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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Coach’s Corner: Men’s Baseball

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Aaron Rushing is entering his tenth season at the helm of Carleton Baseball. In ten seasons, he has notched 124 wins. This past season, he passed Carleton’s legendary baseball coach Mel Taube as the all time winningest coach in Carleton history. Before his time at Carleton, he spent time as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Grinnell College. He also spent a season as the head coach at Minot State University, where he lead the team to a conference tournament championship and a berth in the regional playoffs. He was hired at Minot State to rebuild the program, and soon after was hired by Carleton to do the same thing. Luckily for us, he is here to stay.

A small school in the Midwest is not always the dream job of coaches, but for Aaron Rushing, it was. After attending Grinnell, he wanted to coach in an atmosphere where students valued baseball as well as academics. Rushing explains, “I just felt like I was a better fit where I coached guys like me, rather than guys who really didn’t value the stuff off the field. Some other guys I’ve coached only wanted to play professionally and devalued the academic piece of a college. And I didn’t like that, to be frank.” His coaching choice eventually came down to where he wanted to live, and Northfield was the perfect college town for him. “I didn’t want to be in a city, and I didn’t want to be on the East Coast. But I did want to be at a great school,” he said.

Over his first nine years, Rushing has seen the Carleton program evolve immensely. The year before he became the head coach, Carleton’s recordwas 9-25. In 2014, Carleton’s record was 22-14, even while playing a tougher schedule. When Rushing walked onto the Carleton campus in 2006, 15 out of the 19 returners were football or basketball recruits, so baseball was not any of their top priorities. “When we first showed up,” Rushing said, “it wasn’t safe to be inside the screens in the rec center. They just couldn’t play catch.” He had a big job on his hands and took it in his stride. Rushing turned the Carleton baseball program around through recruiting. “We started to recruit better players who put baseball first,” Rushing said. “Our talent level has consistently gotten better and that makes a big difference. We have a better group of guys that are completely committed to Carleton, and the whole experience.”

Although Carleton’s high academic standards make it tough for coaches to recruit the best players, Rushing pushes for his student-athletes to “stay the course,” and they will eventually become solid collegiate ball players. He stresses his players to execute, because “If you execute, you can overcome a decent talent deficiency.” This is partly why Carleton baseball has seen the increase in victories throughout Rushing’s tenure. Execution is mostly a mental part of the game of baseball, and if a player or team has confidence, it makes it much easier to execute. This leads to wins. Thus, Carleton, under Rushing, has won much more than teams under Rushing’s predecessors.

Although last season Carleton’s record was 16-23, Rushing commented on a couple of details. First, he commented on some individual honors his players have received. He explained, “Last year, we had two All-Region guys, alumn Nolan Baker (’15) and Hayden Tsutsui (’16). Both were multiple-time All- Region guys, which happened for the first time in the history of the program. […] We have had some guys do some really awesome things.” Secondly, Rushing passed Mel Taube for the most wins by a baseball coach in Carleton history. When asked about reaching this mark, he humbly commented, “I guess it’s kind of cool, but I had no idea until one of our guys told me.”

Lastly, Rushing talked about how he expects his team to perform this year. “We will be competitive,” he said. “We need to stay healthy because we are thin, but we are as talented as we have ever been.” However, there are some lingering questions that he also commented on. “The biggest question mark is whether we can get enough out of our pitching staff, to be real blunt,” he explained, “It has been our biggest weakness over the past few years.” But luckily for the Knights, their offense has been one of the best in the country, and they have done a solid job in masking their pitching woes. Rushing hopes that this will be the year that the pitching staff will give them a better opportunity to win. Who knows, pitching could be the key that opens the door for a regional berth this year. We will soon find out.

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