CLEMSON — While the weather may not be summer-esque, the boys of summer are returning to the diamond.
The No. 12 Clemson Tigers open their 121st season of baseball with a three-game series against William & Mary beginning Friday and ending Sunday.
For head coach Monte Lee, things could not have gone any better since taking over the program — winning an ACC championship and hosting back-to-back regionals in his first two years on the job.
While the fan base is certainly content with the progress Lee has made, there is a certain faction of the rabid, baseball-loving fans expecting more out of the 2018 team — namely, a return trip to Omaha.
But Lee is not worrying about appeasing those fans because nothing good comes from added pressure.
“Not really, and the reason is when you start talking about stuff like that, it puts more pressure on your team,” Lee said. “We don’t talk a whole lot about outcomes. We want our guys to play with no regrets, and you start talking about the outcome all the time, you start talking about getting to the Super Regionals and getting to Omaha -- you get to those places by making the most of every game and competing as hard as you can.
“So at the end of the day, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about those types of things. Pressure, we don’t worry about pressure. We worry more about playing the game the right way and making the most of what we can do with this team. That’s really all I worry about."
When Lee was hired on June 18, 2015, he accepted the job with a clear understanding of what was expected of a head coach at Clemson. In fact, the goal is stitched on the back of every one of their hats -- Omaha.
Even though the Tigers are wearing their goal on their head every time they take the field to practice, walk around or play a game, Lee is focused solely on how his team plays — not the outside noise.
“Everybody knows what’s on the back of our hat,” Lee said. “Everybody knows what the expectations and goals are and where we’re trying to go, and we know every year it’s a disappointment if we don’t go to Omaha — that’s a given. But that’s not something that we’re going to talk about.”
While the idea that Lee is not talking to his team in January about the goal of playing in June may rub some fans the wrong way, he understands the journey from January to June is a long one. And if the Tigers want to be one of the final teams standing in Omaha, they will need to focus on themselves and not the expectations.
“Because if you want to be one of the final eight team playing at the end of the year, you’ve got to be one of the best teams in the country, you’ve got to execute in all phases of the game. So we’re worried more about execution than we are expectations.”
Fan day moved
Due to inclement weather, the Clemson Baseball Fan Fest scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 10, was canceled.
Many of Fan Fest’s activities were rescheduled to coincide with the Tigers’ opening weekend of baseball. At Friday’s (4 p.m.) opening game, the first 1,000 fans will receive rally towels. Saturday (2 p.m.) will be designated Kids Day, with inflatables and the kids able to run the bases postgame. Finally, following Sunday’s finale (3 p.m.), the Tigers will be available to sign autographs.