Augie Garrido, during the 2004 baseball season. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Baseball

The Statesman Interview: Augie Garrido

Posted February 12th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Augie Garrido needs 50 wins to reach 2,000. He opens his 20th season at Texas this weekend against UNLV.
  • Garrido says Huston Street is the best player he's coached at Texas because of Street's uncanny confidence in himself.
  • Garrido said he hopes to fulfill the remaining two seasons on his contract but says he's "gonna have to be productive."

Augie Garrido is about to open his 20th season as Texas’ baseball coach.

The Hall of Famer, who recently turned 77, enters his 48th NCAA season in need of 50 more wins to reach 2,000. He’s already the all-time leader in coaching victories, registering a mark of 1,950-919-9 with five NCAA titles, two of which came at Texas. In January, he was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.

In addition to Augie Ball — an offensive philosophy predicated on manufacturing runs by bunting and stealing bases — Garrido has found success through unconventional teaching methods that he’s cultivated in his Zen readings.

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An example? During last year’s Big 12 tournament, he called time out in the ninth inning of a tied game with Baylor and pulled Tres Barrera out of the batter’s box. After a brief talk, Barrera laced a single to left to win the game.

Later, Garrido confessed that the advice he gave to Barrera wasn’t advice at all, and that he stopped play because he sensed Barrera was nervous after missing badly on a change-up.

“I told him a dirty joke in Spanish,” Garrido said.

Texas went on to win the tournament, marking the high point in a season that otherwise failed to meet expectations. This year’s team is loaded with arms and is ranked third in the conference’s preseason poll. Garrido recently shared his thoughts on his career, this season, his long-time girlfriend, and what it means to be a Zen master:

What’s been the biggest change in Augie Garrido over the past 20 years?

I think the biggest change in Augie Garrido is mandatory changes to be able to communicate and maintain relationships with the players.

What are some examples?

The players are evolving in a university environment. Culturally they’re growing up differently over a 20-year period of time. You hear people talk about that all the time. The older people condemn it. The younger people don’t know why the older people think the way they think. It’s the same kind of thinking that went on as people develop and as society changes and our culture changes. I guess it’s called evolution. As we evolve there are differences. I’ve been fortunate to accept the responsibility as the school teacher to make the adjustments and find ways along with the people I work with to communicate the kinds of information that are meaningful in this day and age. I not only accept it, but I’m excited about those changes.

February 6, 2016 - Texas alumn, Huston Street, left, jokes around with assistant coach, Skip Johnson, right, during the annual Alumni Game held at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
February 6, 2016 – Texas alumn, Huston Street, left, jokes around with assistant coach, Skip Johnson, right, during the annual Alumni Game held at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Who’s the best player you’ve coached at Texas?

Probably the one that has done the best for the longest period of time is Huston Street. He continues to be masterful in what he does, and what he does takes a special kind of person. A family environment gave him a different level of confidence than most people have and he’s built himself off of that into a world-class athlete. That started while he was here. What might seem exceptional for one person was very normal for him, to be able to perform and be successful in different environments. I think one of the revealing moments was when we were at Florida State and their best hitter was at the plate. The game was on the line to go to Omaha and he threw over 90 for the first time in his life. He just rose to the occasion. His fearless approach to throwing to the mitt and trusting his teammates to do the rest. He came here with that.

How’s your hip?

Good. I had a good doctor.

How many pounds did you lose post-surgery?

Seventeen, or something like that.

What’s your secret?

Replace steak with vegetables.

Do you miss steak?

Not really. I have visions of pepperoni pizza dancing in my head, however. Things like pasta on Sunday dinner is the hardest part.

Suzanne Cordeiro / For American-Statesman Texas Film Awards Honorees Guillermo Del Toro and Richard Linklater walk the red carpet held at Austin Studios on March 12, 2015 in Austin, Texas.
Suzanne Cordeiro / For American-Statesman
Texas Film Awards Honorees Guillermo Del Toro and Richard Linklater walk the red carpet held at Austin Studios on March 12, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Who’s your coolest celebrity friend?

I’m closest with Kevin Costner. We keep in touch frequently. I don’t know if he’s the coolest or the hippest, but I think we have the closest relationship on a day-to-day basis.

Are you and Richard Linklater friends?

Yeah. More so than acquaintances.

How long have you and Jeannie (Garrido’s girlfriend, Jeannie Grass) been together?

Twenty-six years.

Ever gonna get married?

All the rules are the same as if we were. We’re satisfied with the way it is for now. It isn’t something that either one of us needs to know we’re with the right person.

What has she meant to your coaching career?

A lot. Many of the changes at a personal level are a result of wanting that relationship to be successful and wanting to make the changes to keep that relationship growing and being rewarding for both people involved on a personal level. It’s kind of like when you teach an athlete about control. One of the principles of control is you can’t control your performance until you can control yourself. You’re not gonna have a successful relationship until you can control yourself, so you’re making adjustments and making change to continue to grow in that relationship. The stability and the confidence I have in our relationship carries over into my performance as a person because it gives me confidence in what I’m doing.

Probably digging too deep, but what was the biggest change you had to make?

Probably getting out of my own way. Hanging up my ego at the door is the most important thing. When there was only me to think about, that’s what I thought about, and disregarded how I might affect others certainly more than I do now.

AG1Two years left on your contract. Do you plan to fulfill those two years?

Gonna have to be productive, but yes. I have my health. I’m excited about what we’re doing; I just want to be good at it.

Have you diagnosed why last year didn’t meet expectations?

I didn’t recognize soon enough that I had more confidence in the team than the team had in itself. As a result, I stuck with them and said “It’s all in there, I know it’s in there.” Finally, it didn’t turn around until the tournament. What made it turn around is good old-fashioned playing time. When they made selfish mistakes or acted in a non-Longhorn acceptable way, I took that playing time away from them and that’s when it turned around.

Do you have a championship contender this year?

I think we do, yeah. I think there’s a lot of them in the league. I think the conference is really a good one. But I think going through the conference is going to be where we all see how we respond to the adversities. From my point of view I will be more objective sooner. I’m not gonna have the same confidence or stick with it thinking that they can solve the problem for themselves, that the leadership will be able to solve the problem. We as coaches are gonna have to solve the problems and we’re gonna have to act quickly to remedy the problem before it gets too big.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment of the past 20 years?

Probably the Alex Silver thing. Alex as a freshman was diagnosed with cancer and they were trying to get into MD Anderson, and there was a long wait. But the influence of UT got him in the next day. That had something to do with his full recovery. The university played a super role in providing for him and his family. MD Anderson provided the best doctor of that particular type of cancer who was in the United States at the time. He is alive. He’s graduated and he’s healthy and he’s doing great.

On the flipside, what’s your biggest regret in 20 years?

I don’t think I know what the biggest regrets are. The biggest regret is me not knowing what I should regret. The player I didn’t make contact with that I could have. Or not having as positive of an effect on the players that weren’t playing or had lesser roles. And I try to watch for that. I think my biggest regrets are what I don’t know. That person I let down. That person who needed more from me and I didn’t know it.

How did you become a Zen master?

I needed to change. I’ve always had this kind of weird personality. When I was 21 years old, I had been in and out of the Army. They had a six-month program at that time.  I really did find my calling as a result of being in the Army. I signed a professional baseball contract and one day I made more money than my dad did in a lifetime working on the shipyard. So I knew everything. I remember it was Christmas and I was in that little old house that my dad bought for $7,500 and I was talking about something. My mother said, “You know boy, that philosophy you got going on right there, there’s a mighty fine line between that and bullshit.” I’ve never forgotten that. When I catch myself thinking I know everything or I’m giving a lesson verbally, I think about that.

Do you still read Zen books?

Not really. The book that really kicked off me recognizing that I had a choice on who I was gonna be was Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. He was a plastic surgeon, but what he was finding in his practice is even though he would correct the deformities in the face it didn’t make the person feel any more beautiful. So he set out to find ways to coach the person on who they were inside and how to think differently about themselves to reconstruct the vision they have of themselves. I read that book several times and I followed the lessons in it.

Still got your cooking show on Longhorn Network?

We haven’t done any this year. We did four shows last year. They have an inventory now where I think they mix it up a little bit.

Do you cook?

I can cook.

What do you like to cook?

Something that people like to eat. I like the idea of Sunday dinner, whether it’s pasta or homemade sauce. Spaghetti or rigatoni. Meatballs. Ravioli. Salad. I’m influenced more by Italian cooking.

Anything else you want to talk about?

I feel blessed that I really haven’t had to go to work since I was a little kid. I had every bad job in America growing up. Finally, I picked one out of passion and it was the right choice. My dad told me I couldn’t do it. What I know is if you’re the best at anything, you’ll be able to keep your job. That’s what drove me — trying to be the best I could be, and I still am driven by that. When I did sign this two-year extension (after the 2014 season), I went up to the cemetery where my mom and dad are buried. I knocked on his tombstone and said “Dad, when I finish this contract I’ll be 79 years old. I think I kept my job.”

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