Success no accident for Corbin: It’s all in the details

Friday, April 10, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 15
By Maurice Patton

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin says he persuaded the university to install synthetic turf to reduce rainouts and increase practice time on Hawkins Field.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

Talk to anyone for any period of time about Tim Corbin, and eventually his attention to detail becomes part of the conversation.

That aspect may not have been more evident than the process resulting in the current playing surface at Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field.

“We went out and got the turf,” Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams recalls. “The next year (2013), we had nine games that would have been rained out if not for the turf.”

But the artificial surface on the baseball field wasn’t just installed for the actual games, according to Corbin’s train of thought.

“In ’12, that was the year we were coming off a couple of tough years, weather-wise,” he remembers. “From January to January, I just put an ‘X’ in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ column of ‘could we get on our field?’ while the kids were here – certainly not the summer.

“It was overwhelming how much we couldn’t get on the field. The frost, the rain, a little bit of everything.

“More than the games, it was the inability to stay consistent with the training. I felt like if you couldn’t train, you couldn’t prepare your team. I just felt it was a no-brainer.”

The decision to go from natural grass to artificial turf was just half the process, though.

“We had a pretty good idea what we wanted: We wanted to realize the harmony between offense and defense,” Corbin adds.

“We wanted a field that would not be so fast it would reward the offense or so slow it would reward the defense. I wanted a field that was going to reward our athletes’ speed, athletes that can run and move.”

Since coming to Vanderbilt, Corbin’s teams had played on artificial surfaces at Texas and Louisville. He also made trips to Wake Forest and Duke, as well as the home fields of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, before settling on a synthetic turf that most closely resembles the one installed at Wichita State.

“I thought ours was better than Tampa Bay’s,” he says. “The Tampa Bay players that have seen it thought ours was better.

“It was a $1 million project. We felt for a lot of different reasons it was going to help us financially and help us from a training standpoint. In five or six years, we’ll probably begin to see the benefit financially.”

The series opener against Arkansas on March 13 marked the first rainout since last season’s season opener, and just the second since the turf was installed.