Boulware, ready for Home Run Derby, already looking forward to 2014
CLEMSON — Garrett Boulware corrected himself. Twice.
Clemson baseball by the numbers
BY THE NUMBERS
40-22 – Clemson baseball record in 2013, coach Jack Leggett’s 16th 40-win season in 20 years
38 – NCAA Regional appearances by Clemson, fifth-most in the country
.229 – Team batting average in 2013 Columbia Regional, losing two of three games
1-for-14 – One hit in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position in season-ending defeat to Liberty June 2
17 – Newcomers on Clemson’s 2013 roster, out of 35 players in uniform
3.21 – Team ERA, the program’s best mark since 1996
1 – starter lost from the lineup (Thomas Brittle) to graduation for 2014 season
His instinct to differentiate “last year” from “this year” is different than most.
Less than a month after the conclusion of Clemson’s 2013 baseball season, and the better part of a year away from opening 2014, the Tigers’ workhorse catcher insists on forgetting the former and focusing on the future.
“Next year’s going to be pretty exciting, especially with the kids coming in and almost everybody returning,” Boulware said Friday afternoon.
“I wish we would have gone further this year — or last year — but honestly, it’s more motivation this year. I think we can do a lot of damage.”
Boulware, who will be a junior, said he was “more than happy with” the previous spring, in which Clemson won 40 games and finished just inside the postseason USA Today Top 25 rankings. The season ended on a sour note, losing two of three and unable to advance past the Columbia Regional.
“Once I get past today, I’m going to choose to look at this as a really positive year and a positive future,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said after the Tigers’ season-ending 3-1 loss to Liberty on June 2. “Those real positive Clemson people that we have, I hope are feeling really good about what we have ahead of us.”
Added Boulware, with a month to reflect: “You’ve got to move past it. You can’t live in it, and you’ve got to get ready for next year. I’ve done everything I can at this point to get ready for next year, and so has everybody else on my team.
“Yeah, we hit a wall, and I don’t really know what the reason was. The games we lost, we had 10, 12 hits. It’s just baseball — it gets you sometimes.”
During the interview, Boulware was upbeat and wearing flip-flops, enjoying his offseason and taking time off after a heavy workload behind the plate.
But a few weeks ago, he received and accepted an invitation to participate in the College Home Run Derby, which forced him to pick up a bat and start swinging every day.
Not that the hungry Boulware needed to be coaxed.
“I wasn’t really doing anything, so I’m kind of glad it’s happened, since it’s given me something to do, something to train for. I’m pretty excited about it,” Boulware said. “It’s supposed to be a fun event, but at the same time, I don’t want to embarrass myself out there.”
The eight-man field includes three representatives from the state of South Carolina: Boulware, South Carolina shortstop Joey Pankake and Citadel first baseman Bo Thompson. Half the group is from the ACC, as Boulware will be joined by Georgia Tech’s Matt Gonzalez, Florida State’s D.J. Stewart and Virginia’s Kenny Towns.
Caleb Adams of Louisiana-Lafayette and Michael Aquino from Rice round out the sluggers at TD Ameritrade Field in Omaha, Neb. They will compete Wednesday, and the event will be aired on tape delay at 8 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.
Boulware is the second Tiger in the event’s four-year history to swing for the fences, following Richie Shaffer in 2011. His personal pitcher will be Seth Brizek, Boulware’s youth mentor from Anderson who was Clemson’s starting shortstop from 1994-95.
“It’s a big field, and the ball does not carry well there, either,” Boulware said. “It’s going to be tough. But at the end of the day, it’s just out there having a good time, and it’s awesome to be invited.”
Once the fun’s over, the focus is solely on preparing for next year. Games are seven and a half months away. Plenty of experience returns all over the field and mound, so expectations are at their usual peak.
“At the beginning of the season, I was not really sure how we would jell as a team just with a lot of freshmen in the lineup. We did well,” Boulware said. “A lot of them showed up and matured over the season. I think this year’s going to be a really fun year.
“No one wants to end in regionals this coming year. We’re going to make sure we take care of that.”