Dave Serrano wanted to one day become the head coach of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, but he didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did.
“I was very humbled and very proud to be selected,” Serrano said. “I had been the assistant in 2010 and I knew there’s a process to that. You have to be the assistant before you can be the head coach. I didn’t know that it would happen so quickly.”
Serrano, the head coach at The University of Tennessee, said that he could also feel secure leaving the offseason duties to the assistant coaching staff. If it wasn’t for them, he may not have gone.
“It was a double sword thing. I was proud, I was humbled, I was honored, but yet I also knew that I had a program here that we’re trying to rebuild and get back into the national limelight,” Serrano said. “If it wasn’t for the wonderful assistant coaches that I have around me, that I can feel secure, that I can be gone and they can handle this place and continue to build it. That’s what made me feel secure about doing it. It’s a once in a lifetime deal. I’m glad I’ve done it.”
Serrano led the Collegiate National Team through what he called a “rigorous” schedule. The team trained together for ten days in North Carolina, playing other collegiate summer teams. Zack Godley, a senior RHP for The University of Tennessee, got the phone call from Serrano to join the team while they were in training.
“Coach Serrano called me about midway through the summer and gave me the news that I’d get the chance to go out there and play with him for a couple weeks,” Godley said. “He didn’t know if I was going to get to go to The Netherlands and Cuba with him, but he told me that I was going to get the chance to pitch for him which was a huge honor for me.”
Godley said that he remembers the incredible feeling of being able to wear the USA uniform.
“When we first got the uniform it was just unbelievable to see USA and have the red, white and blue and get to put it on was just an honor,” Godley said.
Godley did not travel with the team to Cuba, where Team USA played the Cuban National Team five times. This was the first U.S. team to travel to Cuba to take on the Cuban National Team in 16 years and they went 2-3 overall.
Serrano said that the trip to Cuba was the most memorable trip of the summer.
“You’re talking about a collegiate team that was, the majority of our players were freshman and sophomores, going up against men from Cuba,” Serrano said. “Guys that have played professional baseball for many years over there, are experienced, have had many at bats, many innings pitched, and to play in that environment of such a passionate country when it comes to baseball and that rivalry between USA and Cuba in baseball and being right in the thick of it.”
After the series against Cuba, Serrano and Team USA traveled to The Netherlands to take compete in the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week, taking home the bronze medal.
“At the time it was a disappointment that you fell short of your goals [of a gold medal] not only for your team but for your country, but you look back and you realize the memories and the relationships that were built and the experience you had and there are no regrets,” Serrano said.
Serrano said that he believes that this experience has taught him how to handle and adapt to people in a short amount of time.
“I feel that I came back and I’m hoping that I’ve become a better coach in a lot of different areas,” Serrano said. “You get so locked into your surroundings and your comfort zone and being around the same place and you kind of get away and you meet different people from different programs. They have different ideas and different ways to go about it and you kind of gather what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.”
The University of Tennessee will kick off their spring season on February 15 against The University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Their first home series will begin on Feb. 22 against Arizona State.