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The Tiger

Behind the Ball with Head Coach Monte Lee

Contributed By Freddie Pope

Tiger Sports (TS): If I didn’t know anything about you, what would you want me to know at the end of this interview?

Monte Lee (ML): That I always try to live my life and coach my players with one thing in mind, and that is to treat other people the way I want to be treated. So I always try and treat people with respect and hear what they have to say. I’m open minded and I’m just a normal guy. Sometimes people think that coaches are at another level but I’m not. 

I’m just a guy who coaches baseball for a living and I’ve had some success and I enjoy it. I try and make anyone I’m affiliated with as a baseball coach feel important. I think that’s important. 


TS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a baseball coach?

ML: As far back as I can remember, and that’s the truth. I think I started thinking about what I wanted to do in life when I got to high school. 

Early in high school I can remember my high school baseball coach asking me that question. I think I may have been a sophomore at the time and I told him that I wanted to be a coach. 

As far back as I can remember when it comes to thinking about a career, coaching is the only thing I’ve thought about doing. 

TS: Back when you were a player, was there a certain pro you looked up to and tried to model yourself after? 

ML: I had a few. When I was a little kid, my favorite player was Dale Murphy. I was a child of the ‘80s. 

If you were a baseball fan and grew up in South Carolina you basically either watched the Braves or the Cubs, so I grew up a Braves fan. 

Dale Murphy was the guy I loved to watch play. The Braves weren’t very good at the time but they got to be very good in the early ‘90s throughout the entire ‘90s. Ken Griffey, Jr. was another of my favorites, I loved to watch Greg Maddux pitch, Nolan Ryan but I would say my two favorite players were Murphy and Ken Griffey, Jr. 


TS:What factors played into your decision to leave College of Charleston and come to Clemson?

ML: It was a very hard move for me. I loved Charleston, 

I loved working at the College of Charleston, it was my alma mater so the College of Charleston will always be a very special place to me. But I knew the only chance I had to leave the College of Charleston was if an opportunity like the Clemson job became available. 

It’s a destination job. And Clemson is a place where, as a coach, it’s as good as it gets. It doesn’t get any better in college athletics than Clemson. 

For me to leave my Alma Mater, it had to be at a program where we could play at the highest level, that had an amazing fan base and a lot of tradition, a place that fit me as a person. Clemson was the best fit for me and I am just so grateful for the opportunity to be here. 


TS: Since you’ve been here, what’s the thing that has stood out the most about Clemson?

ML: Just how family oriented the place is, how welcoming the people are here. I’ve never seen a place where the community engages as much with what is going on around campus. The fact the students are so engaged in campus life. 

Most universities, you go to school there, you take your classes there and then you are looking for things off campus to do. Clemson’s not that way, you find your entertainment on campus. I think that is one of the things that is really cool about this school is you have to be so engaged to campus life while you are a student here. 


TS: So, on the flip side of that, what are some of the challenges you have faced since you got here?

ML: Just being a first year coach in a new school with new players. Everything’s new, that’s probably the biggest thing. Just trying to figure out how we do things as an athletic department. I didn’t recruit a lot of these players so just getting to know them and everything being new. 


TS:What have you done to bond with your players since you’ve been here?

ML: Just try and be myself. Sometimes you try to be more than you are and you try too hard. I’ve tried really hard not to do that and just let the relationships develop naturally 


TS: What’s it been like replacing so many starters from last year with so many of them going to the Draft?

ML: That’s a question all of us will have answered real quick. The disadvantages we have in college baseball is we can’t play outside competition in our offseason, we can only intrasquad. 

With so many new players, new pitchers especially, until we have someone else in that other dugout and can play against someone else, we don’t know how they are going to respond. There’s a lot of questions still to be answered as far as losing so many players to the draft as far as who is going to step up when the lights are cut on, there’s 7,000 people in this stadium and there is someone other than the Clemson Tigers on the field. I think that’s the thing I’m excited about, seeing how our guys respond in real competition.


TS: Which players are you looking to step up, both as leaders and on the field?

ML:Well leadership, Chris Okey. Chris Okey has been a starting catcher here for us and Chris is a guy I think we are going to lean on heavily as far as leadership. 

Charlie Barnes is a left handed pitcher who’s a sophomore that gets a lot of respect from the pitching staff along with Pat Krall. 

We’ve got a guy in an Eli White at shortstop that’s a phenomenal player. I think he’s going to do special things. 

Pitching wise, Clate Schmidt is a senior, is the most experienced pitcher we have and Clate battled cancer. So that’s a good story on him, working so hard to get back healthy and we expect big things out of Clate as well. 


TS: So Schmidt’s doing OK now?

ML:He’s doing great.


TS: So besides winning, which is a goal for every coach, what are your personal goals for this season?

ML:I just want to get the most out of our team. I don’t look at results as far as wins and losses as being the only thing you look at when trying to evaluate a team. It’s all about how we prepare, how we practice, how we play. 

In baseball you are going to fail. Baseball is a game of failure. 

If you get hits 30 percent of the time you hit .300 so you’re going to fail. 

It’s about teaching a team about how to deal with that failure, how to deal with the ups and downs and you just hope that you can get the most out of them every day. If I can get them to play as hard as they can for Clemson University and compete together and be selfless then the results will take care of themselves.


TS: What are you most looking forward to this season as far as being at Clemson?

ML: Just the atmosphere and being able to know that when I walk out in that dugout you know you are playing against the best programs in the country. You’re in the ACC so the competition level is extremely high and the fan base is as good as anyone in the country and we get a lot of student support. Those are the things I’m most excited about, just to be in that type of environment. 


TS: If you could tell the Clemson family one thing, what would it be?

ML: Just, I’m grateful. 

This is a dream come true, it’s a life-long opportunity. I’m just grateful to be here and I am going to do everything I can to put this program is a position to play at the Omaha level. 

That’s my goal, I want to get this program to Omaha and play for a National Championship. 

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