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Forward Thinker

Forward Thinker

Note: The following appears in the Wofford gameday football program. To purchase a copy of the program while supplies last, send a check for $6 to Clemson Athletic Communications; P.O. Box 31; Clemson, S.C. 29633 with your return address.

By Matt Rhinesmith // Athletic Communications

A new era has begun for Clemson baseball. A new school year is underway, a new coaching staff, led by Monte Lee, is getting settled in and new additions to Doug Kingsmore Stadium will further cement Clemson’s place as one of the premiere baseball programs in the country.

Lee is no stranger to college baseball in South Carolina. He led College of Charleston to four NCAA Tournament berths in seven seasons from 2009-15. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at South Carolina for six seasons. His coaching career began at Spartanburg Methodist after a distinguished playing career with the Cougars.

In their few short months in Tigertown, Lee and his staff have made it their mission to recruit the state of South Carolina, and recruit it well. The combination of an outstanding academic institution, a historically strong program and the recent modern touches and improvements make Clemson an easy sell to potential student-athletes.

“It’s exciting to coach at a place with so much tradition and success over the years, and at a place that’s in my home state,” said Lee. “I have a lot of pride about being from this state and growing up here. The opportunity to become part of a place like Clemson, a great university and an outstanding community is exciting for me and my family.”

Lee is forward thinking. At every step in his playing and coaching career, he has been focused on his job, but also looking ahead to what might be next. In 2001, his first year as an assistant at Spartanburg Methodist, he wondered if he would ever reach the pinnacle of college coaching. At every stop along the way since then, he has wondered the same thing. Now, he said, he has reached it.

“When you start out in this profession, this is where you want to get to one day,” stated Lee. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me…that’s the way I see it. It hasn’t really sunk in for me yet, and I don’t think it will until the season starts this spring.”

Between now and the start of the spring semester, the Tigers are working and practicing as much as NCAA regulations allow. Individual workouts and small-team workouts are permitted, but only for an allotted amount of time each week. Nevertheless, Lee is excited about the opportunity to get on the field and in the cages with members of the 2016 Tiger team.

“The fall is my favorite time of year,” admitted Lee. “That’s when you have an opportunity to establish your identity as a team, your strengths and things you can do well. From a coaching standpoint, this is the time of year when we can establish our philosophies and get the players to buy in. When the season starts, we’re playing four to five games per week, so that’s where the focus should be. This time of year is fun for different reasons.”

With the improvements made to the program and the new facility opening this fall, Lee and his staff now have everything needed to provide current student-athletes with the resources to succeed, on and off the field. That, combined with the history, tradition and support of the fanbase, make Clemson a special place according to Lee.

“I can’t wait for that first weekend of 7,000-plus fans,” added the Lugoff, S.C., native. “That’s when it’ll hit me. It’s a humbling deal for me. I’m excited about today and excited about what everything tomorrow will bring.”