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CAMPUS REPORT | COLLEGE BASEBALL

Garrido Has Foundation Set in Texas

April 15, 1999|LON EUBANKS

Not long after after Augie Garrido left Cal State Fullerton to become coach at Texas, he considered having a house built in Austin.

"I decided I'd better build a baseball program before I built a house," Garrido said, laughing. "If I didn't do well, I would just buy a bus to live in, paint it stealth-gray, and then move it every night."

Well, it looks as though Garrido won't need the bus to hide from Longhorn fans this season.

Texas is ranked among the nation's top teams again, and is in the running for the Big 12 championship.

With a 26-15 record, the Longhorns also should be back in the NCAA tournament picture for the first time since Garrido took over a program that had fallen on hard times in the waning days of the Cliff Gustafson era.

Gustafson, who retired as the winningest coach in NCAA Division I baseball history, posted a record of 1,427-373-2 at Texas from 1968-96. During that time, he led the Longhorns to 22 conference titles, a record 17 College World Series appearances and two NCAA championships, in 1975 and '83.

Garrido, in his third season at Texas, is feeling a lot better than he did a year ago.

"Last year was the second most difficult experience of my coaching career," Garrido said. "The only year that was worse was my first year coaching at Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo] in 1970. I had never experienced losing before, and we finished 15-33. After that, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be a dentist, a florist or a baseball coach."

Texas finished 23-32-1 last season, but Garrido frequently had seven freshmen in the lineup.

"It was a transition year, but I think we've turned things around now," he said. "We're not dominating the conference like we wish we were, but it's a strong conference with several really good teams. And we're still a young team with a lot of sophomores."

Baylor (33-7), ranked seventh nationally, leads the Big 12 with a 15-3 record. Texas A&M is 14-3, Texas Tech is 13-3 and Texas is 12-6 after losing two of three games to Baylor last weekend. The Longhorns play another big series this weekend against Texas Tech.

"What a lot of people don't realize is the parity that exists now in college baseball," Garrido said. "It's not going to be like it was at Texas in the 1980s, or at USC in the 1970s. It can't be. There are too many more good teams. Division I baseball in Texas is strong this year, and not just with the teams in our conference."

Texas currently is ranked No. 16 by Baseball America, but the Longhorns were in the top 10 earlier in the season.

"We're pointing for the year 2000," Garrido said.

Garrido, who turned 60 in February, and former USC coach Rod Dedeaux are the only coaches to win national championships in three different decades. Garrido, whose Titan teams won in 1979, '84 and '95, seems ready to try to make it four for four.

THE ACTOR

Garrido made his acting debut in his friend Kevin Costner's new baseball movie, "For Love of the Game," which is expected to be released in September.

Costner plays the role of Billy Chapel, an aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, and Garrido plays the manager of the New York Yankees.

"There are only a few quick scenes for me, but it was fun," Garrido said.

Garrido was a technical advisor for the film, helping design the baseball action sequences. He also helped in the casting of the players. Garrido worked about five weeks this past fall on the movie.

"Augie did a lot of work, and helped a lot," Costner said. "When you watched him, it was easy to tell why he's so successful as a baseball coach. He was so methodical about everything he did. His approach, and the respect he received from the baseball people involved meant a lot to us."

PLAGUE OF 'OMAHA-ITIS'

Long Beach Coach Dave Snow has an expression for it: "Omaha-itis."

Snow believes it sometimes hits players the season after their team makes it to Omaha for the College World Series. He thinks at least some of his players are going through it this season. The 49ers are 18-16.

"They get some accolades, then they think they have to live up to being an All-American or something like that," Snow said. "When they came into the program they were hungry, but after some success, they started thinking about results instead of just playing the game."

Snow thinks that has been the case this season with some of his pitchers, but Mike Gallo is not one of them.

The left-hander pitched two solid games in Omaha and gave up only one run and six hits in a complete-game victory over Stanford in the NCAA West Regional last season. Gallo is 7-0 with a 1.95 earned-run average this season.

WINNING UGLY

Cal State Fullerton (30-7) finished the first half of the Big West Conference season with a 13-2 record and a 3 1/2-game lead over second-place Nevada, but Coach George Horton wasn't satisfied.

"The machine definitely needs to be tuned up again," Horton said.

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