, but leadership is the hardest thing I think we can teach. Guys either have it or they don't have it. I've had some guys step up and take full possession of the team, and I don't need to tell them anything. I tell those guys, they tell the team, they do what they want to do.
So I think that's something that -- maybe I've matured, too, because that wasn't me. The last time I sat at this table, it was intimidating with Paul, I think, and Corbin and -- I don't know who else was in our bracket. And I'm looking over here thinking, oh, my gosh, what's going on? Now I don't care (laughter). I don't care. We can't teach them anything right now. We can't do anything. We don't need to motivate them. Let's give them the keys to the car and drive and see what happens.
PAUL MAINIERI: Unbelievable. Great, Rick.
I think, Howard, with us, kind of what Pat said, I have a couple of freshman that have emerged from the fall till now that you couldn't have imagined they'd be playing such a vital role. A little centerfielder named Zach Watson that I knew wasn't ready for college baseball throughout the fall, and then when we came back in the spring and the intersquad scrimmages, I could see the improvement. You still knew he wouldn't be in the lineup on opening day, but you could just sense at some point we'd put him in, and he'd be a real spark for our team. We did that before the SEC play started.
He's probably exceeded everyone's expectations, including mine, both defensively and offensively. He's just turned out to be a great little ballplayer.
And the other one was a freshman pitcher by the name of Zack Hess. We started the season with him as a midweek starter, and we had a couple of injuries to our bullpen guys, and I just felt out of necessity we needed to move him down there. He has really embraced that role, and I think Alan Dunn, our pitching coach, has done a phenomenal job with him, and he's been a weapon for us coming out of the bullpen.
MIKE MARTIN: Other than Pat, three of us up here have gone through a tough stretch, and the word that we all used is perseverance because you're going to have some guys go down, you're going to have some situations where maybe a pitcher struggles. Could be one of your top three, and he can't seem to find it. That's when we as coaches have to be sure that we don't get down on them because they're not getting down on themselves.
I know you'll find this hard to believe, but we had a 19-year-old kid get shingles. That's my age stuff. 19 years old, he gets a case of shingles, misses 10 or 12 games.
And you won't believe this, but I feel like this is the craziest thing. We had a guy run to first base, touch first base, and broke his foot. If I hadn't have been there, I would never have been able to say it because I wouldn't have believed it myself, but the point I'm trying to make is the guys are the ones that persevered. The coaches did the best they could possibly do to stay out of the way and see what they did with that tough situation.
And, of course, you lose some ball games, and you go in the clubhouse, and there's not any of this looking at a guy that maybe made a key error. The key was they stayed together. They trusted each other, and that's what, I'm sure, happened to three of these teams because three of these teams did like so many other teams did throughout the year. They went through a rough stretch. We knew we were going to go through a rough stretch. Maybe not quite as rough as we had, but just very, very proud of what we saw happen with our club.
And I agree total what Rick said about leadership. You don't know what you've got. We found out late what we had in that leadership area. It surfaced. And that was the difference in our being here.
Q. Paul, how has Alex maybe pitched in relation to what I'm sure are really high expectations for him this year? And then what do you maybe remember about how he handled the moment two years ago when he was a pretty young guy coming here?
RICK VANDERHOOK: Do you want me to answer that?
PAUL MAINIERI: Well, Alex made a really critical mistake in his career. He decided to go 12-0 as a freshman and then improve from there. That's what everybody expected him to do. He has improved. Even in his sophomore year, I thought he made really great improvement, but his record wasn't nearly what it was his freshman year.
And now this year kind of the same type of thing. He moved into the Friday night role about halfway through his sophomore year, and he's been our guy.
He's had a couple of poor games. He had a poor game against TCU earlier in the season at Minute Maid Park, but for the most part, even when he's had outstanding games, he's given up some runs early in the game, and he didn't give up. He just kept battling. He might have burned off four more innings for us to save our bullpen as the series was evolving.
But I think he's gotten better. Obviously, he's more experienced now. He's been -- he's seen it all. He's pitched in every big ballpark that there can be. And I would assume tomorrow night he's going to go out there as a really confident, aggressive, attacking pitcher.
The reason Rick was upset is it brought back a memory that Alex had pitched against them a couple years ago, but I think they touched him for three runs the first inning. He wasn't missing many bats that first inning, and he was able to settle it in and gave it -- I think he went a complete game, didn't he?
RICK VANDERHOOK: He carved us like a Thanksgiving turkey (laughter).
PAUL MAINIERI: I love him. I wouldn't trade him for anybody.
Q. This is for Hook. What do you do to prepare for a team that's lost four games in five months?
RICK VANDERHOOK: I don't know. Do you have any answer for that? And a pitcher that's undefeated. We don't get too much into it. We know they know they're 54-4. For a while now, we've just been playing the game. It doesn't matter who's in the other dugout. Hard to do. I don't know if they all can do it, but if some of them can do it and buy in to it -- we're just going to go out and play.
I mean, they lost four times (laughter). Four! Three of them didn't even get in a regional, I think. But they're super good. They play baseball.
PAT CASEY: You're right.
RICK VANDERHOOK: Ohio State, Washington, the last place in the Pac.
MIKE MARTIN: How did they screw that up?
RICK VANDERHOOK: Coach Garrido said to me, You're playing Oregon State? He said, They lost four times. At least they can lose. I said, Coach, they won 54 games.
But like I said, it's baseball. It's Thompson. It's Seabold leading the way. And it's the defenses and the offenses scratching and clawing. That's the way I see it going. I don't see a bunch of home runs hit.
Q. Mike, your assistant coach is Mike Jr. and Coach Bell and Clyde all played for you in Omaha several years ago and are now coaching here. One, what are your memories of bringing them to Omaha as players, and, two, what's it like to have that special connection throughout the years and being here again?
MIKE MARTIN: Well, it's really neat when me, Mike Jr., and Bell played on the same team. That was a lot of fun memories, a lot of good memories. Clyde had the most devastating palm ball. It rarely is thrown today, but it was downright filthy. I remember the Wichita State game in which he pitched, and back then I call pitches, and my assistant coach said, Remember this guy does not have a home run. He's had one in his whole life. Right at him. We were in about the fifth. So I just said, Go. Clyde threw it right there, and the guy hit it out of the ballpark. Three runs. They went right back in the ball game. Inning was over with, and old Clyde came over and said, I didn't miss my spot. He's one of a kind.
But that was the memories that I had with those young men.
Q. Pat, can you comment on the status of Christian Donahue and what your plans are for left field tomorrow?
PAT CASEY: Christian Donahue is suspended for a violation of team rules.
Q. You guys have all been here before, and you get another crack at it this year. What have you learned? Was there something maybe -- not even a mistake, but just something you picked up from a previous experience? You said I'm going to do this differently if I get a second chance.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start again with Pat.
PAT CASEY: As far as coming back here, you mean? Just a lot of things. The first time you come, I think there's -- obviously, you've never been here, so there's a lot of wow factor and a lot of unknown. I think that you learn from the experience of maybe not being quite as interested in getting here as opposed to getting here and winning.
But I think you learn something all the time. I learn something every weekend when I coach. It's no different here. It's just on a bigger stage, and there's greater opportunity to succeed and greater opportunity to fail. So you continue to look for things that you see that other people have done that has given them an opportunity to win the whole thing. And whether they're relaxed or whether they're more intense or whether they're -- you know, just the little things that you pick up from watching teams play that have had great success and you try to get better at those things.
Really it comes back to what everyone has been saying over and over and over -- it's the game of baseball. You cross the white lines -- I told the '06 team the night we played Carolina for the championship, and I said, Let's just go back to what we did in Little League. And they looked at me and said, Yeah. When they hit it to you, you catch it and throw it back, and when they throw it to you, you hit it. We've practiced the things we need to do at a high level, and we've just got to do them.
RICK VANDERHOOK: There's two things, and super simple. A word of advice for myself, relax, because last time I didn't relax. And after we lost to Paul and were eliminated, he said to me, Enjoy it while you're here. And I didn't enjoy it one bit the last trip I made because you are out of place. Everybody wants to win. There's only going to be one team that goes home happy. Every other team is going to be sad for a point.
And Paul said afterwards at home plate, he said, Enjoy this. And I said, Okay. And then about two months later, I think about it every time when the postseason comes now, to just enjoy. You're fortunate, and you're blessed to be there. So enjoy the moment.
I didn't do that (indiscernible) one minute last year. I talk to the kids about it all the time. I think that's the best thing, those words of advice. That's the only thing I've changed on this trip.
PAUL MAINIERI: I don't even remember saying that to you.
RICK VANDERHOOK: Because you were happy because you won. (Laughter).
PAUL MAINIERI: I think what Rick is talking about is really the important thing because you're trying to balance two things. It's really an amazing accomplishment. There's 300 Division I playing baseball schools, and there's eight teams remaining. Every team here has won championships. We've won five already this year -- the SEC West, the SEC regular season, the SEC tournament, a regional, and a Super Regional.
So what happens, you come here, you lose, and everybody thinks you're a failure. So you have to have a great sense of accomplishment when you come here, and these -- look, we all have been here. Hopefully, we'll come back in the future. But for these young kids, they might get one time here. They might get two times here, if they're lucky. So they need to enjoy the experience. The College World Series is the single greatest sporting event that I know of, that I've ever attended. I believe it's second to none, and I'm counting Super Bowls and everything else. This is the greatest event that's ever been created, and I want our players to enjoy it.
The other side, like Rick said, it's not any fun when you don't win. So you're trying to balance those two things is challenging, and if you can find the right mixture, you find magic.
MIKE MARTIN: I must admit, for many years, I was Captain Ahab, and I was trying my best to get Moby Dick, and nothing ever happened. But I can say this, you'll never be able to take away the memories. You'll never be able to take away the excitement. And as a coach, it's up to us to be sure that our players do what they tried to do all year long because none of us would be here if our players did not do what we were trying to get them to do for the last five months.
Obviously, there are going to be seven disappointed coaches, but like my man from LSU says, just enjoy it because this is the culmination of a lot of hard work. It's going to be fun. We're all excited, but we just have to play like we've tried to play all year long.
Q. This is for any coaches who want to take it. One the hottest topics in baseball over the past five or ten years is pitching arms and injury prevention. What do you know now that you didn't know five years ago? And what do you do now to prevent those injuries that you didn't know five or ten years ago?
THE MODERATOR: Who wants it? Paul, I'll give it to you.
PAUL MAINIERI: I don't know that I've learned anything in the last five years. We have a great pitching coach that spent 20 years in professional baseball, and his job was to develop pitchers to get to the Big Leagues and without getting hurt. We have a wonderful medical staff, and we just try to do the prudent thing all the time -- not overuse them, give them the proper rest, have the proper side work, and so forth.
I don't know what else I can add. But I don't know much about pitching. The only thing I know about pitching is I couldn't hit it when I played (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Anybody else? Rick?
RICK VANDERHOOK: I'll comment on it. I think there's too many people that have too many opinions. I think kids are overused before we get them. I think that's partly professional baseball's fault. They wear them out all summer, and then they go in, and in our area, we have a thing called scout league, which goes up, and then in January they have all-star games, and they have this, and they have that.
When a professional pitcher is done for the year, he puts the ball down, picks up the golf clubs for about two months. As they're young, they don't have that ability to do. And that's part of why kids come in hurt now more often than they used to. We have one coming in next year that had Tommy John before he came into high school. The doctors are better, everybody's better, everything is identified earlier at too young of an age. There's soreness.
But I don't think in college we overuse guys at all. I think they get overused more when they get in professional baseball personally. They pitch on five days. We've been fortunate enough to have good pitching for a few years now, and we've had one guy get hurt. And I'd say 1 out of 40 pitchers that we've had over that six-year or seven-year span is a pretty good number, because somebody's going to get hurt.
I hear people talk about we overuse this or we overuse that. I watched the World Series, the real World Series, and guys are pitching on three days' rest, two days' rest because they want to win, and I don't think you take the fight out of a kid who wants to pitch. Now, if it's going to hurt him, I'm not for that, but they are developed to pitch, and we know the system that they pitch on, we know the schedule that they pitch on. Everybody might not the same.
But Coach Martin's had a lot of success with pitchers for a long time. Case's guys, Paul's had them at Notre Dame and at LSU and Skip Bertman and Dave Snow and Georgia, and they don't get hurt. Some guys have a tendency to do it, but I think it's more off the field stuff than pitching in games.
THE MODERATOR: Any more questions? Well, fun starts tomorrow. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports