Many of the folks on Tennessee’s campus are focused on football right now.
Not Aric Thomas.
The new assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator hardly ever lets his mind waver from baseball.
And right now is the hottest time to find recruits who are playing summer tournaments across the country.
Since being hired by UT on July 8 to replace Bill Mosiello, Thomas has made recruiting trips to tournaments in East Cobb, Ga.; Cary, N.C.; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Syracuse, N.Y. He leaves today for a tournament in South Carolina.
“Once the season’s over, you’re on the road most of the summer,” Thomas said Wednesday. “That’s just part of what it is. College baseball has become that type of animal. You’ve got to be out recruiting and learn the players and see as many as you can.”
In addition to heading up UT’s recruiting, Thomas will coach outfielders defensively and share offensive coaching duties with associate head coach Greg Bergeron. Thomas has plenty of experience in both areas.
He was an assistant at Oklahoma from 1996-2004 before taking over as coach at Eastern Oklahoma State College from 2004-11. He spent the past two seasons back at Oklahoma.
“You can’t teach experience,” Thomas said. “You can only give guys experience, and I really like what I’m coming into. I’m not coaching the club last year with 18 freshmen. I’ve got those guys coming back with a year under their belts. No. 1, I look for improvements. I know Coach Bergeron is a really good hitting coach and we’re going to mesh minds together and do what we can to maximize our offense.”
The Vols have a ways to go before they match the bats of their SEC opponents.
UT ranked eighth in the SEC this past spring in hitting with a .275 batting average. The Vols hit
a program season low 13 home runs in 52 games.
Thomas said part of UT’s plate problems in 2013 was the youthful roster getting accustomed to the new bats used in college, BBCOR bats (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution), which lacks the pop of previous bats used.
“You look at the roster last year, there’s a lot of really young, talented guys. It’s tough with these new bats,” Thomas said.
UT’s players report Aug. 21.
“I’ve talked to the coaching staff plenty about the players we’ve got coming in,” Thomas said. “They really like this group, and I’m excited.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.