UC Davis baseball is rebuilding, and that process begins with new head coach Matt Vaughn.
While Vaughn has been a member of the UC Davis coaching staff for nearly 20 years, the former associate head coach will look to bring a new image to Aggie baseball.
Vaughn sat down with Aggie Sports Editor Trevor Cramer to talk about his love of UC Davis, his experience coaching on the international level and the future of UC Davis baseball.
What are your feelings on the job former coach Rex Peters did with UC Davis baseball?
I think he did a tremendous job. He took over a pretty good Division II team and he took us to the Division II College World Series the first year. Then he took us through the process of transitioning to Division I, which is a tough task for any coach.
You’ve been a part of UC Davis baseball for a long time. What does it mean to you to take over as head baseball coach?
It means everything to me. When I first started coaching there wasn’t much help, just one head coach and a volunteer. I love UC Davis and I love the student-athletes that we get. I’ve wanted this job since we started coaching.
How did you feel when you found out you would be the next head coach?
It was a combination of relief and excitement. When I started coaching at UC Davis, I knew that I wanted to get the [head coach] job. I spent 10 years coaching with [former coach] Phil Swimley, and I put all my eggs in the UC Davis basket. I passed up some other opportunities to make sure I would be here when Swimley retired, but when that time came they gave the job to Peters and that was hard for me. I felt like I was prepared for the job nine years ago, so when I finally got the job it was a lot of relief.
You played and coached under Swimley. What lessons did you learn from him that you can carry into your new role as head coach?
I learned a lot from him. He showed me how to run a practice and how to manage the number of personalities you have on a baseball team. [Swimley] was really good at dealing with players as individuals, and that was a big thing I learned from him. When I first started coaching I thought I could treat all the players the same way, but he taught me that each person is different and they need to be handled in different ways.
One of Swimley’s big accomplishments was improving UC Davis’ baseball facilities. What are your goals as far as facilities are concerned?
The first thing I’d like to do is get a covered batting cage facility so that we can practice in inclement weather. At the beginning of our season we deal with a lot of rain, so that would be big for us. We’d also eventually like to get a clubhouse-like locker-room, so that we could have a place to put our stuff and to bond as a team.
What kind of advantage does your experience with UC Davis give you over a coach who was hired from outside the program?
I think there’s a big advantage. The department could have hired from outside the program and there are tons of qualified coaches, but UC Davis is a unique spot. Some of the things we do at Davis are different from other programs, and no one knows about that better than I do. There’s no one more qualified to take this job than I am. There are a lot of nuances to UC Davis athletics that people from the outside don’t know about, and I think my experience gives me a jump on someone hired from elsewhere.
Are there any major changes you want to make in the UC Davis program?
There are some changes we will make, and some of them were already in progress before Coach Peters left. We’re trying to be more thorough in our recruiting process. We’re also looking for new and more innovative ways to communicate with out student-athletes. One of the things I’ve noticed is you need to find new ways to communicate and motivate this generation.
How do you feel about the 2012 baseball season?
Last year was a very disappointing year. We felt we were a better team, and we would win more games. We thought we were a 30-win team and we fell 12 short of that. We need to study that and we need to get better. I feel like the returning team is very solid. We have a lot of players returning. We will miss Scott [Lyman] on the mound, and we’re still finding out how many guys will be returning, but I think it looks good for us to have a good year. If nothing else we’re definitely going to turn this thing around.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.