By Will Vandervort / Photo courtesy Clemson University.
By Will Vandervort
Tim Corbin says he owes his baseball career to Clemson head coach Jack Leggett. Heck, he says he owes him his marriage, too.
“He means everything to me,” the Vanderbilt head coach said Monday to the media. “My lifestyle is because of Jack Leggett. My wife is because of Jack Leggett, really. The first week I was there, he set up a date with Maggie and she probably did not want to date me, but she became my wife.
“Everything that I have as a college baseball coach at this level is because of Coach Leggett. Your thought process, your approach, your respect for certain things is nurtured and developed by him. He is like a brother.”
Corbin and the Commodores (41-18) will host his brother this weekend as the Tigers were announced as one of three teams Vanderbilt will play host to in the Nashville (Tenn.) Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Clemson is the No. 3 seed and will play No. 2 Oregon on ESPN3 this Friday at 1 p.m. Vanderbilt, the No. 1 seed, will take on No. 4 Xavier later that afternoon.
The Vanderbilt team was kind of surprised to see Clemson in their regional because of Corbin’s background at Clemson.
“They all kind of gasped when they heard Clemson just because of their familiarity and (Leggett) was present last year at our Super Regional,” Corbin said. “He spoke to the team. I had him speak to the team because I think so much of him. So they are very knowing of Coach and they are very knowing of Clemson, too.
“They understand my background there and probably a lot of (Clemson’s) program comes out in some ways here.”
The winners and losers will play each other on Saturday in Nashville. There is a possibility the Tigers and Commodores could matchup that afternoon or maybe at some point in the weekend.
“That’s just the way baseball is. The kids have to play,” Corbin said. “I think for us, it’s just the Xavier Regional right now. That’s the only thing that matters. What happens from there, they have to do their job and we have to do are job.
“So we are not going to worry about that right now.”
Corbin coached and learned under Leggett for nine years after Leggett took over the Clemson program in 1994. As the associated head coach and recruiting coordinator, he helped Clemson win 434 games, an ACC Championship and advance to four College World Series during that time.
He left Clemson for Vanderbilt in 2003 and has since won more than 500 games and has been to the CWS once (2011).
Now there is a chance the student might have to go up against the teacher. This could be the second time Leggett has faced one of his former coaches in the NCAA Tournament. He beat former assistant coach John Pawlowski at Auburn in the 2010 Auburn Regional.
Later that same year in the College World Series he came close to going against former assistant Kevin O’Sullivan, who guided Florida to the CWS. But the Gators were quickly eliminated that year and it did not materialize.
“We knew this was going to happen at some point,” Leggett said. “The more coaches you get out there the better chance that is going to happen. I have a lot of guys in (the NCAA Tournament) so eventually it is going to happen and it happened.
“I’m excited to see him, but he is gamer and he is competitor as well as I am so it is more of a business trip than it is a personal trip, but at the same time I always enjoy seeing him and it will be a great competition.”
It is a competition, Corbin has been trying to avoid. He says there is a reason why he and Leggett do not schedule to play each other every year.
“I don’t like playing my best friends,” he said. “I don’t like doing that. It’s not to say you would not play them, but I think personally, I look for ways not to do that. But if we are matched up against one another then that is someone else’s choice.”
Leggett texted Corbin after Monday’s selection show and congratulated him on being a host and said he looked forward to seeing him in Nashville. The two have not spoken too much since Leggett’s induction into the College Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in January when Corbin introduced him.
“He knows me and he knows how I’m wired and I know him and how he is wired,” Corbin said. “We don’t talk every week. There is typically a text ever so often, but he knows when we catch back up again that we can easily go right back to conversation or bring up something that made you laugh the last time we spoke.”
Last year, Leggett visited Vanderbilt in the Super Regional round against Louisville and spoke to the Vanderbilt team. That was the last time the two were able to spend quality time together.
“He is a good, good man. And he is that way for all the right reasons,” Corbin said.