NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When Vanderbilt takes the field for its NCAA Baseball Regional opener against Presbyterian Friday night at Hawkins Field, Tim Corbin will look across the diamond into the other dugout and see the program he built literally from the ground up.
Back in 1987, at the age of just 25, Corbin was hired to re-start the baseball program at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. The program had been dormant for several years and needed a young energetic coach to get it going.
“Got an opportunity to build a field, to build dugouts, and to do it literally with your own hands,” Corbin said Monday after seeing the matchup. “So, there’s a lot of pride that goes into it. That was a difficult time – that was a great time – but there’s just so much that goes into it at that level.”
Corbin guided the Blue Hose from NAIA in its first year back to NCAA Division II and, ultimately, three straight playoff appearances. The fact he did it on a shoestring budget garnered attention around baseball.
It also caught the attention, and perhaps some sympathy, from the woman he would go on to date and eventually make his wife.
“I met Maggie because our team was selling cookies to go on a trip,” Corbin said. “And she bought like 10 boxes just because she felt sorry for the immature head coach. I mean, yeah, it was low budget.”
The Presbyterian program looks much different these days. Elton Pollock, a star player under Corbin in the early 90’s, has helped elevate the Blue Hose to Division I and made them competitive in the Big South.
This year Presbyterian won its second conference championship and will now play in its first-ever NCAA Tournament.
“There’s pride in going against one of my former players,” Corbin said. “Elton was a tremendous player there and I’m so happy for him. He’s done such a good job of bringing it up to the standard that it is.”
Corbin may not recognize his old program Friday night. Nor would he have ever imagined back in 1987 the heights to which his own career would take off to.
Jack Leggett hired Corbin away from Presbyterian in 1993 to be one of this assistants, and later associate head coach. Then in the summer of 2002 Corbin was hired to be the head coach at Vanderbilt.
Since then he’s built one of college baseball’s preeminent powers, boosted by some of the best facilities in the country – a far cry from his Presbyterian College days. The Commodores have won four SEC regular-season championships and two tournament titles in his 19 years at the helm of the program. They’ve advanced to the College World Series on four occasions, winning national championships in 2014 and 2019.
And Friday night Corbin will go for his 900th win against the school where it all started.
“With Presbyterian, there’s no Vanderbilt. Without Presbyterian, there’s no Clemson and so on,” Corbin said. “No, I couldn’t imagine this (back then) right now.”