By Will Vandervort.
After a turbulent end to the 2014 baseball season, one in which some questioned head coach Jack Leggett’s return for a 22nd year, the Clemson baseball team began practice for another year with the guy they call “Sev” on Friday.
“The man is in the Hall of Fame. He knows what he is doing,” Clemson pitcher Matthew Crownover said.
It should be an interesting year for the veteran head coach whose is considered by some to be on the proverbial “hot seat” after sitting down with Clemson’s Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich following last year’s Nashville (NCAA) Regional.
The Tigers ended last season 36-25, which included an exit from the Nashville Regional following losses to Oregon and Xavier.
Radakovich laid out a set of guidelines that he wants Leggett and his staff to improve upon this year. Obviously winning more games, hosting a regional and advancing past the Regional Round of the NCAA Tournament are some, but he also wants Leggett to improve in four other areas.
“Everything we talked about at the end of the season was positive and it was one of those things where you can always learn and get better at what you do,” Leggett said.
However, none of them were directly related to the game of baseball itself – hiring sports psychologists, visiting another successful baseball program, creating a players council and enhancing Leggett’s public image were all things he was asked to do.
“We are not too worried about that,” Crownover said. “We trust in him. We have a good time with him and it does not affect us. We know he is going to be back and he is our coach. He is the reason why we came here.”
And Friday was a good day, despite 38-degree temperatures and rain, to start the Hall of Fame coach’s 22nd season in Tigertown.
“We got some bad weather out there, but we will get a lot of work done inside,” Crownover said. “It’s a day we have been waiting for since last year. In three weeks, before we know, it will be here.”
The Tigers open the season on Feb. 13 against West Virginia at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“I’m excited about it. It is a great time of the year for us,” Leggett said. “Despite the weather, it is the first day of practice and I’m excited about the year. I’m excited about the kids we have in our program. They have been working extremely hard in their individual and group work and in the weight room. They have the right attitude and we had a great fall.
“We had a couple of injuries that we are trying to fight through, and we will get those guys healthy, but other than that everybody is excited about it and is looking forward to it.”
Leggett welcomes back five position players and four starting pitchers back from last year’s squad that finished second in the ACC Atlantic Division.
As for any changes Leggett and his staff made to accommodate his boss, all Leggett really said was some things changed, but not too much.
“Our attitude has always been one that is positive all the time and we always work hard and do what we have to do in order to put the best team possible on the field,” Leggett said. “We tried to make some adjustments as you do after every season. We try to figure some things out and do things a little bit better here and there.
“I have always had a lot of confidence in how we have handled our program and the type of kids we put out with the kind of success that we have had. We want to coach at another level than where we were last year. We are all working hard at it and we are all on the same page, all working together. I’m excited about the beginning of it.”