Program’s success makes Vanderbilt an easier sell

Friday, April 10, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 15
By Maurice Patton

Pipeline to the pros

Since Tim Corbin’s arrival for the 2003 season, 13 players off his Vanderbilt teams have played Major League Baseball (player, drafting team and year drafted, major league tenure):

Jeremy Sowers (Indians, 2004) 2006-09

Mike Baxter (Padres, 2005) 2010-current

Jensen Lewis (Indians, 2005) 2007-10

Antoan Richardson (Giants, 2005) 2011, 2014

David Price (Rays, 2007) 2008-current

Pedro Alvarez (Pirates, 2008) 2010-current

Ryan Flaherty (Cubs, 2008) 2012-current

Nick Christiani (Reds, 2009) 2013-14

Mike Minor (Braves, 2009)  2010-current

Curt Casali (Tigers, 2011) 2014

Sonny Gray (Athletics, 2011)  2013-current

Taylor Hill (Nationals, 2011) 2014

Drew VerHagen (Tigers, 2012) 2014

Tim Corbin has adjusted his recruiting philosophy – both the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ – over the course of his Vanderbilt tenure, and the success that the Commodores have enjoyed on his watch has allowed that to take place.

Upon his arrival, Corbin and his staff were selling a world-class education unlike any other provided by a Southeastern Conference school. As the program improved, they were able to discuss accomplishments on the field and in the classroom.

“Now, the recruitment’s a little different,” the coach explains. “We’re talking about how we can develop the student-athlete, not just in baseball but beyond.”

Helping shift the focus has been the number of players who have gone on to the professional ranks and have reached the top of that ladder.

A total of 13 Corbin-produced Vanderbilt players have played at the major league level, with 11 doing so last season.

Already this year, two former Commodore pitchers are slated to be opening day starters for their respective teams – David Price for the Detroit Tigers, and Sonny Gray for the Oakland Athletics.

“I’m sure a young man like Dansby Swanson never looks at Vanderbilt if he doesn’t see a resume of success with Pedro (Alvarez) and Sonny and Mikey (Minor) and David and Ryan Flaherty and so on,” Corbin says of recruiting a top prospect. “He doesn’t choose to come here. He goes to Clemson or Georgia or somewhere like that.

“That has perpetuated itself – the success of the kids, the development piece.”

The most outstanding player at last year’s College World Series, Swanson is a candidate for this year’s prestigious Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s top player. He also projects as a first-round selection in this summer’s draft after being picked in the 38th round out of high school.

And just like an Alvarez or Price led to a Swanson or a Carson Fulmer, those guys set the tone for incoming recruits like Ravenwood’s Bryce Denton and Clarksville’s Donny Everett.

“Just look at the kids that have come through here under his leadership that are now playing Major League Baseball,” athletics director David Williams says.

“We’ve got a great team on the field, great kids that have come through here playing pro, and a great group of high school kids that want to play here.”