No element too small for brand spanking new Clemson baseball coach Erik Bakich | Clemson


CLEMSON — Like quite a lot of Michigan alums, Karl Kauffmann shot a congratulatory textual content to teach Erik Bakich after information broke of his rent at Clemson. The reply got here on the most Bakich of instances.

A number of days later. At 4 a.m.

“Lord is aware of what he was doing,” mentioned Kauffmann, who helped Michigan make the ultimate recreation of the School World Collection in 2019. Understanding how Bakich is wired — tireless, relentless, practically obsessive — it is cut up odds.

“I don’t know if he was up till 4 or he wakened at 4,” mentioned Tommy Henry, one other star pitcher on that ’19 workforce. “He may have set his alarm, crushed a exercise, noticed the textual content on his telephone and determined to textual content again. I put the percentages at 50/50 on that.”

“E.B.,” as they name him, is only a “completely different breed of human,” as former UM captain Ben Keizer places it. At instances, Michigan gamers caught Bakich in his workplace at 1 a.m., pecking at a keyboard. He couldn’t relaxation till he had labored via each situation for an upcoming sequence. However regardless of the workload, his black Ram truck was all the time parked in entrance of the ability forward of 6 a.m. exercises, and the echo of E.B.’s bench-press grunts welcomed gamers in.

“He’s a freak,” mentioned Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, who can nonetheless image his former assistant doing handstand pushups on a whim. At one level, Bakich, who labored at Vandy from 2003-09, began growing bruises throughout his physique. Seems, he was enjoying flag soccer video games versus the scholar physique. Corbin needed to counsel one other interest, possibly tennis, possibly golf. However this is similar Bakich who, shortly after getting his first head teaching job in ‘09, advised Maryland’s pupil newspaper “Persistence isn’t a advantage of mine. I don’t have time for that (crap).”

Golf isn’t for him.

“Possibly he would,” Corbin mentioned, taking a second to rethink. “However he wouldn’t use a golf cart. He would dash to the following gap.”

Undoubtedly, Bakich hasn’t wasted time since turning into the Tigers’ baseball coach on June 16. Exterior of health, his solely actual interest is constructing packages match for Omaha. His solely concern exterior of baseball are his household and his gamers, which he considers one and the identical.

He’ll textual content again. It’d simply be at 4 a.m. Earlier than or after no matter he was — or is — doing. Which is giving all the things.

“He’s going to teach you, he’s going to steer you off the sector to be a greater man,” Henry mentioned, “and also you’re going to get all the things he’s obtained. Each day.”

Making Michigan Males

The primary time Kauffmann encountered Bakich, he did not count on it. He was in the midst of a mile run together with his freshman basketball teammates. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., about an hour drive from Ann Arbor.

“I look over … ‘Who’s that man?’” Kauffmann mentioned.

“That’s Michigan’s baseball coach.”

Henry has the same story. He was enjoying in a junior varsity basketball recreation sophomore 12 months when Bakich randomly appeared. “I keep in mind being nervous,” Henry mentioned. “Basketball wasn’t actually my sport. I didn’t know what was being evaluated or what I wanted to do to make an impression.”

Bakich is not a coach who waits till summer season baseball to recruit. He is all the time on the transfer, all the time on process, which is the type of urgency that helped Vandy land prime MLB draft picks like David Value and Pedro Alvarez throughout Bakich’s tenure. That relentlessness helped vault Maryland from 17 wins in Bakich’s first 12 months as head coach to 32 in his third.

He got here to Michigan nonetheless in his mid-30s, all the time and to today stuffed with vitality.

“There was nothing ever half-assed about him,” mentioned Corbin, who first met Bakich as a first-year volunteer assistant at Clemson in 2002. “The one adverse is he tried to squeeze 35 hours right into a 24-hour day.”

Happily, Bakich’s go-go-go mindset discovered an acceptable mentor in Corbin, who was one 12 months away from taking up at Vandy. The 2 first met in a parking zone by Jervey Meadow, standing by Bakich’s truck loaded with hurdles and agility ladders, which he used to show health courses. Bakich supplied to jot down Corbin a exercise program, however Corbin as a substitute requested Bakich to coach his daughter, Hannah, who turned a tennis participant at Vandy.

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Bakich so badly needed to be a coach, and he needed to study all the things he may from Corbin. They didn’t take a lot break day, spending out-of-office hours at Peppino’s Pizzeria in Clemson, speaking baseball. Bakich gravitated to Corbin’s group, his meticulousness. Each element mattered in constructing a workforce, from how gamers costume to how they shake arms.

In actual fact, Corbin introduced in somebody from the navy to show Vandy’s gamers learn how to stand for the anthem. Heels collectively. Toes unfold aside at a 45-degree angle. Again straight. The left hand grabs the piping of the pants like holding a roll of quarters. The suitable hand’s 4 fingers on prime of the hat’s invoice. Thumb beneath. Hand by the center. Hat over the shoulder.

When he turned a head coach, Bakich carried out the identical anthem protocols. Annually at Michigan, they practiced learn how to stand. Like John Wood educating his UCLA basketball gamers learn how to tie their sneakers, he needed to embrace the smallest of particulars. In these particulars, gamers unite.

“We’re a unit,” Keizer mentioned. “We breathe as one.”

Each facet of Michigan’s program was crafted with comparable intention, using strategies of team-building which might be simply as psychological as bodily.

The freshmen reeled in by Bakich’s infectious vitality, and possibly the cool Nike gear stuffed in Michigan’s lockers, have been in for a impolite awakening in the event that they overly coveted the latter. Gamers at Michigan did not get their gear when fall observe began. They didn’t even have entry to the locker room.

Everybody was given black shirts and black shorts and needed to change earlier than they left for observe.

“We weren’t going to step on campus and be handled like kings,” pitcher Jeff Criswell mentioned.

“That modifications your way of thinking,” Henry mentioned. “It’s not, OK, we’re right here as a result of we deserve it and we’ve earned it. Regardless of how comfy you get or how a lot enjoying time you get, that may be taken away. You need to deliver it each single day.”

It often takes a pair weeks of practices crammed with primary on-field conditioning earlier than Bakich is satisfied gamers are prepared for extra.

Even then, the Wolverines weren’t allowed to have facial hair or jewellery till the workforce registered a mixed grade level common of three.0 or higher. At one level, gamers put razors within the lavatory in case anybody wanted a fast shave earlier than a pre-practice assembly.

And conferences began at 5:01 p.m., as a result of there are 5 championships in a season — the convention’s regular-season and event titles, NCAA regionals, tremendous regionals and the School World Collection — and you need to get there one pitch at a time.

So don’t present up at 5:02.

“For those who miss conferences,” Kauffmann mentioned, “you gained’t be round for a lot of conferences.”

They take assembly instances severely, sporting matching undershirts and socks severely, and profitable rivalry video games simply as severely. Michigan really misplaced 10 of 13 video games to the Buckeyes from 2016-19. So the Wolverines’ three-minute conditioning sprints have been renamed “Ohio State runs.”

The OSU route took the Wolverines from one foul pole at Ray Fisher Stadium to Barry Larkin’s retired No. 16 on the outfield wall. Then again to the foul pole, earlier than operating out to Invoice Freehan’s No. 11. Then again to the foul pole, earlier than heading to the spot on the wall the place Michigan’s Huge Ten titles have been listed.

It was a punishment for falling quick, however each bit of wall they touched reminded the Wolverines of the traditions they sought to uphold. Michigan gained 4 out of six versus the Buckeyes from 2021-22.

“He’s not going to be a participant’s finest good friend to start out,” Kauffmann mentioned. ”However when the video games begin and also you begin profitable, you are going to begin liking the man.”

Bakich’s calls for could seem strict at instances. His propensity to offer that means to numbers and naming each bodily problem could sound corny. However his gamers fondly keep in mind these quirks, as a result of they know the place it led.

It introduced the Wolverines to a spot they name TD Ameri-Playground.

‘Be a dude’

No query, the Wolverines keep in mind the excessive factors of their run to the 2019 School World Collection.

However simply as vividly, they recall how their Cinderella experience practically flamed out.

It was their second recreation of Tremendous Regionals at No. 1-ranked UCLA. The underdogs from the North by some means landed the primary blow in Sport 1, downing the Bruins, 3-2. However after placing UCLA’s again towards a wall in Sport 2, proudly owning a 3-1 lead via 5 innings, Michigan stumbled.

UCLA scored two of its subsequent three runs unearned, together with a two-out pop fly that left fielder Chris Bullock flat-out dropped to permit a go-ahead run throughout. It’s a ball he catches 100 instances out of the following 100. That point, he did not.

Michigan knotted it up at 4 within the backside half however finally succumbed 5-4 in 12 innings. In that second, the Wolverines virtually anticipated Bakich to be furious.

“However once we’re within the dugout, E.B. was smiling, type of chuckling,” Henry mentioned. “We’re like, ‘What the heck?’ He was optimistic from the second Saturday night time’s recreation ended till the primary pitch Sunday. It was virtually odd. However we’re virtually like, ‘Huh, coach isn’t apprehensive. So why ought to we?’”

In his button-pushing, Bakich doesn’t have one be aware. There comes some extent the place a workforce has earned his belief, and so they turn out to be simply as assured in themselves.

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Michigan’s confidence was constructed within the fall, advancing from black shirts and shorts to slick Nike gear. Within the two weeks main as much as Thanksgiving break, the roster would cut up into smaller groups for the “Omaha Problem,” the place gamers competed in all the things however baseball.

They swam in a pool, ran on a observe, ice-skated at a rink, crawled in mud, carried logs, pulled a rope in tug-of-war. Bakich had a rock-climbing wall erected within the bullpen. Something to deliver out a workforce’s aggressive juices.

“I in all probability couldn’t let you know the rating of the Indiana-Michigan recreation on the finish of the season my sophomore 12 months,” Criswell mentioned, “however I do keep in mind profitable the Omaha Problem with six or seven of my buddies that we actually needed to grind for, proper?”

These have been the moments the place the Wolverines got here collectively. Everybody from that ’19 workforce remembers Ben Keizer, a beast in 300-meter sprints, springing into motion when Angelo Smith, one other lefty pitcher, struggled to cross the road on his sixth or seventh 300-meter run within the Omaha Problem.

Keizer, plus a dozen teammates, pushed Smith throughout the road.

And Bakich wasn’t some distant foil in all of this. When the Wolverines labored out within the gymnasium, doing weighted burpees referred to as “Lion Makers,” Bakich confirmed them who was king of the jungle. Once they have been catching fly balls at observe, Bakich was diving for his share. He ran the bases. He pitched to hitters, sporting opposing workforce colours to assist Michigan visualize what was coming that weekend. He coached in each approach conceivable.

In Ann Arbor, it is arduous to get excited for an outside observe in January or February. Keizer particularly remembers one snowy week the place the Wolverines got here to the sector with hoodies on, heads lined, and arms buried of their pants pockets. No person needed to be there — besides Bakich.

“Earlier than we begin stretching, he rips off his sweatshirt, absolutely rips off all the things he has, and begins screaming, ‘Woooooooo! You possibly can’t get scorching until you already know the chilly!’” Keizer recalled. “He’s operating round like a child on a playground, and we’re like, ‘This man is completely loopy.’ However that obtained us going.

“We took our arms out of our pockets and began embracing that vitality.”

Bakich will be intense, energetic, however he can be deep, cultivating perspective in his athletes with the tales he tells at conferences. He likes to discuss former NFL security Pat Tillman, who joined the navy and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. Bakich has additionally been recognized to cite a retired Navy Seal, creator, and podcaster, Jocko Willink, and his catchphrase, “Good.”

Misplaced a lead within the eighth inning? Good. Make a comeback within the ninth.

Catering firm botched the workforce meal? Good. Scarf down some protein bars and eat extra later.

Practising within the blistering chilly in February? Good. As Bakich mentioned, you’ll be able to’t get scorching until you already know the chilly.

These classes caught with the Wolverines, and in the event that they wanted a jolt of confidence, Bakich had different means. His alerts to batters throughout video games with a three-number sequence, which gamers de-code with a wristband. One set of numbers, bunt. One other, take a pitch.

One other was, fairly merely, “BE A DUDE.”

“He is aware of the work’s been put in, he makes the coaching classes extraordinarily troublesome,” Kauffmann mentioned. “So while you’re on the market, it’s nothing.”

Simply be a dude, and swing away.

That was roughly the mantra when Michigan left for the postseason in 2019, very a lot underdogs after shedding to Nebraska within the Huge Ten Match title recreation. Bakich advised his gamers they have been on the wheel of the convertible.

He would take a backseat and benefit from the experience, wherever it took them.

They virtually crashed at UCLA, however Bakich smiled off an extra-inning loss. The subsequent day, the Wolverines, assured as ever, beat the No. 1 workforce within the nation 4-2 to clinch a berth to the School World Collection.

Once they arrived at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, they have been enjoying with home cash. They referred to as it “TD Ameri-Playground.”

“It’s the identical 90 toes to the bases, the identical 60 toes to the mound. Simply have enjoyable with an enormous ol’ smile in your face,” Henry mentioned. “We have been at TD Ameri-Playground. We got here up quick, however I used to be glad to be on that facet of the sector.”

After beating No. 2-ranked Vandy within the first recreation of the School World Collection’ last sequence, the Commodores topped the Wolverines within the subsequent two. Corbin’s crew claimed its second nationwide title in six years. However what Michigan completed wasn’t misplaced on anybody. Least of all Corbin.

“I’ve all the time adored him, I really like Erik for all the things he’s,” Corbin mentioned. “That’s why I all the time thought, if Clemson was ever a possibility, he was the man. To me, it was such a pure transition for him.”

The opportunity of Bakich leaving Michigan is one thing many alums got here to phrases with way back. “You possibly can’t put a monitor on a Ferrari,” Kauffmann mentioned, admitting different packages — significantly within the South — may supply Bakich sources that might be arduous for Michigan to match.

“For those who give him the sources,” Kauffmann mentioned, “he’s going to construct one thing particular.”

Kauffmann is aware of his coach will make good use of the instruments he is given.

Who is aware of what he was doing at 4 a.m. when he lastly determined to reply to Kauffmann’s congrats textual content. Nevertheless it’s straightforward to slender down the probabilities.

“It’s gotta be one thing for Clemson baseball,” Kauffmann mentioned. “Constructing a program, you already know you’re going to get all the things from him.”


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