Vanderbilt assistant has serious home ties to one visiting team

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 9:22pm

These days, Josh Holliday doesn’t dwell much on Oklahoma State.

In his second season as Vanderbilt’s hitting coach, Holliday is focused on the Commodores as they prepare to host an NCAA Regional this weekend.

In that Regional is No. 2 seed Oklahoma State, which will play Troy at 2 p.m. Friday. Vanderbilt could see Oklahoma State if both teams win their openers on Friday night. The Commodores open against Belmont at 7 p.m.

Holliday has a long history with Oklahoma State, having played and coached there for more than seven years. Yet, he downplays a possible showdown with the Cowboys, who played Vanderbilt in a tournament in California last year.

“Every team that comes in is always interesting,” Holliday said. “The fact that I went to school there, that was kind of a long time ago. It is really not as much of a deal as you think.”

To those back in Oklahoma it is.

“They love him in Stillwater,” Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson said. “He is a very personable guy. He is revered in Stillwater, not only at the college but at the high school. He was a quarterback, an all-state baseball guy. You are talking about a guy that was there for eight years basically at Stillwater at a high level athletically and as a student athlete.”

Holliday, whose younger brother, Matt, is an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, was the USA Today Gatorade Player of the Year and a high school All-American in 1995. The co-valedictorian of his graduating class, he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round.

He opted to go to Oklahoma State and play for his father, Tom.

In four years, he picked up numerous accolades, including Big Eight Conference Freshman of the Year in 1996. As a senior in 1999, he led the Cowboys to the College World Series, batting .290 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs for the season. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth round but spent just two years in professional baseball before he returned to Oklahoma State as an assistant coach.

In 2003, he was elected to the school’s baseball hall of fame. That same year, though, his father was fired and Anderson replaced him.

“To have as blessed a life as I have, then you can’t have ill will on your mind,” Holliday, 34, said. “That wouldn’t be good energy. You have to look at your life and be thankful for what you have and understand that each phase in your life is there for a reason to lead you to a different place and it is there to lead you to better things.

“Oklahoma State gave me a lot of great things. I met my wife there. I got my degree there and I have a lot of great friends. I don’t have a place in my life for ill will. There are too many good things to be thankful for. That would be somewhat immature to look at things like that.”

Tom is in his fifth year as the pitching coach at North Carolina State, which will also play in a Regional at South Carolina this weekend. Josh has coached at four different schools since leaving Oklahoma State — North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Arizona State and Vanderbilt.

Last year he guided the Commodores to a team batting average of .310. This year they are hitting .318, which ranks ninth in Division I.

“It kind of opened the door to the rest of the world for us,” Holliday said of his departure from Oklahoma State. “It gave me a chance to go out and grow. The world works in funny ways but it gives you a chance to grow. It allows you to go out and learn from other people and develop friendships and mentorships with other coaches and players.

“It makes you grow and it makes you better. I look back on those times and they were great. But I am in a great place now and really thankful to be here.”