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CLEMSON, S.C. — Thursday was a dream come true for Erik Bakich. He is back at Clemson.

“Hundred percent a dream job,” Clemson’s new baseball coach said. “This is a dream come true.”

As Bakich said in his introductory press conference from Doug Kingsmore Stadium, it has been 20 years since he has been able to say, “Go Tigers.” At that time, he was 24 years old, living in a $200 apartment and being paid with energy bars. He did not even make enough money to have cable television, instead opting to go to the old $2 movie theater downtown for entertainment.

But none of those things mattered. Clemson had an effect on Bakich and there was always a part of him that wanted to come back.

“I don’t have any hobbies now anyways. I did not have any hobbies then,” Bakich said. “I just love to work. I love to coach. I love to be involved. I love to be all in and … I did not have much a of a life, to be all honest with you. Just coaching.”

Bakich was a volunteer coach on Jack Leggett’s staff in 2002. It was his first coaching job, as Leggett honored a favor for his good friend and former player, Keith LeClair, who coached Bakich at East Carolina.

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“He had ALS at the time, and he told me, ‘I need you to do one favor.’ And he was not doing well at the time,” Leggett recalled. “‘I said anything Keith. What is it?’ He said, ‘You have to take this guy. You have to take Erik Bakich as your volunteer coach.’

“I did not know Erik, but I trusted my friend. I owed him a lot, so I took Erik, and it has worked out unbelievably. We have had a great friendship for over twenty years, and we got another 20 years to go. I hope.”

Before Thursday’s press conference, Clemson approved a six-year, $6.25 million deal.

Since his brief stint at Clemson in 2002, which saw the Tigers play their way to Omaha, Bakich was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt, then turned things around at Maryland and Michigan as a head coach.

But never did he think he would find his way back to Clemson.

“I don’t know if I can think that far ahead. I think I certainly would have loved to,” Bakich said. “But I think I was, at that time, I was drinking from the firehose sharing an office with Corbs (Tim Corbin) and Sully (Kevin O’Sullivan).

“Then Coach Corbin asked me to go be the recruiting coordinator in the SEC at age 24. So, I was doing my best to not spin my wheels. Then after that it was being a first-time head coach in the ACC at Maryland at 31 years old. The same thing. Just trying to be like a duck, gliding across the water and looking smooth. But underneath, the legs are feakin’ out and spinning like crazy. But, I think, ultimately as a coach, who has been to a few places, everybody knows Clemson baseball is one of the top opportunities of coaching in college baseball. And just the infinity that I have for this school and this program it was a no brainer.”

Clemson is Bakich’s dream job.