Steady Hand, Good Eye
Long-tenured head coach mines pitching talent, directs players’ mindsets
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 11:02
Entering his ninth season as Texas A&M’s head baseball coach and his second in the Southeastern Conference, Rob Childress earned an opportunity to represent Texas A&M — and the United States — in a different capacity.
In January, Childress was named the pitching coach for the U.S. Baseball Collegiate National Team that will compete this summer in China, Japan, Cuba and Holland. Childress will join junior pitcher Daniel Mengden and three close coaching friends on the team — Dave Van Horn from Arkansas, Ray Birmingham from New Mexico and Steve Rodriguez from Pepperdine.
“I get the chance to work with three great friends and three of the best in the business,” Childress said. “It is going to be a lot of fun to work with some of the best collegiate talent in the country. To represent the United States is just a very humbling opportunity.”
In his first eight seasons at Texas A&M, Childress led the Aggies to a school-record seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including three NCAA Regional Championships and a Super Regional Championship. He compiled an overall record of 323-182-2 and has won two conference championships. Childress was named Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year in 2011 after leading his team to a 47-22 record and a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.
“[These eight years] have gone extremely fast,” Childress said. “Time flies when you are having fun. I feel blessed to be at Texas A&M and have all the resources given by the athletic department. We have got the best stadium, the best academic support, the best strength program and the best fan support in the country.”
During his tenure, Childress has produced All-American pitchers from his staff in Michael Wacha, who now pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals and was named MVP of the National League Championship Series in 2013; Tyler Naquin; and Ross Stripling. In each of his seven seasons in the Big 12, Childress’ pitching staff ranked either first or second in earned run average.
“[Childress] really gets you into the mindset of being a competitor,” said junior pitcher Daniel Mengden. “He teaches you to be a leader.”
The Aggies ranked No. 7 in the SEC and No. 50 in the nation with a 3.43 ERA during their first season in the conference, but Childress said he is confident he can bring the team to a competitive position within the conference.
“I expect a lot more than we got last year,” Childress said. “Everybody thinks it’s an offensive league, but the SEC is an extremely incredible pitching league as well. Our pitching staff matches up with any in the conference. It’s going to be another 30-game grind and only the strong will survive.”
In the locker room, Childress has garnered the status of a tough but caring coach, ready to put in the effort to ensure success.
“[Childress] is a different coach,” Mengden said. “He’s really hard on us but we all love him. He teaches the game the right way and he’s really understanding of all of us.”