Baseball Sports

The Manager Speaks: Baseball head coach Todd Whitting in his own words

In his fourth season at the helm of UH’s baseball team, Todd Whitting steered his scarlet-clad crusaders to 48 wins and, at one point, 18 innings away from a trip to Omaha and the College World Series. The self-described “Dalhart Boy” sat down with The Daily Cougar for a one-on-one interview about the state of his team, the auditioning for being a closer and what it’s been like to never work a day in his life.

The Daily Cougar: Three years ago, you said you weren’t even sure you were in the tunnel to see the light at the end of it, you had all of 18 wins. This year y’all were at one point 18 innings away from the College World Series. Was that a turnaround that—I know coaches are supposed to be beacons of positivity, half life coach and half cheerleader, but did even you think the turnaround would happen this quickly?

Todd Whitting: Yeah, I did. I knew we had a good system in place and a good plan. We were behind the Eight Ball when we came here as far as personnel and Omaha-type players. But I think just after a lot of hard work, especially by the assistant coaches, the ability to sign players who have bought into the program and work hard. They’ve accelerated our progress to the point where we’re two games away from Omaha.

TDC: From the recruiting standpoint, does a season like this makes things easier to avoid the dreaded rebuilding process?

TW: I don’t look at us as ever having to rebuild, it’s just more reload. Being on TV and in the paper everyday and playing in front of a national audience, that only helps get your name out there and publicize the program and all the great things that are happening at UH right now.

TDC: The team graduated nine seniors. Is that something that’s worrisome?

TW: I don’t really think about it because we’ve been recruiting knowing that we were going to have that many seniors graduate for a couple of years now. Our job is to replenish the ranks of the program and reload it with players after some leave. It’s not a surprise that they’re leaving. We’ve known all along when they were graduating, so through the recruiting process, you just replace them.

TDC: Baseball is a marathon and not a sprint, but was there any point during the season where you took a step back and said, ‘Wow, this is all just kicking in and it’s working.’ ?

TW: No. I mean, those things are all after the season. I’m all about just the next pitch, the next game and the next series. You just kind of keep your nose down and try to have blinders on. I tell the team it’s all about the next 200 feet. You just look straight ahead and you can’t change what’s happened in the past, whether it be good or bad, so you just keep getting ready to play.

TDC: It seems that everything that could count as good publicity went the team’s way: sweeping Rice, beating LSU, getting to a Super Regional and playing on ESPN. Is that something that—given how college baseball is slanted towards an aristocracy of about six to seven teams—helps UH rise up the publicity ladder?

TW: I think so. Our goal here is to be one of the best college baseball programs in the country, so we took a big step forward in doing that. I think we’ve earned our respect back, but we’ve also raised the bar on the expectation level among our peers, our fans and our supporters. It’s our job to just keep playing along and get above and beyond it.

TDC: Speaking of expectations, the state of Texas is home to two of the more well-known college baseball programs of all time, UT and Rice. So how does that work when in the recruiting game when you’re going against Augie Garrido at UT and the grand old man over at Reckling?

TW: Well, it’s hard. There’s a lot of great baseball programs in the state. There’s eight or ten of us every year thar can have an opportunity to go to Omaha. I think at the end of the day with recruiting, we all have great coaches, great facilities, we all offer outstanding degrees. It’s just a matter of finding a certain fit between kid and program or player and coach.

TDC: Even though Austin didn’t go the way you would have wanted it to and the end result wasn’t what the program desired, did you still view that as an amazing step?

TW: Oh yeah. We were one of the last 16 teams left. It’s like making the Sweet Sixteen in basketball. There’s over 280 plus teams that are done and we were still playing. There’s no bad Super Regionals. I’ll take one every year.

TDC: Are you the kind of guy who will keep watching the College World Series even though your team isn’t in it?

TW: I’ll flip it on in the office or if I’m around the house. I have friends playing in it and coaches that I know really well, so I’ll see how they’re doing.

TDC: Whenever the season is over, what’s that general feeling like? Exhaustion?

TW: I’ll reflect on it a little bit that we had a great year and I’ll try to enjoy it, but we’re immediately, the day after we get back from Austin, having player meetings, staff meetings and now we’re on the road recruiting.

TDC: So there’s no vacationing in baseball?

TW: No, not much.

TDC: How do you stay sane while dealing with it at that 24/7 level?

TW: This isn’t a job, it’s more of a lifestyle. You’re conditioned to it. I’ve been doing it for 20 years now. It’s just a way of life and it’s part of what you do.

TDC: Do you feel that some of the other Texas teams will be gunning for you when the season starts again?

TW: I think we have a lot of respect in this state and I think we’ve had that even in the lean years. People have known that this is a good place with the ability to win on a high level. Now that we’ve done that I think the respect level has always been there and now it’ll continue to stay that way.

TDC: You took over this program at a decently young age for a head coach. Is your goal to be one of those Les Murakami (former head coach at the University of Hawaii who held the post for 29 years) types where you just move in and retire when you’re 80?

TW: I don’t see me doing anything else other than this. It’s a way of life for me. I don’t think I’ve ever worked a day of work in my life. It’s not a job because it’s pretty fun.

TDC: Is your goal to do that here?

TW: No doubt. I’m an alumni, a former player. I think this is a destination job and I think it can be one of the best jobs in the country. It’s my responsibility to build it and make it a place to stay for the long haul.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said UH was 18 outs away from a trip to the College World Series. It should have said the Cougars were 18 innings away from the College World Series.

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  • It was an exciting year as a Cougar fan. Makes me proud to discuss my Alma Mater with any baseball fan in the country. You, your staff and the student athletes are doing great things, and if I can get new fans to come to one game, they’ll usually come back on their own. I’d love to see that place filled up more often. My thanks to you all! Go Coogs!

  • Tremendous year, especially sweeping Rice. I’ll be a second time season ticket holder next season, so I’ll be a first time re-newer. I very much look forward to it.

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