Clemson baseball players support Lee

Clemson’s Tyler Krieger is pleased with the choice of Monte Lee to lead the Tigers. AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail/Mark Crammer

CLEMSON — Tyler Krieger will never swing a bat or field a grounder for Monte Lee, but he had to take a peek at the future of Clemson baseball.

Krieger, a shortstop who recently signed his pro contract to join the Cleveland Indians organization, was one of about 100 people who showed up to Lee’s introductory press conference Monday as the Tigers’ new baseball coach.

Always among the Tigers’ most eloquent speakers, and one of former coach Jack Leggett’s strongest defenders, Krieger sounded satisfied by Clemson’s choice to succeed Leggett, a Hall of Fame coach dismissed earlier this month.

“He seems like a good guy. I care a lot about this program, and that’s why I’m here,” Krieger said. “Just hoping the future’s bright and moving in the right direction.”

Krieger and three other former Tigers — left-handed pitchers Matthew Crownover and Zack Erwin, and outfielder Steven Duggar — have decided to begin their professional baseball careers in lieu of their senior year at Clemson.

It was difficult, Krieger said, for the current and former Tigers to see their longtime leader go, but that won’t affect their support of Lee.

“It’s definitely different. It’s something a lot of people are going to have to adapt to,” Krieger said. “But I think the future’s bright. People seem excited about the hire and excited about where the program’s headed going forward.”

Pat Krall, a reliever going into his junior season, said he and his teammates were happy to hear Lee would be making the move from the College of Charleston, though it’s been a challenging few weeks after Leggett was let go.

“Guys are out playing summer ball, so it’s tough not being together,” Krall said. “Now with Coach Lee here, it feels like a weight off everybody’s shoulders.”

Lee announced Monday he would be retaining recruiting coordinator and hitting instructor Bradley LeCroy, a Clemson product who has remained extremely popular with past and present players.

It would have been Lee’s preference to fill out his staff with pitching coach Matt Heath, but Heath was officially promoted Monday to replace Lee at the helm of the Cougars. Therefore, Lee is actively interviewing candidates and hopes to have a pitching coach in place this week.

“I am not a pitching guy, so I’m going to make sure I can hire a guy and turn over the keys to that car and let him run with it,” Lee said.

Krall anxiously awaits Lee’s decision.

“Obviously, it’s going to be big losing Crownover and Erwin to the draft. But I think he’s going to bring in a good pitching coach to be able to develop us,” Krall said. “We’ve got some great guys here. I think with the right fit, the sky’s the limit for our whole team.”

Meanwhile, as he and other leaders toil away in the minor leagues, Krieger will watch with great interest to see if Lee can turn the program around. He’s confident he can do so, based on the foundation left by Leggett.

“This is Clemson. Coach Leggett’s built a great tradition and program here,” Krieger said. “The right people are in place. Coach LeCroy and (director of operations) Brad Owens and everybody’s going to do a great job of keeping the bus moving in the right direction.”