One Year Later: Whitting Reflects On Inaugural Season
July 1, 2011
By Roman Petrowski
HOUSTON - We all know that Rome wasn't built in a day. What we should have also known is that the Houston Cougar baseball team would not be rebuilt in one year. Apparently somebody forgot to give first-year head coach Todd Whitting that memo.
Whitting seemed determined to do just that, both on and off the field. And as he celebrates his one-year anniversary at UH on July 1, Whitting reflects back on the work he has done to build the program.
"The last year has obviously been busy, trying to build the program. There has been a concentrated effort on recruiting, facilities and academics." Whitting said of his first year at the helm. "The last year has been a really good year, it's been a fun year. The staff has worked extremely hard in upgrading all areas of the program, not just the product on the field."
Though at times the Cougars struggled between the lines, Coach Whitting led his squad to victories over a number of ranked teams, including a pair of NCAA tournament participants in TCU and Texas A&M, and eventually all the way to a birth in the Conference USA Tournament title game.
"The team, as a whole, had the mentality all year that they were backed into a corner and that no one expected them to win," Whitting said. "That keeps you on your "A" game and makes you play hard. We were fighting for survival the whole way. Nothing came easy for us."
Perhaps just as important as how they looked on the diamond, Coach Whitting and his staff have put in the effort to change the Cougar image off the field as well.
"Throughout the course of the year, their responsibility," Whitting referred to his team "was to show how the University of Houston is going to carry itself both on and off the field. We will have a white-collar approach off the field and a blue-collar approach on the field."
With the blue-collar approach taken care of Coach Whitting set out to help the white-collar image in the clubhouse.
What Whitting wanted was to completely renovate and upgrade the team's clubhouse. What Coach Whitting needed for the project were quite a few hefty donations. The answer to the donation problem would come in the form of former players and alumni.
When all was said and done the donating group had raised, north of $100,000 in only 10 days. The cost of the renovations included brand new lockers in the clubhouse, a new media room with three brand new televisions and game systems, and three brand new pitcher's mounds down the left field line.
"They just want to be involved," Whitting referred to the former Cougars. "I want them to come out and enjoy ball games. I want this to be a program they take pride in, as do I being a former player."
Coach Whitting is also making sure that the importance of the donations does not go unnoticed. Each former player who donated money to the project will be honored with a nameplate over one of the player's lockers in the clubhouse.
"There is a very passionate group of alumni and former players that have come through the University of Houston baseball program." Whitting said of the donors. "It was very important to me that we continue to build a relationship with our former players and get them involved."
Though things were not perfect for the Cougars this season, Coach Whitting definitely has the Cougars moving in the right direction.
"We have a saying in the program, that the past is history and the future is a mystery, and I just try to keep plugging ahead."
While the future does seem to still be a mystery, one thing is for sure; the Cougars are moving onto bigger and better things and the present looks pretty good.