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Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin Joins the Baseball America College Podcast

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Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin and Michigan's Erik Bakich at the CWS (Photo courtesy of Teddy Cahill)

On this edition of the Baseball America College Podcast, Teddy Cahill and Joe Healy are joined by coach Tim Corbin of the defending national champion Vanderbilt Commodores ahead of his team’s participation in the MLB 4 Tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This is the second season in a row that Vanderbilt has taken part in this season-opening tournament, and it’s also the second season in a row that they’ve ended up in Arizona by happenstance.

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Last season, they were always going to be a part of that particular field of four, but the tournament was initially supposed to take place in Puerto Rico. After the island took on significant hurricane damage, Major League Baseball stepped in and hosted the tournament at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Spring Training home of the Diamondbacks and Rockies.

This time around, the Commodores weren’t initially supposed to take part, but they took the opportunity when it was presented to them.

“We were here last year. We weren’t going to be here this year,” Corbin said. “We already had a series scheduled, but (Director of Operations) Brooks Webb took it upon himself, based on another invitation, to get us here once again. So we’re really looking forward to it.”

For Corbin, no matter where it happens, he looks at opening day as another chance to appreciate his role.

“It’s celebrating something you’re very lucky to do,” he said. “That’s the thing that you take the most pride in is you’re actually teaching and coaching baseball and someone is paying you for it. To be able to do that for a long period of time, 18 years at Vanderbilt, I think you just go back and opening day has a way of just reminding you that you’re very lucky to do what you do, with the people that you do it with, at an institution that you really care about.”

To kick things off this season, Vanderbilt will turn the ball over to junior righthander Mason Hickman against the Michigan Wolverines on Friday night.

Although it was widely anticipated that superstar sophomore righthander Kumar Rocker would start on opening day, Hickman getting the start does provide some interesting symmetry. You may remember that Hickman took the mound in the deciding game of the College World Series finals against these same Wolverines at the end of last season.

Rocker will get the ball on Saturday against Connecticut, with junior lefthander Jake Eder scheduled for Sunday against Cal Poly. With so much talent among those three pitchers, to say nothing of some of the arms Vanderbilt has available that won’t be starting this weekend, putting the rotation together, for Corbin, was simply about trying to find the right combination to win this weekend, with an eye toward being flexible as the season goes on.

“It’s just trying to do what’s best for the team,” he said. “It’s just trying to put guys in position that can help us win. It can change from week to week, but at this point, we really wanted Mason to start the first game, and Kumar in the second game, and Jake in the third game.”

If that trio pitches like they have in the past, and an offense led by Austin Martin lives up to its potential, there will be a lot worth watching not only this weekend in Scottsdale, but all season long in Nashville.

Jeff Criswell Billmitchell

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