Oct. 29, 2007
Fullerton, Calif. - Baseball Head Coach Dave Serrano sat down on Oct. 25 for the first of a series of conversations with Sports Information Director Mike Greenlee to discuss the Titan Baseball for fullertontitans.com.
Well coach, thanks for sitting down with us. Officially, let me say welcome back to Cal State Fullerton - we're very happy to have you home. How has the transition back to Fullerton been for you both on a baseball level and a personal level?
Thank you. Ultimately the transition has been fabulous. Unfortunately this whole process hasn't been all fun though. I had to leave a university and a program that my coaching staff and I put our fingerprints on over the past three years and raised it to a level we were very proud of. I also had to walk away from a bunch of kids that my staff and I had deep ties with. But to come back to Cal State Fullerton, which everyone sees as a Top 5 college baseball program year in, and year out, it is one of the best jobs in the country to be able to inherit.
It feels good to be home and though I haven't put on the uniform yet, to wear the pinstripes and wear the "F" on the hat, means a lot to me and my family. This move for us wasn't for the short-term, it was for the long-term. I based my decision on what was best for me and my family over the long-haul, and though it was a very tough decision, Fullerton, based on its track record, was going to give me the best opportunity to succeed.
Having had some time now to reflect a little, are you surprised at the backlash you have received by both the media and fans in taking the job here at Fullerton?
The way I handled the whole situation, no, it doesn't completely surprise me that I have had to take and continue to take criticism over it. But I know that if we weren't able to accomplish what we accomplished last season with that UC Irvine baseball team, I don't think there would have been a person that would have batted an eye about my decision to come back.
With what we were building and creating over there, it surprised and stunned a lot people and even made people feel betrayed by the way it was handled. Only I and the people close to me understand why I handled it the way I did. I have to be able to look myself in the mirror each and every day and know I have made the decision I made for the right reasons. I am very proud to be at Cal State Fullerton.
Those that are close to me and know me best, know the emotions that I went through in making my decision, and those are the people that still stand by me. The people that still question my choice, I can't apologize for it, because they are still not understanding my reasoning in coming to my decision.
We all know that you and your friend and mentor, George Horton, have very similar styles in coaching. But what can fans expect to see differently with you and your staff pushing the buttons?
I am very proud of what Coach Horton did here and I think that many other people are proud of that, too. So in that regard, I hope they don't see anything different. In fact, I hope they see the same type of program.
We are insisting to our players each and every day that we are going to be aggressive, hard-nosed, we're going to play the game at the right speed, and that we are going to have a team that is a true team. It isn't going to be about one guy, it is going to be about every guy that puts on this uniform. We are trying to ingrain into these young men's heads just how special it is to be a Titan, and that is something that we will continue to carry out each day, each and every year we are running this program.
I don't want us to be judged by just the wins and losses and the championships, but also the character of these young men that are coming out of this program.
I think a lot of the technical parts of the game that might be different, will depend on each team. Coach (Greg) Bergeron will run the offense and he is an up-tempo type of guy and we are going to run more. We believe in putting pressure on the defense, and not just with running game. We instill a lot more motion in the game with hitting and running and dragging and pushing (bunts), and all of the things we can use to manufacture runs. We're into hitting balls over the fence and we have guys that can do that in this program, but hopefully we will have a well rounded offense, where we can be aggressive with the bat and aggresive on the basepaths.
What is the toughest part of being both the head coach and the pitching coach simultaneously?
I'm often down in the bullpen with the pitchers, so I have to be a lot more organized. I need to be able to help train the pitchers, but also be apart of the rest of the team because it is very important that the team sees me as the head coach and that they recognize that I am aware of what is going on around the entire baseball field.
Pitching is such an important part of a team's success, and a pitching coach's job is to be with them every minute of the day at practice. As head coach, I do like to have involvement in everything that is going on, not so much that I need to be doing drills with the rest of the team, but enough that the rest of the team knows I am aware of what is going on. I want them to know that I am aware that I know who is having success on a day-to-day basis, because it is me who is ultimately deciding who is playing where and when.
Sticking with the pitching for a moment, do you find yourself adjusting your coaching style for the group of returning pitchers that have established a routine here, or do you see them making more of an adjustment to adapt to you?
I think that we both have the same type of change. I am getting used to new individuals and they have to get used to a new leader. Unfortunately for many of these pitchers that have been in the program these last three years, they have had three to four different pitching coaches. So hopefully, with me being back, I will bring some stability to the pitching staff in the years to come. So to answer the question, I think we're both learning each other and it's just a short adjustment period before we become accustomed to each other.
Having been in practice for a couple of weeks now, can you give us some of your impressions so far, and maybe some insight as to what the fans can expect in 2008?
Well I will say this, and my staff will echo this comment, I am very grateful that we have 33 days to work out here in the fall. Because of the new coaching staff, the small changes in coaching philosophies and the different flavor we bring ... had we only had 12 days to practice, I would have been a bit more scared about the results when breaking from fall. But I think even though we have had some great days on the field, we have also had some bad ones, and the fact that we have a lot of days left to work those problems out, brings us some relief.
What the fans can expect from what I have already seen is that we are going to have an exciting offense. What the coaching staff is continuing to insist on, is that we commit to defense as much as we have committed to our offense so we can be a more well-rounded team.
The pitching is behind the hitting right now, and that is a little uncommon this time of year. But we have time. Hopefully with the pitchers' commitment and my commitment, we can catch up with that offense. If we can pitch and play defense with the style of offense and the nine guys we're going to put out there on a daily basis, this team has a good chance of being pretty good.
We're going to have speed and power, and if we can stay healthy, throw strikes and play catch we're going to have a pretty good season.