Tim Tadlock is under no illusions about the task he faces as the ninth head baseball coach in Texas Tech history.
Tadlock inherits a team that finished last in the Big 12 Conference this season with its worst league record (7-17) since 1990, has not finished higher than third in the Big 12 or been to the NCAA postseason since 2004 or won a Big 12 regular season or tournament championship since 1998.
It did have a school-record nine players drafted by the major leagues this week, most of which are likely to sign and turn pro, and only emphasizing what could have been.
But Tadlock, who was formally introduced on Friday, is intent on making sure nobody, including himself, uses any of those factors as an excuse not to win, and win consistently.
“It wasn’t too long ago, it’s been about seven years, that a guy told me, ‘Texas Tech can’t go to Omaha,’” Tadlock said referring to the site of the College World Series. “Well, guess what we’re about to find out?
“We are going to strive every day to put this program in a position to win championships. Along the way, if that gets us to Omaha, we will count our blessings and we will be the happiest people. We are going to throw tortillas in Omaha.”
Tadlock, 43, who served as the associate head coach last season under Dan Spencer, begins his first Division I head coaching job with a simple plan to build a program — getting the best baseball players possible. That might not always mean getting the player with the best tools or the best pro prospect, but rather someone who epitomizes the true meaning of what a baseball player is.
He admits, though, that finding and developing those players starts with him both on the recruiting trail, in the clubhouse and on the field.
“It definitely starts at the top with leadership, and I’m not saying that was missing,” Tadlock said. “We want to go and get the best players we can and we want to put them in position to be successful. The simplest thing is we want to have five or six guys that when they’re going to the plate, you won’t want to leave the booth. If somebody’s sitting in their seat, we want them to stay there when they come up.”
Tadlock certainly has the proven track record to bring those kinds of players to Lubbock, having done so as both a junior college head coach at Grayson College and as a Division I assistant for six seasons at Oklahoma.
Tadlock’s only previous head coaching experience is a nine-year stint at Grayson Community College in Denison, but he was very successful with the Vikings.
He compiled a 435-127 record and led the Vikings to consecutive junior college national championships in 1999 and 2000. His .774 winning percentage between 1997 and 2005 was the highest of any college coach at a two- or four-year school in that span.
Tadlock spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Oklahoma where he had four recruiting classes ranked in the top 20, three of which contributed to the Sooners’ run to the College World Series in 2010 and four that factor into this year’s run to the Super Regionals.
As the Sooners’ hitting coach, Tadlock’s teams hit .300 or better in each of his six seasons, and the 2009 and 2010 teams combined for 195 home runs, leading the Big 12 each season.
“Over the last two weeks we have spent time talking to hundreds of individuals throughout all levels of college baseball,” Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said, “and it became very clear very quickly that the best man to lead our program was right here in our dugout.”
After posting winning conference records in the first six seasons of the Big 12, Tech has had a losing record in eight straight years and nine of the last 10, and the Red Raiders are just one game above .500 all-time in Big 12 games.
With Tadlock serving as Tech’s defensive coach, the 2012 Red Raiders finished with the second-best fielding percentage (.971) in school history while also finishing second in the Big 12 Conference in batting average (.292) and leading the Big 12 in doubles (117) and triples (24).
But the 2013 team is expected to be just a shell of the 2012 squad with the loss of so many seniors and drafted players. As much as that group struggled with success, however, turnover might not be so bad, and it’s something Tadlock is used to.
“If you go back and check the records on the last six years, there’s every bit as much turnover (at Oklahoma) nearly as there was at a junior college,” Tadlock said. “But that’s OK. Turnover is good. Young guys are good. They are going to play aggressive and we are going to get after it, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
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