Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said After Vols Clinched College World Series Berth | Rocky Top Insider (2024)

Tennessee baseball is headed back to Omaha for the second straight season and the third time in four years after defeating Evansville 12-1 in game three of the Knoxville Super Regional on Saturday night.

Following the game, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed a myriad of topics, especially in his 1,369 word opening statement. He also discussed what went well for Zander Sechrist, the team’s approach all day and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Got It Done In Omaha Clinching Win Over Evansville

Opening statement

“Congrats to our fans for sure. I mean, cheering pickoffs and definitely the loudest that it’s ever been in here. Congrats to our players. They’ve obviously worked hard like anybody that’s left at this stage in the season. And obviously a huge congrats to Evansville. Didn’t really know how to say it or show it or even hear to describe how much respect we have for their program and really this team in particular.

“So I’ll leave it at that. And then speaking of their program, Coach Carroll has stayed in an awful lot of hotels as a recruiting guy and I have too. So you guys made the mistake of giving me the mic. So I’ll add to my opening statement really picking up where we left off yesterday where somebody asked me a question that bothered one of my players. So I’ll have his back.
But again, if you got to cut me off, cut me off. But I’ve stayed in an awful lot of hotels to be in this position alone and running around and watching games and we’ve done it I think from the ground up here. And while I’m at it, anybody that’s thinking about visiting our place that we’re recruiting and you think this is a place you can come and have your hand out and see how much money we can give you, don’t waste our time and don’t waste your time either.”

“But the question was posed basically about our season and if we lose tonight, it’s all for not, and Blake Burke wasn’t too happy about it. Blake Burke’s got a lot invested in this particular program. If I was Blake, back in that day, I was a little too wild. I would’ve said, ‘B you wasn’t with me shooting in a gym or something similar to that.’ But he kept his composure. Clearly you’ve seen me in action. I don’t have great composure so I’ll speak on it for a sec because it started out as we were No. 1 for most of the season. That’s an incorrect statement. It’s not a fact. I don’t know who was number one preseason because I don’t look at it. It’s a very difficult sport to predict what’s going to happen. Nobody predicted Evansville to be here, but they were. And then also we were not No. 1 majority of the season. As a matter of fact, when we first took over, I was astonished Kentucky was winning our league, which you guys write up— it’s one of the most, if not the most competitive league. And they were No. 1 in the division. But somehow we were number one on writer’s polls. But we weren’t for most of the season we had to work to get to that point. No question.

“But then again, the word success to me is very important in this room. We make these guys write down what success is for them and teach them that they need to define what a successful at-bat is or what a successful outing is. Whatever. Noah, it’s Noah Webster— Webster’s dictionary. It says success is a degree or measure of achievement or if you read in another deal online, degree or measure of succeeding. So those two words right there, and I definitely ain’t the smartest fellow degree and measure means you get a pick. You get to pick what success is, which is pretty awesome. So Noah probably doesn’t know how to define it with these guys where you got to sweat, you got to be in the weight room together. You got to trust the guy. If you give up a ground ball can make the play for you. Or if you give up a run, the other guy will go to work for you. He wasn’t that, but he was a thinker. And the big thing Noah was, he loved his country. Big time patriot. Which is kind of a lost art around here. So I don’t know the guy, but I got a lot of respect for him and I liked the way he wrote that whole deal up as far as degree or measure.

“For me, I get a pick. I was around my dad a lot. He can’t tell me what to do. I don’t consider myself— I work for people here, but I’m my own boss when I come here. And for me, success is part-group. When our group has success, I consider myself a teammate to these guys.
It means I have a level of success. But then there’s also the part where I got a job to do and I got to make decisions. And if you were to put all my decisions in a bucket for the weekend, I had more wrong decisions than correct decisions. For instance, Dalton Bargo probably should have pinch hit yesterday. He showed me that with some attitude and some success today. And I’m not so sure he doesn’t do it yesterday too if we pinch hit him against (Shane) Harris because he wants to go home and he’s going home (to Omaha). But you know what Bargs? Success for me is being a good teammate. And Cal Stark is my guy. That’s my guy. For a lot of reasons, no doubt. So success for me is what I get to judge. If you’re talking about success for this team, the one thing I stated after last season, because I’m in a bathroom crying with just a lot of emotions after we’re able to beat Clemson last year, was to show up at work every day and get out of my car excited. And to have fun and to be around people that want to be here and be in an environment that you’re excited to get to every day. 100% success. Omaha is real fun to go to. If you don’t play that well, it ain’t that fun. But I don’t really give a damn to be honest with you. As a matter of fact, we kind of can pick up where Evansville left off. We’re not supposed to win because the No. 1 never wins. So house money. So I’m going to consider this even more of a success this year, but definitely because of that group in particular being the way they are.

“And then I think 2022 was brought up. We could have won 30 games in 2022.
Jared Dickey, who had a phenomenal post on social media today, transformed his entire body after quitting baseball as a part of one of the best teams and was a success as an individual among many other great things that happened about it, hey, you didn’t like the team?
So what? They got you talking about college baseball? I can tell you that. To me, that team was a success.”

“And the one thing I definitely wanna say about Evansville, Mr. Rumsey, Ty, I believe. I apologize if I got your first name wrong. Last out of the game. Not rubbing it in, not pointing fingers, all right? Be told you never got to play in Omaha. You know what, Rumsey can get on a plane and go to Omaha anytime he wants. Alright? That’s easy to do. You know what’s not easy to do? To run face first into a wall full blast, get stitches, injure your shoulder, and then on top of that, to play in today’s game. I’ve seen that guy, that guy made me nervous. I’ve seen a bunch of catches that guy made when we watch video. He made me nervous. So Omaha or not, who gives a damn? That guy’s an absolute success. And when he is older, he’ll be able to look everybody in the eye and say, ‘when I played, I don’t know what the hell his batting average is. I was a warrior. Warrior period. And a part of one of the best Evansville teams ever. And no one will ever be able to take that away from him. And every time he sees one of his teammates or goes back to that facility at Evansville, they’ll say, ‘hell yeah, there’s that guy right there.”

So for me, it’s a tangent, but that’s what success is defined by me. I get to do it the way I want to do it. You guys get to do it the way that you want to do it. So at the end of the day, success for me is, Omaha will be where Father’s Day is for me. But you know what, if you’re choosing, if you got a father figure in your life and they’ve done something to contribute for you— doesn’t even have to be your dad could be a coach maybe for you guys. You should appreciate him and you’re gonna have a successful day too, no matter where you are. If it’s not in Omaha. I would recommend Cabo, Ibiza or Tulum. I’ll be there at some point.”

On Zander Sechrist, his outing and where that ranks

“Speaking of hotels – hey, you get it wrong more than you get it right. At the end of the season, I’ll come forward with some confessions about recruiting and some of the players that that did things. But me, Frank [Anderson] and Josh [Elander], you got all three of us there. You drug it out and made us do all kinds of stuff for you [looks at Sechrist]. Sat there and watched him pitch in high school, [and] said that kid’s going to pitch in Omaha – just because the way he competed, the way the ball came out of his hand. And the players kind of decide how confident you are. I think that’s kind of your original question when it’s coming out of the hand like that and you’re moving around, there’s no doubt. There’s no doubt. I use Redmond Wallace as an example for all this. When you go home again, if you’re going to consider it a deal where you’re okay with it, whether it goes well or it doesn’t, you want to put your head on the pillow and say, ‘I’ll win or lose with that guy anytime’. And Redmond Walsh was that guy, but he’s gone and now we got another version of him with Zander and I will win or lose with that guy anytime on the field or off the field here.”

On past Omaha trips helping this current team

“It helps a ton because there’s a lot of things to navigate. I mean our, our guys in Hoover, I think it was part of my fault. Some of them I could just see – I mean, you get a little bit older and you watch guys, some of them are lost and we weren’t in sync and it’s a new environment, new itinerary and you got to kind of be through it a little bit to be at your very best. Now at the same time, there’s been a couple teams that have gone there in their first time, had a ton of success or even won the whole thing. Coastal Carolina comes to mind. But overall, what you would like is to have a vision of what it’s like and how to operate with some of that time off you get and some of the other things.

So, there’s no question it helps. And I think the younger guys on this team have looked to the older guys for leadership so many different times and that’ll be one instance they need to do it for sure.”

On how important it was to give Zander a moment in the 7th inning

“You have to ask him that. He made me put him back out there. And then I’m not so sure he didn’t make me take him out with his hand gestures or whatever non-verbals we had going on. What you don’t want is a mess to start or, sometimes it could be more comfortable to give a guy a clean start to his inning, but he demanded to be out there on that field. Step one saying it, step two is doing it. So he went out there and got the job done and put himself in a position where he could do what he wanted to do. He wanted to walk off the field. This is his home. And again, it’s like that for every kid wherever they’re at, but he did take a long time in recruiting, and he chose this to be his home and there’s been good times, there’s been bad times, but it’s always fun times when Zander is around. And this is his home. So that’s the way he wanted to do it. Again, kind of like my Cal [Stark] example, he’s earned the right to do a lot and ask for a lot and be given to him. And fortunately, the run differential made it a little easier.”

On what he saw from Dalton Bargo and how his team handled a ‘do-or-die’ game

“The determination was the biggest thing that stuck out with Bargs (Dalton Bargo) and he kind of had that look in his eye yesterday, and other times during the season. An incredible pinch-hit at-bat to lead a comeback win on a Tuesday, which, you don’t win enough Tuesdays, you may not be playing in this stadium. So the determination was obvious and then because of that, the one thing everybody says in baseball is don’t try and do too much or – I stunk because I was trying to do too much – well if you’re that laser focused and determined in what you’re trying to do, then you’re not gonna try and do more than that. That’s all you see is what you want to do. At least that’s my assumption from him. And you’re not gonna try and do too much and get out of whack there.

“And then the team was fine. How many times did we go one-to-one, not just in the SEC but also down in Dallas to open up the season? It was so important for these guys. We need to take a picture of the board that was up there. We had a meeting in here and sometimes there was fire about how many games we wanted to win down there, and we wanted to win at least two. So I think that experience helped. And I get it, you guys have a job to do, and I respect that, but it was kind of interesting that the TV guys were roaming around our dugout looking for signs and asking, ‘How’s everybody doing?’ And hey man, this is a game. I understand how important it is to everybody, and trust me, I shun my family on these weekends, and it’s terrible that I do it. We’re up here nonstop over the weekend because we want to win. But you show up to the park, man, Vegas doesn’t have a right, it’s 50-50, they could win or we could win. And then you go home and if you didn’t put your best foot forward then you get back to work. But if you did then that’s that. So I think that was the mentality. Everybody showed up today, but also very confident. Very confident, which was nice.”

On if his opening statement was for the media or for his players

“Just to get off my chest. Again, I definitely don’t think I’m the smartest guy, and I’m not trying to be humble, but it’s hard to stop my brain when I’m up here. I want to do right by these guys and wanted to get it off my chest because I had a lot of thoughts about it. And like I said, Blake Burke, and CMo’s there, too, and Zander’s been a part of that team, someone needs to tally up the win percentage here for [those] three years. I don’t think even Todd Hilton – as great as he is – was able to do that.

“And it hasn’t come easy. I mean Blake takes more swings than anybody, and I get interviews and people chant my name because Blake Burke can hit. I’m not doing anything other than putting him in the lineup. That’s what you would do. too. So, it just bothered me that after a loss it’s made worse. But you guys have to do your job. But I think it’s more appropriate if that stuff comes at me. I’m not going to give you the [Mike] Gundy line because I don’t want to tell you my age, I guess, but just want to get that off my chest.”

On how rewarding it is to take this team to Omaha considering how he talks all the time about it being fun to come to the ball park everyday:

“It’s awesome. Omaha is great. You want to be able to check that box, but you know, you don’t want to go there — like I said, in order to make it a good trip, you continue to make progress as a team. But you know, I’m still close with those guys at Arkansas and Clay’s over there. I’ve texted him, you know, stuff about today. ‘Cause again, my mind’s racing like, what do we need to (do)? And the one thing he said is, you know, there’s a lot on the line and you wanna win, but the thing you don’t wanna lose is another day with the guys, or another trip with the guys, or another bus trip, or jumping on a plane, or an hour delay where, you know, Zander does something goofy. And so it’s the type of team, you don’t want to be robbed of that extra day, or extra moment, or extra hour with your guys. And fortunately this will mean that we get to press on and do that and Peyton Manning needs to call an audible as well.

“But again, when you show up to the park, you’re probably gonna see something new happen in the sport of baseball during the course of that game. And then you can either win or you can lose unless they cancel the damn thing ’cause of Covid, which we had that silly meeting in here. So you know, that could have happened and I think there still would’ve been the same amount of love amongst the group and we would’ve had to find a different way to spend time for a couple, two, three days with one another. And then we would’ve looked back and again, to our degree would’ve seen all the things that we’ve achieved on paper, but also things behind the scenes that no one will know. And you know, a win gives you an exhilarating thrill for quite a while. If it’s one like this, sometimes just for a night. But you can’t take away that teammate stuff that I mentioned earlier. And regardless how things go from this point forward, that will go on for as long as we’re all alive.”

Everything Tennessee HC Tony Vitello Said After Vols Clinched College World Series Berth | Rocky Top Insider (2024)
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