Inside Pitch recently caught up with Augie Garrido, NCAA all-time winningest coach across all divisions. The only coach in baseball history to tally 1,900 or more career wins is currently in his 20th season as head coach at the University of Texas. He has led the Longhorns to a combined 12 Big 12 titles (regular season and tournament), eight College World Series, two national titles and two second-place finishes.
With prior stints at the University of Illinois and Cal State Fullerton, Garrido was the first coach to lead two different schools to national crowns (Fullerton & Texas), guide his teams to National Championships in four different decades, and is one of only three coaches in history to win five or more NCAA titles (1979, 1984, 1995, 2002, 2005). Recently named to the ABCA Hall of Fame, Garrido is fast ap- proaching 2,000 wins in his 48th season as a head coach.
Inside Pitch: What does being an ABCA Hall of Fame inductee mean to you?
The game is so subtle that its nuances don't even allow an expert to dish out the percentage of credit that goes to the coaches on a coaching staff. If that's the truth—and I know that it is—then let's let everybody have the 'ice cream' and enjoy the good, because there's plenty of the negative that goes along with it. It belongs to everyone. Who we finally become is a result of the people that we work with, the players, the coaches, the staff, and the people we meet as the result of having the privilege to be a baseball coach.
IP: As a longtime head coach, how have you been able to learn about the game and coaching in general, as opposed to a longtime assistant coach who gets to learn from several other head coaches?
That's a great question; no one's ever asked me that before. I've often wanted to take a period of time off to go around and watch other coaches work. In lieu of that, I've learned from coaches that I've worked with, and we've had the confidence in each other to whatever area is assigned to us, we do it. They come up with the formula that they want to use to achieve success.
I’ve been able to observe different coaches handling the pitchers, for example. I’ve had great pitching coaches and great recruiters and haven’t been mainly responsible for those areas for the teams I’ve coached. With that said, we all know how important pitching and recruiting is, so what do I do? I’m not trying to be modest, I’m just trying to be realistic.
The fact is I have learned from the people I’ve worked with and from the players themselves. Evolution has always been around, so let’s stop complaining that the players are different and accept that, and as the adults, figure out ways to continue
to help them learn what they need to know and want to know about becoming a successful baseball player.
I have learned by trusting the people around me and I’ve delegated with confidence in the people I’ve worked with, and therein lies the success—it’s the creativity of each individual who’s involved with it. And that’s what keeps me excited about it; the relationships and the learning every day.
IP: What is the recruiting process like at the University of Texas?
We’ve gone about it several different ways. The first thing we have to do is find out what the makeup of the team is. We usually use the fall to put an emphasis on that—what is the attitude, who are the leaders, what is the mentality? Getting to be a team is our responsibility as coaches.
We start with the recruiting process, the criteria for what we’re looking for. Basically what it comes down to is: where we can give a player an opportunity in the first year they’re here? We have to provide opportunity or there’s no incentive for growth. That’s the cornerstone of our recruiting philosophy; let’s go find players that fit in our program athletically and academically that have the attitude that will create a very positive team mentality. That includes mental toughness, sacrifice and all the things that baseball requires of the people who dare to play it.
IP: What is the support like at the University of Texas?
It’s all about people, it’s all about relationships, it’s all about commitments. Everyone matters. I’ve been very fortunate to have been in places where we’ve been able to coordinate our thinking into a team effort—whether it’s been connected to the community, the team, the administration, the coaches. Environment plays a key role in everything, and I don’t have any power to change that, or else we’d never get rained out!
There’s a great deal of good fortune. If you compare it to other professions—think of the musicians, the singers, the actors—it’s like that, in a way. You have to be in the right place at the right time, and be surrounded by the right people, and I’ve been blessed with that.
IP: What are your expectations as a coach?
I have eliminated that word from my vocabulary. Expectations are a false reality that have nothing to do with goal setting or learning; they’re just momentary comments given as a result of a thought that somebody wants, not about the process. In the process, there is no fear. In the results is where all the fear is, because you can’t control it.
The process is to sit down with the coaches and listen. Listen to your players. Find out what’s really going on. It’s one of the reasons I removed myself—a long time ago—from coaching third base. Even major league managers used to coach third at one time, and most college head coaches did too. Here’s what’s wrong with that: when the team was coming off the field, I’d abandon them and go to the third base coaches box, and when they went out to the field, I ran back into the dugout and yelled at the people that weren’t even in the lineup! What’s that about?! I couldn’t get a sense of where our team was, where we were going, what our competitive level was. I wasn’t about the players that were competing, I was just watching from afar!
IP: What’s your advice to young coaches?
We look at baseball and have a tendency to say it’s a game of failure and we leave it at that, and for a lot of years I did too. I don’t agree with that anymore. For me, it’s like Psych 101—the glass is half full! In baseball, it’s half failure and it’s half opportunity.
By the way, there is no recipe! You take what you know and recognize the point in time where you’re aware of the mental game, staying in the moment and keeping the balance between the mechanics and the mind. One without the other just isn’t going to work.