Even though the start of the season is here before good baseball weather has arrived, Plainsman Park is expected to be a busy place in the coming days. For Butch Thompson this is a special time of year filled with anticipation as his Tigers dive head-first into the 2020 schedule with five games during a five-day stretch.
With the possibility this could prove to be his deepest and most successful team as the head coach at Auburn, Thompson notes that he and the players are looking forward to “playing somebody new” to see how they stack up.
Heading into his fifth season in charge, Thompson says that when game week finally arrives it still is a special time even though he has been through numerous seasons as a player, assistant coach and as a head coach.
“It started really happening this week,” Thompson said with a smile when I asked him if he still gets “butterflies” at this time of year.
“I think every coach, every player, no matter how long you do it, you kind of want to feel that way again,” he says. “I am starting to lose a little bit of sleep, not in a bad way. I am just thinking more about the visions of the season and the excitement.”
After taking the Tigers to the College World Series last season, the theme around Plainsman Park is to do even more this year in the regular season, the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
Thompson told his players that they would be wise to approach this year like Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers have. “I told our guys that I am so impressed with our basketball team to have a special season going to the Final Four and see them so razor sharp and competitive this season wanting more and more and more.
“I want that mentality to cross the street and make sure it stays in our program to still be hungry,” he says. “Watching the basketball team has got me excited about getting out there and watching my guys, and I think that is a great thing.”
If the 2020 Tigers are going to be more successful than the 2019 group it will be important to take advantage of what looks to be one the deeper pitching staffs in program history. There is also competition for spots in the everyday lineup, which is probably a good thing, too.
One of the keys to success in baseball is not beating yourself, which means making the routine plays almost all of the time, an area in which the coach admits his group is still a work in progress.
The pre-conference schedule will be important for sorting out the pitching rotations, both with the starters and in the bullpen, in addition to seeing what guys can be counted to field their positions properly and hit the ball consistently.
The Tigers will have about a month to iron out the kinks because when the SEC schedule opens in mid-March there won’t be a lot of room for error with the league looking to be unusually strong this year.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter