On The Block: Michael Roth

Michael Roth doesn't need a lot of introduction to most Gamecock fans. The left hander from Greer, South Carolina started his 
career at USC in the bullpen but ended it as one of the most accomplished and successful starting pitchers in Gamecock history.

Roth started two games his first year at South Carolina, against Georgia Southern and College of Charleston but none of those would be quite like his first start the very next year.

Throughout the 2010 season Michael played a valuable role in relief and got his first win late in the year in impressive fashion in the NCAA Regional against Bucknell, striking out 5 and retiring every batter he face with 3 perfect innings of baseball.  

The Gamecocks went on to sweep the Super Regional against Coast Carolina with some last minute heroics from the bat of Christian Walker and behind the arm of ace Blake Cooper.  The Gamecocks were hot and Omaha bound for the first time since 2002.

The 2010 CWS didn't start as the the Gamecocks planned, losing the opener against Oklahoma, 4-3,  in a gamed that was marred by bad weather and bad play. The Gamecocks fought their way out of the losers bracket by beating the #1 seed Arizona State and escaping a close rematch against Oklahoma. This setup the Gamecocks to play Clemson and having to beat them twice to move on the Championship Series.

On June 25, 2010 Michael Roth got the surprising call that he would be the starter against Clemson (or maybe it was the night before as he explains in the interview). Roth put on a masterful and dominate performance against the upstate rivals by giving up only 3 hits and 1 run while striking out 4 that he faced. It was a nearly a perfect outing considering the stage and the Gamecocks took game one of the series 5-1.

The Gamecocks beat Clemson the next game, 4-3, and found themselves in the Championship Series against UCLA and with the help of another quality start from Michael Roth and the clutch hitting of other Gamecock greats, South Carolina came back to Columbia with the National Championship Trophy.

The legend of Michael Roth was born.

Roth would go on to have an amazing career at South Carolina and also help to bring home another National Championship in the process.  Roth ended his career at South Carolina with an ERA of 1.49 and an amazing 8 CWS starts with 3 of those in the finals. 

In the classroom and on the field Roth was always very successful and he had the personality and character to go with it. He will go down as one of the greatest Gamecock athlete's of all time.

We caught up with him in this edition of "On The Block".

BCB: The teams you were a apart of were well known for keeping things loose and light in the dugouts, how important it is to make sure you remember to have fun while playing the game of baseball? What are some of the funniest moments you can recall from those days in the Gamecock dugout?

MR: "For me it is important to have fun in anything I am doing.  Baseball is no different.  At the end of the day, the outcome of the baseball game does not dictate my outcome in life.  Knowing this and reminding myself that baseball is just a game allows me to play and have fun.  Being a starting pitcher, I spent more time in the dugout than I did on the mound so there are plenty of funny moments in the dugout.  Over my four years at SC there are just too many to name whether it be fighting through a perfect sitter (not moving for the entire game) or watching guys turn a fungo into a mythical object or a gun."

BCB: Take us back that first start in the 2010 CWS. Coach Tanner has been noted as saying that he didn't expect you to go but about 2 or 3 innings. Tell us what you remember about that start and when you first heard the news you'd be the starter.

MR: "There must have been a communication breakdown between Calvi (Mark Calvi) and I because he swears he told me that I was starting when he walked into my room the night before; however, I remember it a bit differently.  I know I was on the short list to start but never actually thought it would end up being me.  I just remember a point in the day as we were relaxing and waiting around for the game that my phone began to receive text message after text message saying “Good luck”.  After receiving one from my mom I asked what the deal was and she sent me a news release announcing me as the starting pitcher for the night."

BCB: With so many great games during your time at South Carolina, which one would you say stands out to you personally above all of the others?

MR: "Well that question is tricky.  There were a lot of meaningful games such as my first start in Omaha, a ranked matchup vs Florida, and my last start in Omaha and at Carolina Stadium just to name a few. It’s difficult to name just one."

BCB: It was well publicized that your dad had to quit his job to be able to watch you pitch in Omaha. Tell us how you felt about that at the time and is there any chance that his boss was just a Clemson fan?

MR: "Haha. I was just glad that my dad was able to make it out to Omaha.  He was unable to be there in 2010 and with as much of an influence as he has had in my baseball career I knew he would love being in Omaha.  In hindsight, it may have been better that I not let everyone know that my dad had quit his job because he definitely didn’t like the attention."

BCB: Tell us a little bit about the mound visit from the catcher during a game, is there any times where he just runs up there to small talk, like in the movies (Bull Durham) or is all strictly all business?

MR: "That depends on the relationship you have with your catcher and the type of personalities each individual has.  There were definitely times when I have had catchers come out just to screw around and chat.  And it’s not just limited to catchers.  Infielders like the jump in on the gossip too."

BCB: Tell us about the first phone call you made as soon as your heard that you were being called up to the Angel's.  Who was it to and what was the reaction like?

MR: "I was texting my parents and they weren't responding very quickly.  I wanted to play it cool in the double-a clubhouse especially after we had just gotten beat pretty bad. But because my parents weren't answering their phones I called my best friend.  Initially he thought I was just getting called up and once I corrected him telling him that I was going up to the big leagues he said, “Oh my God, I’m gonna throw up.”

BCB: Describe your relationship with Coach Tanner.  What was it like with him behind the scenes in some of your heated battles in Omaha?

MR: "As I got older in the program, Coach Tanner and I became pretty close.  He is a competitor and will fight to win.  I learned a great deal from him during my four years as USC."  I

BCB: How did you manage to balance school, baseball and social life and what advice would you give to incoming freshman student athletes that may help them in their time at Carolina?

MR: "I was blessed with the ability to hear or read something once or twice and be able to recall it.  Thus my study time was severely diminished as long as I went to class.  As far as advice, first you have to list your priorities.  Then, allocate your time appropriately.  And seriously just go to class."

BCB: Who is the hitter during your career at South Carolina that was the toughest to face and prepare for?

MR: "Besides facing Walker in intrasquads, one player that always hit me well was Mike Zunino with Florida.  He seemed like he was always on every pitch I threw him."

BCB:  Did you have any pregame ritual or superstitions that you absolutely had to do before every game?

MR: "Not exactly rituals or superstitions.  I’m a firm believer that successful people have a routine that helps them get done what they need to do.  It’s no different in business or sports.  I have a routine that helps prepare me mentally and physically for the game."

BCB: In what situation do you feel the most pressure during a game on the mound?

MR: "Recently, I heard a quote from Peyton Manning saying, “Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what you are doing.”  I think that’s pretty spot on."

BCB: What do you think it was about Coach Tanner's coaching style that may him so successful?

MR: "Coach Tanner was great at pushing the right buttons whether in a game or in a player to maximize his talent and performance.  He was able to discern from guys what make them tick.  He is also a student of the game, constantly taking in information."

BCB: A few of us at BCB feel like you'd be the ultimate coach. Do you think you'd ever like to one day coach collegiate baseball?

MR: "As of now, I have no desire to coach baseball in the future.  I might be wrong but I think once I hang up the cleats I won’t want much to do with baseball anymore."

BCB: What is the most important thing you want the Gamecock fans to remember about Michael Roth?

MR: "The most important thing I would want Gamecock fans to remember about me is that I’m not just a baseball player. I strived to be the best on the field and make sure I respected the university, myself, and my family."