Sabourin Alumnus and Admirer of Indiana Baseball Progress
Rob McLamb | On 17, Jul 2013
The Big Ten Conference is not known for its baseball. Entering the 2013 campaign, it had been 29 years since a school had appeared in the College World Series. This past season, Indiana University ended that barren spell with a Super Regional victory over Florida State.
The Hoosiers opened the series with a shutout victory over rival Louisville from left-handed pitcher Joey DeNato before being eliminated from the competition after dropping two close contests to Mississippi State and Oregon State.
While the Hoosiers advancing to Omaha, Neb to participate in college baseball’s showcase was a surprise to most observers, it is something that has brewing for a while according to Cleveland Indians prospect Jerrud Sabourin.
The Carolina Mudcats first baseman graduated from Indiana in 2011 before signing with Cleveland as a free agent. While his professional career occupies most of his time, Sabourin was determined to keep up with the exploits of his former teammates as best he could.
“I caught the tale-end of their first game; that was amazing,” Sabourin said. “I was able to catch one other game. We always played at the same time that they played. I saw as much as I could. I tip my cap to them. They did a great job this year. It is huge. People recognize Indiana as a baseball program now and not just a basketball program.”
The Hoosiers are led by Tracy Smith, who just completed his eighth season as coach in Bloomington. Smith has turned around the program into a perennial winner. The fortunes first turned in 2009, when Indiana won the Big Ten Tournament.
A three-year starter at Indiana, Sabourin feels it is Smith’s approach that is one of the big keys to the recent success, both for the Hoosiers and in the Carolina League All-Star’s individual career.
“It (playing for Smith) is all about attention to detail,” Sabourin said. “Our practices are strict. He makes what we are doing in practice is game-like. I definitely learned that from being there, just how mentally tough you can be, and how much mental toughness has to do with playing baseball.”
When the Hoosiers defeated Florida State in Tallahassee to punch its ticket to Omaha, Sabourin was overjoyed.
“I watched it on my iPad,” Sabourin said. “Obviously I was so happy for the guys because I knew a lot of them from when I played. They work so hard there in the fall and up to the spring; I saw a lot of tweets after the won the Super Regional thanking me and others for building the program. It was nice to see a little bit of love on Twitter. Although that is impressive, we did build the program up, but you’ve got to give it to the guys on the current team. Even if you have a great team, it is still so hard to get to Omaha.”
While it had almost three decades since a Big Ten school made it to the College World Series, Sabourin, a native of San Diego, Ca, feels the conference in general and Indiana in particular are on the cusp of sustained success that will see college baseball in the Midwest on equal terms with the rest of the nation.
“The big difference you are seeing now is Midwestern kids are starting to go to those schools,” Sabourin said. “They are starting to stay in-state. Also, ever since I’ve been there, there have been at least three or four guys from California on one team at a time. DeNato lives down the street from me in San Diego. I played with him in high school. They definitely reach out to wherever they can to get the good players.”
Photo by Nikolaus © 2013 Carolina Mudcats