June 15, 2011

College Station, Texas - Texas A&M head baseball coach Rob Childress met with the media today to talk about their upcoming trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. The Aggies (47-20, 19-8 Big 12) will face the defending National Champions, South Carolina (50-14, 22-8 SEC), Sunday, June 19 at 6 p.m. (CT).

HEAD COACH Rob Childress

What’s the feeling like of reaching the goal of getting to Omaha?

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world, as a coach or as a player, to get to go to Omaha. That’s what every team fights for and that’s every team’s goal when you start your season. Now there are only eight teams left playing. It’s like I told our players, it’s something that will bind them together for a lifetime. It’s something you’ll talk about, that the 2011 team got the opportunity to go to Omaha and the memories that you’ll make there. We need to go up there and play well like we have the last four weeks, but this is something that you also need to go up there and enjoy. You don’t need to go up there and let it spin out of control on you. This is special and it’s something you’ll always come back to Texas A&M and remember and you’ll talk about it for the next 40 years. But while we’re going up there, we’re going up to win.”

On taking Texas A&M to the College World Series...

“I just feel truly blessed to be here at Texas A&M. This is where I want to be. When I was hired here by (Director of Athletics) Bill (Byrne), it was to come here and put this team in position to get to Omaha each and every year. I’ve just been blessed to work with great people, have great players and it’s really not a surprise to be doing what we’re doing now. It took six years but I’m glad we’re going to Omaha and taking Texas A&M there.”

On a personal note, what does it mean for you to go back to a place (Omaha and eastern Nebraska) where you had so much success and so many memories and friends?

“The eight years I spent at Nebraska are some of the best years of my life, and I could have been there forever. It was number one about the university and number two about baseball, but the friends that we made there are going to last a lifetime. I know we’re going to have a lot of people with red undershirts and maroon over the top supporting us and I can’t wait to see them. All of our friends, our family’s friends, and I just know we’re going to have a great contingent of people wearing red and maroon shirts for us during our time up there.”

What’s the last 24 hours been like for you?

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of sleep. We got back to the hotel about 10:30 and I couldn’t go to bed until about 3. There wasn’t a whole lot of celebrating, just smiling and excited for our players and for our program and for our fans. We got back yesterday about 9:30 and met a great group of fans that were here to welcome us home and then it was off to work, breaking down the three teams that are in our bracket and preparing for that and getting an itinerary put together. Today it’s back to work with the team. We have an early practice today, and we’ll get to practice again here tomorrow before we get on the plane to go to Omaha. I think our players are excited but they understand that hey, there’s a little unfinished business there too.”

Any special congratulations that you’ve gotten or someone you were especially glad to hear from?

“I think the most special one, who has been rooting us on the whole way throughout the postseason, is Coach Mark Johnson. He’s been a good friend of mine and I know everything he’s said to me has been sincere and from the heart. It’s just an honor to have him as a friend and a fan. I’ve heard from him after every weekend for the last month. Whether it’s been a text or a phone call it’s been very much appreciated.”

On the challenge of opening with defending national champion South Carolina...

“Well, it certainly is (a challenge). At this time of year, with only eight teams left playing, everyone is going to be extremely talented. They are no stranger to Omaha. Coach Tanner has done an amazing job and we’ll have our hands full with South Carolina. But I don’t think there is an easy draw once you’re playing this time of year.”

On being the only road team in the super regionals to advance to Omaha...

“We were the only one of the eight teams that went on the road and won a super regional. Our guys are playing extremely well and with extreme confidence. They can’t wait to get there and open up on Sunday night.”

How does going to Florida State get you battle tested and ready for this weekend?

“There’s not an awful lot that we haven’t had to come through in order to continue to play. We’ve had our backs against the wall in Austin on Saturday (May 21), in Bricktown on that following Sunday (Big 12 Championship game), the following Tuesday against Arizona (regional championship game) and then again at Florida State (Monday evening). These guys can’t have any more pressure on them than they’ve already had and I know they’ll go up to play well. We’re looking forward to it.”

Is there any added incentive knowing there’s the potential for an A&M/Texas championship series?

“I don’t know if you can look that far ahead. If you look that far ahead you’re going to find yourself having individual meetings real quick. Our only focus is South Carolina, playing well in that game and moving on to game two.”

How do you balance the experience of the College World Series with it being a business trip and the goal of winning games?

“We did the same thing in Bricktown (Oklahoma City, Big 12 Championship). It was a great experience for our guys there, but when they get on the field it’s all business. And I want our guys to have a good experience there in Omaha but when we step on the field it’s all about playing the game of baseball at a high level.”

On making the CWS in the inaugural season of TD Ameritrade Park...

“It’s one thing that all eight teams will be able to say 50 years from now, that they were one of the first teams to play in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. It’s just going to be a great experience.”

What have you heard from everyone about how that stadium plays and how different it is from Rosenblatt?

“It’s going to be different for everybody, not just the teams that are playing but for the fans that have made their way to Omaha each and every year since I guess 1950. I think it’s going to be something new and something exciting for not just us and the teams, but for the fans as well.”

You have experience taking a team full of players who’ve never been there to the World Series when you were at Nebraska. How do you have to keep their feet on the ground when they get there amid all the hoopla that surrounds the event?

“I want them to enjoy that hoopla. But we get an opportunity to be out there on Friday and practice for an hour. Saturday we’ll get to go to a high school or practice at Creighton and then they’ll get a chance to see the games. Looking back, this is the first team that I’ve been a part of that we haven’t played the first day. So they’re going to get a chance to see the first day’s games and I think that’s going to help us as well.”

What’s been the key to the offensive success of late?

“The key to the offense has probably been our 7-8-9 guys. The last five weeks they’ve had productive at bats and really done a nice job. Obviously the two guys everyone looks at are the guys at the top, and they create things, but the 7-8-9 guys in Brandon Wood, Kenny Jackson and Andrew Collazo have been very, very good for us the last month.”

On Ross Stripling getting the starting nod in game one...

“It’s just a rest thing. Michael (Wacha) did a great job for us on Monday, but Ross has the most rest and he’s also got 14 wins. I think it’s a pretty easy decision starting him in game one, and I think he matches up pretty well with South Carolina.”

As they’ve spread out the tournament to help lessen the strain on pitching, how do you think you match up with that?

“I think we match up extremely well as long as we continue to win. That’s the key. You have to try to do your best to stay out of the loser side of things. You’ve got to be really lucky and really talented if you lose a game up there in that four-team, double-elimination tournament, come back through it, win it, and then have a quality showing in the championship series. South Carolina proved last year that they could do that. They showed an awful lot of talent and an awful lot of toughness to do what they did last year and win that thing after losing their first game. You want to do your very best to try and stay out of the loser side of things.”

On what he learned from CWS trips with Nebraska that he can convey to his players this time around...

“Like I said earlier, I want them to enjoy the experience. Once we get on the field, it’s all business, but they need to go up there and enjoy the experience and have fun with it. The City of Omaha does such a great job putting on that tournament and makes it such a memorable experience for every team that is there.”