Baseball Team in Transition
By Andre Foushee
Those curious to see the new brand of baseball coming to Hawkins Field in
2003 received a sneak preview during the Commodores' four-week fall practice
season that began in mid-September. Even for the casual observer, it didn't
take long to note that hustle, discipline and attention to details were prime
elements of new head coach Tim Corbin's coaching style.
"The guys have to understand that if they want to play at a high level,
they have to practice at a high level," Corbin explained. "There
is a certain expectation level that goes along with being a winner."
Corbin's first Vanderbilt team is a young one. Outfielder John Kaye is the
lone senior on the team. Aside from five returning position players who started
a year ago, the 2003 Commodore roster is rather inexperienced with 13 newcomers.
The team's youth movement made the fall sessions even more important. Corbin
wasted no time in implementing his brand of baseball, taking advantage of
every minute of every practice. He increased the pace of practice while continuing
to stress fundamentals in hitting, fielding, pitching and base running.
"Our style of play was the most important thing for me to teach during
those practices," Corbin explained "I wanted to practice at a high
level with a lot of intensity and a lot of energy, trying to get as much out
of practice as possible. By the fourth week, I was pleased with how they were
practicing and the level of improvement from where we had come on the first
day. They quickly took to our philosophy."
And as the fall practice season concluded with the Black-Gold intrasquad
scrimmage the younger players showed promise. Freshman second baseman Rucker
Taylor led all hitters during the three-game series, going 7-for-13 at the
plate with a RBI for the Gold squad. Teammate Matt Bushmann, a freshman right-hander,
struck out a series-high nine batters, allowing only two walks and an earned
run over six innings. Left-hander Ryan Mullins, pitching for the Black squad,
struck out a team-high seven batters without giving up a walk in five innings.
"It's a hard-nosed style of play and everything is very structured,"
Kaye said. "The players enjoyed it, getting to practice early and staying
late to make ourselves better."
The new team begins the 2003 season, Feb. 14, against Old Dominion in Charleston,
S.C. The first home game is against East Tennessee State on Feb. 18.