Chad Holbrook loved getting his first win as a head coach, but he loved putting together the pregame salute to former coach Ray Tanner just as much.
By retiring Tanner’s No. 1 jersey, the first one for the sport of baseball in school history, Holbrook found a way to pay tribute to the man who has been so influential in his life. He also loved seeing so many former players back for the ceremony.
“It was neat for me to be a part of that and it was neat for our players. I’m sure it was neat for coach Tanner’s former players,” Holbrook said. “It was an emotional time and meaningful for people who worked under Coach.”
Holbrook told his favorite story about Tanner, a time early in the 2010 season when the Gamecocks lost two-of-three games on the road to East Carolina. Upon arriving back in Columbia, Tanner unloaded on his players.
“He undressed them like I’ve never seen a team get undressed,” Holbrook said.
But more memorable was Tanner kicking a trash can on the way out of the locker room and nearly breaking his foot. Holbrook chuckled all the way down the hall as he followed Tanner out.
In the next game against Valparaiso, the team was losing early, and Tanner turned to Holbrook and said, “I was due for one of these (seasons). We’re going to have a horsecrap year.”
Holbrook laughed as he noted that team went on to win the program’s first national championship that season.
Just a fan
Tanner, who’s the school’s athletics director, liked sitting in the stands and rooting like everyone else at Carolina Stadium. But he was thinking right along with Holbrook as the new coach made his moves.
“I was involved with it much as I was previously. I just didn’t have to make any decisions,” Tanner said.
And he ate a pretzel in the middle innings, something he had never had a chance to do in the previous 16 seasons. He has tried his best not to look over Holbrook’s shoulder.
“I purposely stayed out of the way,” he said. “I thought it was important that coach Holbrook moves forward as quickly as possible, makes the transition and puts his fingerprints on the program.”
Holbrook noted the one lineup change he planned to make for Saturday involves playing Dante Rosenberg instead of Grayson Greiner at catcher. He wants to keep both of them healthy and rested.
It certainly has nothing to do with Greiner’s performance. He blocked a pair of balls in the dirt in the eighth inning to keep the potential tying run on third base.
“His defensive play helped us stay in the game and played a big role in helping us win it,” Holbrook said.
Holbrook is 1-0 in season openers after the 4-3 win. Tanner, who went 15-1 in his 16 season openers at USC, also won his first season opener in 1997 by one run.
Since 1970, the Gamecocks are 9-3 in one-run games on opening day.
First baseman LB Dantzler, who went 2-for-2 with two RBIs, also had the game-winning hit in last season’s opener, a 2-1 win against VMI.
USC leads the all-time series with Liberty 7-2.
Jordan Montgomery is 3-0 in his career at Carolina Stadium.
Ray Tanner honored
Chad Holbrook postgame