Feb. 24, 2014
Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway says Tigers must play for each other and not themselves (Zach Bland photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Sunday was a trying day for first-year Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway, an unhappy day. But it was, he says, a necessary step in his effort to build a championship program.
“Players have to understand that we are just a part of something that is much greater than we are individually,” Golloway said Monday morning. “We are going to play for what is on the front of our jerseys and not on the back. Be proud of your name, but play for Auburn. Play the way we ask you to play.
“We were brought here to try to turn the program around and play the game the right way. That comes back to team chemistry, caring about one another and not making it about yourself.”
Auburn lost for the fourth time in seven games, falling 3-2 to East Tennessee State in 10 innings. Hours later, senior outfielder Hunter Kelley had been dismissed from the team and senior first baseman Patrick Savage and junior pitcher Chase Williamson had left the team.
“This has not been smooth,” Golloway said. “It’s been very, very bumpy. It’s been bumpy because of the demands put on the program by me. I’ll take full responsibility. That’s why we’ve minimized our roster and why we will continue to minimize our roster until our attitude and effort are there. If the attitude and effort aren’t there, you aren’t going to be here.
The Tigers won two of three in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., over the opening weekend and lost two of three in their own Tiger Classic a week later. But Golloway has not lost his optimism. He still says this team will play for a championship.
“We are going to Omaha this year,” Golloway said. “There is no doubt in my mind. It’s amazing how things are happening that need to happen. These things need to happen right now. This is the attention I have to get from this team. If we’d won all those games and then had dismissals, it would have been a head-scratching deal, wouldn’t it?”
Golloway’s first Auburn roster includes 11 seniors and 12 freshmen. Six of those freshmen have started games, and he says that has contributed to chemistry issues that must be resolved.
“Chances don’t come in a game,” Golloway said. “They come in practice first. If you sit there in football and say all three quarterbacks deserve a chance to play this year, that’s not a true statement. You have to show me something in practice before you get in the game. I made that very clear with some of our returning players.
“I’ve not had any problem with the freshmen. The freshmen have time on their side. They don’t get panicked. Upper classmen sometimes get panicked because of the draft.”
Golloway says the first sign of trouble showed up in a 1-0 loss to Ohio State in the second game of the season. It took a major turn for the worse in a 9-3 loss to Alabama State last Tuesday.
“I realize after the first weekend that we’ve got problems,” Golloway said. “We get back for a mid-week game against Alabama State and I’ve not seen a team with worse chemistry. That’s a harsh statement, but it’s a fact. We are working really hard at trying to be fundamentally sound on the field and working real hard to have good team chemistry. I preach to care more about the person next to you than yourself. If you are having a bad game, you need to find someone that is having a good game and pat them on the back and tell them to keep going. That makes you feel better. It’s amazing what it does. I teach that, I preach that. It works. It’s part of our system. The other thing is understand you are part of something much greater than yourself.”
After Sunday’s game, Golloway and his assistants interviewed eight players. The result was that three of those eight are no longer on the team.
“This has to be a 100-percent effort deal to get this turned around,” Golloway said. “… There are a couple of other guys we talked to that might be on the bubble but now understand you are not entitled to play. If you are not going to treat it like an honor and privilege and represent it the right way, you don’t need to be a part of it.”
Golloway has brought a running, bunting, base-stealing style to Auburn. He acknowledges some upperclassmen have had difficulty adjusting.
“If I wasn’t here, I would venture to say there is a good chance this team would be at least 5-2,” Golloway said. “The veteran players would have gotten to play. But the end of the year results were going to be the same because of the selfishness, the ‘I don’t want to bunt; I want to swing away. I don’t want to move guys up into scoring position. I’m going to try to make a diving play because I want to be a star instead of playing the game the right way and not letting it be more than single.’
“I am going to teach baseball. They might not be able to understand the pushing the limits I’m doing to change the actual fiber, actual character, the end result of our program. We are really getting hit in the mouth right now.”
The time will come this season, Golloway said, when there is more swinging and less bunting. But swinging for the fences is not part of what he wants to see.
“They want to swing it,” Golloway said. “They swung from the hip last year and basically admit they did. … I’m supposed to put my paycheck on hitting home runs with dead bats? I’m smarter than that. There are other ways to score, but you have to get kids to buy into it.”
Golloway shared a story that he shared with his team about a retiring carpenter. It follows:
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to move on and the family would be able to get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to poor workmanship. He used low-grade materials in building his final job. I was an unfortunate way to finish a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work, the contractor cam to inspect his work. He handed the front-door keys to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.” The carpenter was shocked. What a shame. If only had known he was building his own house, he would have done it so different. He would have built it with passion, pride, commitment and discipline.
So it is with us as athletes, coaches and people. We build our lives a day at a time. We often put less than our best effort into the building. Then, with a shock, we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently, but we cannot go back and build a new foundation that we’ve already set.
Life is a do-it-yourself project. You attitude and the choice you make today build your house that you will live in tomorrow. Build wisely.”
“That’s what I read to our team,” Golloway said. “That’s where we are. We had some people who weren’t willing to invest and build a good, solid house. We probably don’t have 100 percent still, but good programs do. The teams that win do.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: