Former South Carolina pitcher Michael Roth returned Monday to TD Ameritrade Park, the site of some of his greatest athletic accomplishments.
This time, he left his glove back home in Columbia, S.C. All he needed this time was a microphone as he made the latest step on a career as a motivational speaker.
Roth was brought to Omaha by the South Carolina Department of Commerce to talk to area businessmen about economic opportunities in the Palmetto State.
“I jumped at this one,” Roth said. “I'm glad to be back at TD Ameritrade. I love the place, I love Omaha.”
Roth made three trips to the College World Series with the Gamecocks and left as a national champion in 2010 and 2011. South Carolina's bid to win three straight titles ended in June when the Gamecocks were beaten by Arizona.
Roth holds CWS records for innings pitched (6013) and starts (eight). He won four games, and his 1.49 ERA is the fifth lowest in CWS history for pitchers with at least 30 career innings.
Shortly after South Carolina's season ended, Roth embarked on a professional career with the Los Angeles Angels, who selected him in the ninth round of the first-year player draft. He played this summer for the Angels' rookie league team in Orem, Utah, where he compiled a 0-2 record and a 4.91 ERA in 11 appearances.
An All-American on the field, Roth also earned numerous awards off of it. He earned the Southeastern Conference's male athlete of the year award this year as well as South Carolina's President's Award, the most prestigious award given to a Gamecock student-athlete.
He graduated with a degree in international business and recently formed his own business, Michael Roth Enterprises. Before his speech, Roth sat down with The World-Herald to talk about his new careers and discuss some old memories.
Q: How did you become interested in motivational speaking?
A: After the World Series wins, people want you to come talk to schools about leadership and handling success and failure in the experiences I've had in college baseball and in life in general. That sparked an idea that if I can do that at schools, I could translate that in talking to companies and other organizations. It's professional presentations to companies, teams, groups, organizations about things that I've learned on the field or in my sporting career that could be transferred to the workforce. I think I can help other student-athletes with things that I've been through so maybe they won't have to go through that experience or learn a little quicker.
Q: What's a typical Michael Roth motivational speech?
A: It varies. Sometimes it's based on what (the group) is interested in. They might just want an autograph signing and a quick speech. I went to a company in Portland, Oregon, and spoke about how to have fun and compete at the highest level. That's something I've always been able to do. I've been to schools to talk about time management. It just depends on what a prospective client wants and what the audience is interest in hearing.
Q: What kind of initial feedback have you received?
A: It's early, but things are going well. I'm just getting into my offseason. I've had a lot of success thus far, but I've only been doing this for a short while. It's been a lot of fun. The traveling is always nice. It's not a bad gig.
Q: Why motivational speaking?
A: I've always been comfortable speaking in front of people and in front of audiences. I've been through experiences that I think can help people. It's an idea that popped into my head, and I just felt like this was a good way to start something. I don't know if my brand is going to change and what will happen in the future. Maybe I'll continue playing baseball. Maybe I won't. This is a good way to start and get involved in the business environment and put my degree to use.
Q: Tell us about your first season of professional baseball?
A: It was interesting. It's a lot less worries than playing in front of 25,000 people in Omaha or 8,200 in Columbia. The baseball is very different. The travel is very different. You're on buses a lot, and you have to learn how to sleep on the bus. One thing that was frustrating to me is that I was always on a pitch count. I was in the starting rotation, but every five days I was only allowed to throw two innings or 30 pitches.
Q: What does a guy do for excitement in Orem, Utah?
A: With the way minor league baseball is, there isn't a whole lot of time to do anything. We're at the field at noon until about 11 o'clock at night. There's not much down time. The Utah Valley is different. It's a beautiful place. We played with the mountains as a backdrop. You can't beat some of the views we saw every day.
Q: Some professional people had doubts about your long-range future in baseball. Does that motivate you?
A: I've always been someone that hasn't needed a ton of extra motivation. I want to accomplish something because I want to accomplish it. I've always been told that I'm not a pitcher in the pros, but if you get outs, that's what counts. I think I have the potential to be a starting pitcher, long relief and lefty specialist at worst. As far as naysayers, I've never really listened to that and haven't had to use it as motivation just because of the type of drive I've always had.
Q: What's the biggest thing you're going to miss about playing college baseball?
A: The team atmosphere and that camaraderie you have with guys is really special. I don't know if it can be replicated. I don't know how the big leagues are. In college, there is so much camaraderie and brotherhood that you really do feel like a family. You see each other every day and you deal with adversity to win a championship. That's a special thing, and it always will be.
Q: What's the most important thing you learned from former South Carolina coach Ray Tanner?
A: Coach Tanner, I have the utmost respect for him. He's one of the brightest guys I know. I don't know if I can peg it down to one thing other than being a leader in every sense of the word. He taught us how to adapt and make tough decisions. It was a honor to play under him.
Q: You have a reputation as a guy who likes to have fun. Was that ever staged, or is that truly who you are?
A: I learned during my freshman and sophomore years that you can't take the game too seriously. You can't take anything in life too seriously, because then it starts to eat at you and it's no longer a game. For me, that's never worked. I've never been able to compete or be successful when something becomes bigger than it is. In order to combat that, I've turned everything into having fun. I don't like doing things that aren't fun, and baseball has always been a childhood game for me. I went back to some of the childhood ways. You still have to do that sometimes.
Q: What's the goofiest thing you've ever done on a baseball field?
A: Nothing too crazy. We got to do a tarp slide this past year, and that was really fun. Never done that before. The dugout dancing we did, some of those might have been a little questionable at times.
Q: What's your favorite Omaha memory?
A: I don't know if it's eating a steak at the Drover or Lo Sole Mio (laughs). There are so many. One of my favorites was just being in the dugout with Charlie. I would give him so much crap about scoring us some runs. One time we had a big inning, and I said, “It's about time, Charlie.” And he was like, “Yeah, I got you some runs.” And we high-fived each other. It was just a real cool moment.
A: Charlie Peters. He was our batboy in 2011. He's an Omaha hero in himself. He was a kid in 2003 when South Carolina came out here, they saw him at Children's Hospital. He was fighting cancer. We saw him in 2010, and he was over the cancer. In 2011, he was finally old enough to be our batboy. There are just too many memories to name one as a favorite.
Q: Do you consider yourself an iconoclast or someone who likes to swim against the stream?
A: I don't know if I go against the grain, but I do what I do. I don't try to change in front of anybody. I am what I am, and I think I'm comfortable with that. Sometimes people ask if I'm ever going to grow up. I'm still going to be having fun no matter how old I am. I don't want to change who I am. I may have to be a little more behaved, but that's all that's different.