The greatest day of Monte Lee’s professional career was the day he was hired to be Clemson’s new head baseball coach two years ago.
As you might imagine, it was day filled with anxiousness and enthusiasm. At the time, he had not met his new team and he was nervous about what he would say and how they might accept him as their new head coach.
But then, just as he was heading into the WestZone at Clemson Memorial Stadium to speak with the media for his introductory press conference, Lee was greeted by then rising junior Andrew Cox.
“I’ll never forget that,” Lee said. “I will never forget him welcoming me to come into his family. I had a group of players that were obviously going through a transition and he is the one who led all the guys that have been in this program to embrace me, and I embraced them.
“I told them from Day One that I was going to embrace these guys.”
Led by Cox, the Tigers embraced the new changes to the program and to their new coach and coaching staff. It also led to a lot of success in Lee’s first two years as a head coach.
In his two years, Clemson has won 86 baseball games, won an ACC Championship and has hosted home regionals in both seasons. And though the 2017 season came to a sudden end following Monday’s 8-0 loss to Vanderbilt in the Clemson Regional Championship, Lee expressed his appreciation to Cox and what the senior means to him and the Clemson program.
“Andrew is a guy that not only is he a great player, but he is a great person,” Lee said. “He’s got incredible leadership skills and he’s a joy to coach because he gives so much effort. I can’t tell you how many coaches we play against that will come up to me and tell me that Andrew Cox is the reason this team has done as well as it’s done because of the energy and positivity and enthusiasm in which he brings to the ballpark every day and to our team.”
Cox grew up right down the road from Clemson in the small town of Belton, S.C. where he was a baseball star for Belton-Honea Path High School. He always dreamed of wearing the orange and purple and playing for the Tigers. So coming to the realization Monday’s loss was his last game in a Clemson uniform was an emotional moment for the senior, who has given his team and the program everything he has had the last four years.
“It is everything that I ever could have imagined it being,” Cox said. “I think if you cut me open, purple and orange would bleed out. I have given everything in the world to this program and it has given me everything and more back. I would not change a single thing about my experience here.
“I have made some lifelong relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Being able to wear this jersey every single day and represent this program has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. To say that I had that opportunity and to say that I trotted out to Doug Kingsmore every single day and played a game I grew up loving, I don’t think there is any more you can ask for. I’m forever indebted to this program.
“It is tough to elaborate on right now, but I love each and every one of my teammates. I love Coach Lee. I love my coaching staff. I just appreciate the opportunities I was given to play here.”