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Coach instills blue-collar mentality

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

men baseball

James Thompson — THE BATTALION

Head coach Rob Childress speaks to freshman right hand pitcher Gandy Stubblefield during the UT-Arlington game. This is Childress’ seventh season as head coach.

When you stand by Aggie head baseball coach Rob Childress, there is a silence about him, yet his message is communicated loud and clear.

“His message is to take one game at a time, because you never know when your last game is going to be,” said senior starting pitcher Ross Stripling. “Coach said to us, ‘What if this was your last game? Play with a fire,’ and I think this team has embodied that.”

For a student-athlete going through the grind of a 56-game baseball season, the brevity of a college career is sometimes overlooked, but Childress’ philosophy cements the foundation of hustle and hard work that has built his team.

“I stress effort and attitude and those are the only two things. We’re going to out hustle you and out compete you from when the first pitch is thrown,” Childress said. “If we do that, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”

Childress has been the Aggies’ head ball coach since 2005. He preaches strong pitching, defense and aggressive base running. While other programs recruit flashy student-athletes, Childress said he looks for athletes who will fit his system.

“None of our players were premiere recruits. We recruited kind of in our image, blue collar, hard-nosed guys, and they’re told that on their visit. When you come here, it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done but it will be the most rewarding,” Childress said.

Senior first baseman Jacob House said Childress stresses the importance of hard work and accomplishing goals.

“I think coach does a good job relaying his message, keeping us motivated and giving us goals every day,” House said.

On Feb. 28, the Aggies had a difficult time figuring out Northwestern State pitcher Jacob Roark and found themselves in a nine-run hole after five innings. The Aggies scrapped their way back to overcome the biggest deficit in Olsen Field history, winning 14-10.

Childress made it clear to his team to never give up. His players have not only bought into the philosophy, but picked up the language.

“This is a place where we play blue-collar, hard-nosed and we’re going to get our uniforms dirty,” redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Rafael Piñeda said. “We’re going to lay out and sacrifice ourselves for the team.”

Childress’ success on the field is chronicled by five Big 12 championships and a trip to the Aggies’ first College World Series in more than a decade. His success off the field is measured by the players’ success after leaving A&M.

“I think with everything, the character of the coach and what the coach stands for comes out through their team, through their play and coach Childress is a prime example of that. The way our guys play, they play hard, they play aggressive, but they are very consistent,” assistant coach Justin Seely said. “His personality comes out through our team and that’s why we continue to plug along and persevere.”

In a society that accepts disingenuous answers as sufficient, Childress still abides by a give-it-to-you-straight, no-nonsense attitude. Childress motivates and pushes his players in order to reach their potential because he’s developed trust in the group.

“When we talk to recruits we always say a couple of things about him. He’s the best man you know. He’s the best man I know. He is the most honest man I know,” said associate head coach Andy Sawyers. “In athletics when you have egos, agendas, people want to play… honesty from the man in charge is a very important trait and that is what I believe sets him apart from everyone else.”

So, has Coach Childress changed throughout the years?

“Well he’s not as skinny as he used to be, and he’s a little greyer now,” Sawyers joked. “He’s the same man he was as a 27-year-old assistant at Nebraska to be a pitching coach when I was a senior. He’s the same guy.”

As the season heads into May, Childress’ Aggies have hit a rough patch.

After rising to No. 2 in the nation, the team dropped five consecutive games, including a sweep at the hands of rival Baylor. With a little help, though, the Aggies could still contend for the Big 12 regular season title for the last time as conference members. When the time comes, A&M will also look to claim its third-consecutive Big 12 tournament title.

Post-season success, though, will require the character of this team to mimic that of the man who stands quietly, yet maintains a loud message — intensity and blue-collar hard work.

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