By Trey McCurry.
With baseball season less than 45 days away, TheClemsonInsider recently sat down with new assistant coach Bradley LeCroy to talk about all things Clemson baseball.
LeCroy, who earned four letters at Clemson from 1997-00 and is from nearby Walhalla, was a valuable utility player for the Tigers. In 173, LeCroy hit .266 and played in the 2000 College World Series as well as being a member on four Tiger NCAA Tournament teams. LeCroy comes to Clemson from Western Carolina and has spent the last three seasons at Tennessee. He was also a volunteer coach for the Tigers from 2003-05.
Looking back on his playing days at Clemson, LeCroy has nothing but fond memories. “It was a great opportunity to be able to play here. Growing up 20-25 minutes away, I grew up a Clemson fan coming to games. Once I had the opportunity from Coach Leggett and Coach Corbin to have a chance to play here, I took advantage of it. I wanted to go to a place that would allow me to go to Omaha and fortunately I got that chance my senior year. It was like living out a dream.”
LeCroy also talked about what it was like basically coming home to coach at Clemson. “It’s great. When I finished playing here and decided to get into college coaching, I went off to Anderson College for a couple of years before coming back as a volunteer assistant. When I left here (for Western Carolina) in 2005, my goal was to get back here one day as a full-time coach whether it took 2 years, 10 years, or whatever. It was my goal to come back and coach with Coach Leggett. To be at a place that is special to my wife, Meredith (who was a four-time letterwinner in tennis for the Tigers) and me, is just awesome. I’m looking forward to the season and I’m glad to be back.”
LeCroy was able to spend Fall Ball with the team and is looking forward to getting the 2011 season underway. “Fall ball was good. We have a lot of experienced players back from last season. It was a great chance for me to get to know the players more baseball wise instead of just weightlifting and conditioning. I obviously didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted being on the road recruiting, but it was great. Fortunately for me, we have a lot of returnees on the team so its not like we have to teach 15 new guys the system. It has been a very easy transition.”
As for 2011, LeCroy expects this season to be no different than any other season in Tigertown. “Our goal here every season is to go to Omaha and win a national championship. The team was very close last year and has been close in the past. I’m going to do what I can do to get us back to Omaha and put us in a position to win the national championship. Obviously, there are high expectations around the program, around the conference, and national publications since we have so many guys back from last year. We have some really good players. A couple of guys turned down some money to come back. It’s an exciting time. We have a veteran club with a lot of talent and some new guys with a lot of talent that will push those guys. We are excited to get this thing started in January.”
LeCroy also spent a good amount of time just talking about the Tiger baseball program, in general and under the leadership of Coach Leggett. One of the first things he mentioned was the fact that players like Jeff Schaus and John Hinson both turned down professional opportunities to return to Clemson this season.
“First, I think it means that they love this University like a lot of people out there. Second, I think it means they love this program and their coaches. To put professional baseball and their dreams on the back burner for another year shows a lot about what they think about this program. You look at other programs and they have juniors that are drafted in the 40th round and they sign and get out. Where as here, kids enjoying playing here, they enjoy school, love the atmosphere, and I think its just a great testimony to what Coach Leggett does and what this program is all about.”
Another unique aspect the former Tiger talked about what how former players are commonly seen in and around Clemson, both in and out of season. “It’s awesome to see former players around. It doesn’t happen at many programs in the country. This fall Mike Freeman has been around. He’s sat here in my office and his comment was “There’s nothing like college baseball” and he had an all-star summer with the Diamondbacks. Andy D’Alessio is around all the time. All these guys want to come back here because it’s a special place. Coach Leggett always has open arms to them because every guy that plays here means something to him and this program. It will continue for years to come. It’s what makes this place special compared to the other programs we compete against.”
As mentioned earlier, returning to the Tigers gave LeCroy the chance to rejoin Coach Leggett at Clemson. When asked what Coach Leggett meant to him, LeCroy found it tough to really put into words, but still talked about the longtime Tiger coach.
“He is very special to me,” said LeCroy. “It’s unique that I was able to play for him, coach with him as a volunteer, and now I’m back full-time. He’s a special person as far as a coach, leader, and one of the most demanding coaches in the country but it makes you a better person and the team better. He has had tremendous impact on my life. I can’t really talk about all he means. Just the way he puts an emphasis on the guys here. He’s not just a coach; he’s a mentor too. He cares about you once you leave the program. When I was at Western and Tennessee, I talked to him regularly. It’s not just me; it’s other guys I played with that are living in Florida now and not even in baseball. He takes the word coach to another level and that’s why guys want to come back here and see him and be around the program.”
With school starting back and this year’s players returning to campus, you can tell that LeCroy, like many Tiger fans, is ready to get going and get the 2011 season underway. Clemson’s quest to return to Omaha opens on February 18th at beautiful Doug Kingsmore Stadium against the Eagles from Eastern Michigan. Stay tuned to TheClemsonInsider.com for your complete coverage of Clemson Tiger baseball.