On June 29, 2004, Tom Slater said in the press conference announcing his hiring to be the head coach at Auburn that "winning starts from day one. You have to have a good plan implemented from the beginning to get the wins later," and "we're going to get after it from a recruiting standpoint and a player development standpoint to make sure that we have one of the best baseball teams in the country." As he enters his fourth season as head coach at Auburn in 2008, the recruiting effort has been evident, with signing classes ranked fifth (2007), 18th (2006) and 10th (2005) by Baseball America. The foundation has been laid and the steps have been taken to insure that Auburn is once again one of the top programs in the southeast.
Slater's approach to baseball has always been to play aggressively. Hitting and running, stealing bases and moving the runners along is the trademark of a Slater-led offense. In 2007, his style was firmly in place as Auburn scored 7.1 runs per game, the most an Auburn club has scored since the 2000 season. Auburn also led the SEC with 105 stolen bases in 127 attempts, for an incredible 83 percent success rate, which was the most for an Auburn squad in over a quarter-of-a-century.
Since arriving at Auburn in the summer of 2004, the Auburn baseball program has had 15 players drafted in the Major League Draft, 13 of whom had never been drafted before coming to Auburn, proving Slater's commitment to developing young players the right way.
Slater's track record of success with hitters and offense was recognized in 2006 when USA Baseball named Slater to coach third base and run the offense for the 2006 USA National Team. The team averaged 7.2 runs a game and stole bases at an 80 percent success rate en route to the best record in National Team history at 28-2-1 (.919) and became the first USA Baseball National Team to ever win gold in Cuba.
Prior to being named the head coach at Auburn, Slater spent one year (2004) as an assistant coach at the University of Florida where Slater coached third base and was responsible for running Florida's offense. The Gators finished second in the conference in runs, third in home runs, fifth in stolen bases and second in batting average in the SEC, all improvements from the previous season. The Gators posted a 43-22 record, won a NCAA Regional Championship and made its first NCAA Super Regional appearance.
From 2001-03, Slater was the head coach at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute. He built the VMI baseball program into a yearly conference-title contender and a mid-major power along the east coast. In 2003, Slater was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year as his VMI squad collected a school-record for wins and posted its first winning record in league play in 14 years.
From 1995-00, Slater was an assistant coach at Auburn and was a part of a staff that helped post the four highest win totals in the program's history, including a 50-win season in 1997 and a trip to the College World Series. The program's record during his time on Hal Baird's staff was 265-111 for a .705 winning percentage; it claimed the 1995 SEC Western Division Championship and the 1998 conference tournament title; and ranked 11th nationally for wins over that six-year period.
Coupling his Auburn years with his year at Florida, Slater has been a part of staffs that have advanced to seven NCAA Regional appearances, three regional championships (1997, 1999, 2004), a pair of Super Regional berths (1999 and 2004) and the 1997 appearance in the College World Series by Auburn.
Slater earned the reputation as one of the nation's top recruiters nationally while an assistant at Auburn, helping the Tigers land 1997 National Player of the Year Tim Hudson, 2000 first-round draft pick Chris Bootcheck and 2001 first-round draft pick Gabe Gross, all of which are currently enjoying MLB careers.
With Levale Speigner making his MLB debut in 2007, there are now 11 former Slater-coached players that have played or are playing at the major-league level, including Hudson, Gross and David Ross.
In his 16 years as an assistant and head coach, Slater has had 90 players drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft, including 12 first-rounders and 41 players selected in the first 10 rounds.
Slater began his coaching career in 1991 as an assistant coach at St. Christopher's School in Richmond, Va. He also served as an assistant at Marshall in 1992 and VMI from 1993-94.
A native of Richmond, Va., and a class of 1990 graduate of VMI, Slater was a four-year starter for the Keydets and ended his career ranked in the top five in RBI, total bases, runs scored and doubles. He helped lead VMI to a 1988 Southern Conference Northern Division Championship.
Slater, 39, is married to the former Beth Tani of Fairfax, Va. The couple has two children, Julia, 9, and Jack, 5.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT TOM SLATER
Bobby Heck, Director of Amateur Scouting, Houston Astros
"Tom Slater is amongst the most well rounded Division 1 baseball coaches in America today. He leads a program with great tradition, where players advance both their physical and personal skill sets under his direction. All of this is possible due to Tommy's unique combination of baseball knowledge, the ability to teach the game and its' required skills, as well as the ability to lead. If I had a son who was not prepared for professional baseball upon high school graduation, he would play for Tom Slater at Auburn University. Best of luck to Tigers' Baseball in 2008 and WAR EAGLE!"
Tim Hudson, MLB Pitcher, Atlanta Braves
"Coach Slater and I go way back. He's actually the coach that recruited and signed me, so I have a relationship with him from that standpoint. We worked a lot together because he was the outfield coach and he turned me into a decent outfielder. He's a great players coach. All the players that I played with love him. He has a special relationship with guys. He's the type of person that you feel like you can come and talk to him about anything."
David Ross, MLB Catcher, Cincinnati Reds
"Coach Slater is a great coach and a great person. I think that is first and foremost when considering where you want your kid to play. You want someone who is going to look out for your son and teach them some lessons in life. Coach Slater is that kind of person. He is a fun person to be around and that is important - you want a coach that is the kind of person you are excited to play for."
Gabe Gross, MLB Outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers
"Coach Slates will push you when you need to be pushed and will get excited and pat you on the back when you do something good. He's always approached things from a player's perspective. He does that more than most coaches - he looks and thinks from a player's viewpoint."