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Why not this year? Former NY Yankees manager Joe Girardi visits Clemson


by - Senior Writer -
Monte Lee (left) and Joe Girardi at Clemson's baseball banquet
Monte Lee (left) and Joe Girardi at Clemson's baseball banquet

CLEMSON – Former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was in Clemson Saturday night as the guest speaker for the preseason baseball banquet, and his message to Monte Lee’s players was simple.

Why not this year?

Girardi and the Yankees came within one game of going to the World Series in 2017, losing to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. In 10 years at the helm, Girardi won one World Series and made the playoffs six times.

He wound up at Clemson through Marty Clary, the former Atlanta Braves pitcher who lives in the area and often does Clemson baseball TV telecasts.

“Marty Clary, who was a teammate of mine gave me a call and told me Clemson was interested,” Girardi said. “We played together at Northwestern a long time ago - he played basketball and baseball there and was very successful. He asked me to do it and I was thrilled - I love college life with the campuses and the life that young people bring. I was very excited to see the campus because of all the life they have had here.”

Girardi said he wanted the Clemson players to embrace the college experience

“The importance of these four years in their lives and how the relationships that they will make during these four years is going to be the support system for them the rest of their lives,” he said. “The importance of being a student-athlete and how it means so many different things and how it will help them financially the rest of their lives. I think about the struggles I have had over the years, and the people that were there were my college teammates. That was an enjoyable time for me and I hope they never take it for granted.”

The Tigers haven’t reached a Super Regional since 2010, but Girardi told the team to aim higher.

“I knew it was good,” Girardi said of Clemson’s baseball reputation. “I knew Clemson was good back when I played and I was in college. They had a lot of success here. So, I told them, why not this year? Why not go win the national title? Go do it. You are a very talented group and you have a great coach and a great facility that is going to help you get better every day. Go win.”

Lee said he was thrilled to have someone of Girardi’s caliber at the banquet.

“I would have to keep Joe here for a long time if I wanted to pick his brain the way I want to, especially with all of his experience as a baseball man,” Lee said. “His experience and all of the things he's been through as a player and major league manager. I am sure I could spend days talking to him. The one thing I am grateful for is to get him here and hear his message.”

Girardi said he was impressed with Clemson’s facilities.

“Wow. I told the kids they were spoiled as good as the facilities are. When you walk in the clubhouse and you see the meeting room and the lounge for the players and where they have a chance to eat and the baseball facility,” Girardi said. “I was joking and said that's the greatest grass I've ever seen in the month of January. Where I grew up, grass is dormant. It gives the kids a chance to be proud of where they work out every day and go to school, and it gives them the opportunity to improve their trade.”

The trip to Clemson also allowed Girardi the chance to see Death Valley, something he’s wanted to see since meeting football coach Dabo Swinney at a Yankees game in 2017.

“He was there. ACC coaches come around all the time. I tell you, that was a huge thrill for me,” Girardi said. “I am a helmet collector, college football helmets because college football is my passion. I absolutely love it and look forward to every Saturday watching games and what goes on. He brought a helmet and signed it to my daughter Lena, who was in the 4th grade at the time. He put BYOG and the paws on it. That was really special. He's a wonderful man.”

He went on to say that he was a very interested observer in the Tigers’ recent National Championship win over Alabama.

“Clemson proved that they were the best. They were obviously very talented. But to me, I loved what the big three linemen did and how they came back,” he said. “And they understood how enjoyable college was and playing together as a team and having a goal and sacrificing certain things. And the freshman quarterback came in and they embraced him. It's amazing. The rivalry that is developing between Clemson and Alabama is amazing and would anybody be surprised if those two were there again next year? Absolutely not. This just seems like a great place to come to school and be a fan. You look at the football stadium and it goes straight up. It looks like a great place.”

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