July 14, 2014NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tim Corbin had seen his Vanderbilt University baseball team in the position to take home a national championship before.
And he had coached teams that seemed loaded with enough talent that they would be able to bring home that title.
But never before had the Commodores succeeded in winning the College World Series.
That all changed on Wednesday, June 25, when an eighth inning homer off the bat of John Norwood helped propel the Vanderbilt team to a 3-2 win over the University of Virginia in the third and deciding game of the College World Series, giving Vanderbilt University its first national championship in any men's sport.
And in the heart of it all was Corbin, a 1979 graduate of Kingswood Regional High School.
"It's been fun," Corbin said in an interview a few days after his team clinched the title.
While it was fun, it was also a lot of work, particularly for this year's Vanderbilt squad, which was a rather inexperienced bunch of ballplayers.
"We had a very inexperienced team, we lost a lot of seniors," Corbin stated, noting that only one returning defensive player was on the field in the championship game on June 25. Last year's Vanderbilt team was one of the best teams in SEC history. And Corbin points to his 2004, 2007 and 2011 teams as teams that many expected to win championships and didn't.
This year's team was inexperienced, but the team came together at the right time and everything just clicked, as it has to for any team looking to finish out a season with a championship.
"We've had very good teams before," Corbin said. "But when you finish a championship, it's everything clicking in the right way, it's a perfect storm."
All that clicking in the right way took a long time to get to, but for Corbin, the 12 years of building the program have been well worth the effort.
When Corbin inherited the program in the 2003 season, the team had dealt with some struggles, with its most recent winning season coming in 1997. Corbin's first season saw the team at one game under .500, but since then, there has not been a season where the team has been under .500. In fact, Corbin owns the second-highest winning percentage among the school's coaches at .675 and is second in wins with 517. He's also third in tenure with his 12 years at the helm of the team.
"We moved in small steps," he said of growing the Vanderbilt program. "We secured a better facility, we secured better players.
"It's come a long way in 12 years," he continued. "I will never take it for granted."
He equated the program to an experience many people may be familiar with.
"It's almost like buying a house," he said. "You keep adding on and the house seems a little bigger and you grow into it.
"That's what we did as a program," he noted.
He also pointed out that along the way, it was important to continue to live up to the high standards that Vanderbilt has as a school.
"All along we've just wanted to have a program that's representative of the values the school has," Corbin noted. "And when you win at that level and at this magnitude, it sheds a different light."
And Corbin was also quick to note that the people who were along for the ride with him this season made it even more enjoyable.
"It was certainly nice for the kids and the alumni and the people that followed Vanderbilt athletics for a long time," Corbin said. "It was good to see them enjoying that moment with the kids."
As for the kids, the inexperienced group of athletes that Corbin put on the field came together at the right time, gained the experience they needed throughout the season and did the job when it really mattered most.
"We had some pitchers returning, but a lot of other inexperience," Corbin said. "But that became experience during the year."
He noted that the team bonded together very well, which made everything easier.
"This is a group of kids who matured, mentally, physically and emotionally and developed into a very good team at the end of the season," Corbin pointed out.
For all his work in building the team into a national championship squad, Corbin was named the National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball, the second such honor of his career, after winning the College Baseball Insider Coach of the Year in 2007.
Despite the honor and the championship, the work didn't end, as Corbin was already working a baseball camp and settling in to recruiting less than a week after the national title game.
"With the camps and recruiting, it's just constant," Corbin said. "It never finishes."
But he admits that having such success as a program leads into that cycle of always having kids to scout, camps to run and the like, with the hope of bringing another successful team to the field the next season.
But he admits that there is one time of year when he takes a break, and it's then that he gets back to New Hampshire.
"That's why I like Christmas so much," he said with a laugh. "It gives me a chance to decompress."
Corbin, who got his start playing baseball in Wolfeboro, graduated from Kingswood in 1979 and served as the Kingswood JV baseball coach in 1985, was excited that he was able to have his parents present for the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. His parents currently live in North Conway and his sister still lives in Wolfeboro.
"It was a great gift for them to see the boys win," Corbin said.
And, one can only imagine, it was also a great gift for them to see their son reach the pinnacle of the college baseball world.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org