George Horton interview

AP photo

AP photo

What do you think when you hear the term “west coast” guy? Kind of like the west coast offense in football, it’s a little different. I’ve been involved a little bit in the evolutionary tree of details of baseball on the west coast, and it isn’t necessarily that we think we invented the game or that it’s a better game or whatever, but it’s a different style of game, just like what I said with west coast football. It all started with Wally Kincaid- who I was blessed enough to play for and coach with- he was light years ahead of the details of the game and the style of baseball when he was coaching me. Now that that’s evolved, it’s been passed along to guys like Augie Garrido, Don Sneddon, Dave Snow, Mike Weathers, Mike Gillespie, myself and others. At the end of the day, it’s more of a cerebral, cat-and-mouse approach, where the bunting game, picking pitches, and little details with offensive execution are emphasized, instead of recruiting guys that throw it by everyone or guys that just hit it over the fence, you take a player or a team and try to incorporate those details that we think out here are an important part of winning.

What do you think is different about the following things on the “west coast?” Even where I’m at, you can’t just get in the car and drive 30 minutes and see a bunch of third basemen or shortstops or whatever, you have to me more organized and detailed because you get on an airplane a lot, and you also have the weather to deal with. They (Serrano and Henderson) are right, the concentrations of quality players, programs, club teams, et cetera is higher in some areas. Up here, you have to pick and choose your spots, and just like in the east and most other states, you have to be more organized. It’s hit or miss throughout the country whether a talented young man is going to have a good foundation of knowledge on how to play detailed baseball. There are so many more organizations nowadays that are creating such a great foundation for the southern California athlete, or the northern California athlete, or Florida, or Texas. The player there with the same tool set has the advantage of playing year round, getting more innings underneath their belt, and gaining more knowledge. They have a better chance to help your program sooner at the next level than some guys that take two or three years to teach the technicalities of the game. Those talented, raw players will end up much better but sometimes it takes them time to develop.  I don’t think you can go after first-round draft picks that don’t do you any good to recruit, because we’re looking for the guy that doesn’t sign that can help you right away, so consequently you go to the experience factor over the sure fire “no brainer” player.

What is your fondest memory of Omaha? The obvious thing is the times that we’ve won, in 1995 when I was the associate head coach and in 2004 when I was the head coach (both at Cal-State Fullerton). Even when I played in Omaha, the experience in the community is what makes it special. Even though they’ve changed venues, there’s still that feeling that it belongs in Omaha, and that’s a tribute to the community and the people there. When I was a player, a teammate of mine and I were asking for walking directions to go somewhere, and a young man described about a 20-25 minute walk, but since he was going to a concert for a couple hours, he said, “well, why don’t you just take my car?”

As a player, we felt like we were in the big leagues, and every time I’ve gone there as a coach, I think that the way the community of Omaha embraces coaches and players there makes it that more special. Now they have youth tournaments there at the same time, and you see all of the youngsters in the crowd. It’s just a wonderful family event. Of course, you’re nervous as all get-out because you’re trying to win a national championship as well.

What is your fondest memory of Omaha that has nothing to do with baseball (place to eat, visit, etc.)? Cascio’s was my first steak there. I kid to my players that there’s no better steak in the universe than in Omaha. Sullivan’s, Austin’s, downtown, any of those places, the quality of the steak is unparalleled in my opinion.

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