For college baseball players, coaches and fans, this one word holds more weight than all others. It’s the goal of every program in the country. It’s the reason why some high schoolers come to college rather than turn pro, or why collegiate players like Aaron Westlake and Taylor Hill decided to pass over the draft and return to college for their senior seasons. Until Saturday night, Omaha was a goal of the Vanderbilt Baseball program that had yet to be fulfilled. Coach Corbin has always told us, “sometimes you have to keep knocking at the door for it to fall”—the door finally fell.
When we first met as a team last August 25, there was a date posted on the whiteboard: “8/25 — ?” It symbolized the beginning of the year, with the “?” symbolizing the end. As of now, we are fortunate to be one of only eight teams to still be playing, and to still have that question mark. Going to Omaha makes all of the 6:00 AM workouts and wind sprints not seem as bad as they felt at the time. It makes us laugh at how miserable we were practicing in the snow in February, and reminds us of the reason we signed up to play at a place like Vanderbilt.
It’s special for all of us, but more so for a guy like Mark Lamm, who redshirted but was in uniform in 2007 when Vandy hosted a Regional but did not advance. Lamm was also on last year’s 2010 team that lost the deciding Super Regional game against Florida State. He’s seen a lot of baseball over his five years here (don’t worry, we make sure to remind him of this fact all the time), as well as having and overcoming Tommy John surgery on his elbow. He has truly seen the ups and downs that this sport can dish out, but his smile Saturday night during our celebration proved that the price he paid was well worth it.
Yet even Lamm will tell you that what meant the most to us was seeing Coach Corbin raised on our shoulders and pumping his fist in celebration in front of 3,500 fans at Hawkins Field. He is THE hardest working coach in the country. Bar none. If anyone deserves to lead his team to Omaha, it’s him. People always talk about his ability to lead and get the most out of his players. But it’s the things that fans don’t always see—the team activities he arranges, the emails he sends every week outlining the team goals—that make him a great coach. He deserved to take Vandy to Omaha a long time ago, but sometimes the wait makes the moment even sweeter.
But by no means are we treating our trip to Omaha as a vacation. Our team goal was to reach Omaha—and win or lose, we are going to enjoy ourselves when we get there. Make no mistake, though—we’re going out there to win some games. We’ve come this far, so why not? All eight teams remaining are more than talented enough to win it, and being paired with North Carolina, Texas, and Florida is going to be very tough. Even though the stage may be brighter, our game plan remains the same: play the game pitch-by-pitch and have fun doing it.