By Harrison Tarr
For the Observer
Auburn athletics gained national attention through the first month of 2022. Bruce Pearl’s squad is on top of the men’s basketball world, the Tigers’ gymnastics program boasts and olympic all-around gold medalist and Johnnie Harris’ group pulled off the biggest upset of the women’s hoop season to this point.
Needless to say, there is a buzz in the air at the loveliest village on the Plains; head coach Butch Thompson and the Auburn baseball team are hopeful that this spring will further boost the moral within fans of the orange and blue.
As Thompson approaches his seventh season at the helm of the program, he has his eyes set on a return to greatness.
“We’re a little bit more deliberate with the program this year,” Thompson said. “But we are excited. We have the opportunity to get back to what we’ve been doing the last two or three years.”
After making the College World Series in 2019 and seeing its season cut short in 2020, the Tigers posted a 25-27 record in 2021, leaving much to be desired for the program going forward.
“Last year was a tough run for us,” Thompson said. “So we’ve been pretty deliberate and quieter. Hopefully a little more workmen-like, getting ready for this season. But we are excited.”
The head coach is privy to the fact that his team must will its way back into the good graces of its fanbase and beyond.
“Because of how last year played out, we have to go out and earn our stripes and respect,” Thompson said. “From ourselves, our fans, nationally, within our conference and across the board.”
According to the seventh-year head coach, the Tigers’ schedule will serve as a beneficiary to achieving the team’s goals in 2022.
“I think playing a great early season tournament is going to help us,” Thompson said. “It’s going to help us get to our identity quicker, it’s going to help us know where we’re at quicker. It’s really helped our preparation more.”
Preparation for the 2022 campaign begins not only on the field, but within the development of a solid culture within the clubhouse. Throughout the offseason, Thompson has drawn inspiration from college basketball coaching legend John Wooden.
“As a leader, I’m trying to put forth a great mindset,” Thompson said. “Probably borrowing from John Wooden some of the greatest and the scores supposed to take care of itself … I want our guys to run a straight line like coach Wooden talked about.”
Wooden’s emphasis upon coaching fundamentals and placing the best interest of individual players seems to have taken a forefront in Auburn’s preseason approach.
“I’ve tried to remind them repeatedly and consistently that self confidence is the number one variable to human performance,” Thompson said. “And no excuses. We’re trying to build off that every day.”
Thompson is confident that — by taking care of themselves mentally — the 2022 team has the potential to make early season adjustments and attain long-term success.
“You don’t know how the season’s going to go,” Thompson said. “But you know if you have enough pieces. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are.”
The Tigers will open up their season against the University of Oklahoma in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Park on Feb. 18. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. CST.