DJ Mauldin is a senior from Livermore, Calif. Mauldin is a right-handed pitcher for the Mustangs. He made 16 appearances a season ago, including 15 starts. Mauldin posted a 5-5 record with a 4.75 ERA. He was the Big West Pitcher of the Week after allowing 10 hits and three runs in 7.0 innings in a victory over Rice. Mauldin fanned a career-high 13 in a complete-game 3-2 loss at Houston. In his lone relief appearance, he recorded the final out for a save against USC. A business major, Mauldin is in his fifth year at Cal Poly. He injured his arm in the 2007 season opener and received a medical redshirt.


Feb. 19, 2010

We've Come a Long Way


Today is the first entry for my weekly blog on the 2010 baseball season. I have been with the program for five years, but the excitement of opening day has been the same since the first time I entered a game as a freshman in 2006. This year’s season brings great opportunities to both our program as a whole and to me individually. Coming off our first regional berth in school history, our confidence seems to be at a new level exemplified by the expectations and goals that our team has for this year. After finally breaking down the mental and physical barriers associated with continually being on the outside looking in on selection day, we are no longer entering the season with the hope of winning enough games to be in the field of 64. Winning became expected as last year’s season progressed and I realize winning seems like an obvious goal for a team. However, I am using this first entry to show the journey our program has taken during the last five or six years to finally change the mindset from hoping for, to expecting success.


During my first three seasons here at Cal Poly, we were never short of big-league talent or veteran coaching. However we were constantly underachieving, blowing tight games, messing up off the field, partying throughout the season, and the most disturbing part of our program was that most of us didn’t really care. Now I don’t want this to be interpreted to mean that we didn’t give it our all when in the ball game or that it wasn’t embarrassing to feel the lack of respect our program received, because this wasn’t the case. What was really happening is that above all the one common goal our program shared was to develop our individual skills as much as possible in order to get drafted and make it to the big leagues. Our selfish and immature attitude finally ruined us during the 2008 season when we finished under .500 for the first time in years. However our immaturity off the field had created a team-wide culture that actually made partying (no matter what the next day involved, including games) the thing to do.


To illustrate the leadership of Cal Poly baseball during my first two years, I watched multiple teammates get into trouble off the field and I remember thinking to myself…. I would never let my off-the-field fun get out of hand like that. I know I hang out with these older guys (lived with some of them), but I would never do something that would let everyone around me down like that. Well, personally I not only fell into this culture, I became one of the leaders in these antics and finally got was suspended from the team during the ‘07 season. My priorities were essentially backwards from a successful student-athlete and this was evident in every aspect of my life. My grades were bad from constantly missing class, I came to games tired, and I actually thought this was the path to professional baseball. To put it mildly my relationship with Coach Lee at this point was a bit rocky. In fact his disappointment actually made me angry and I honestly did not understand why he even cared as long as I performed on the field. We had our end-of-the-year meetings and we parted ways for the summer after a heated argument about my value to the program.


Coach had decided that he was through coaching underachieving frat boys through the blue collar Big West Conference and knew it was time for a change. He had a few options: ship out all the idiots that were left and start over, implement heavy punishments for guys who did not follow new team rules and rely on the few people who didn’t fall into this attitude to rat out the cancers, or try and get the guys he had to actually buy into a new way of doing things. Fortunately for me, he chose to give us one more chance to change and become men for the first time at 22 and 23 years old. He sat me down and told me that he needed me (keep in mind, at this point I thought he needed me slightly less than one of the team’s cage balls), and some of the other guys that are looked up to on and off the field, to change the culture of this program. He told me in order for it to really work it needs to come from us not him, it needed to come from guys that have been down that road and seen where it takes you. I had tried doing things my way and it only left me disappointed, so I agreed. We decided to implement a dry season, meaning no drinking, no partying, nothing but school and baseball. I talked with the other leaders and we decided it was time to try anything in order to start winning games. This was the first time I felt that we ever did anything in order to WIN, not to put up numbers, gain velocity, raise our draft status, but to actually succeed at our job winning college baseball games. Many of the meetings we held leading up to our dry season became me telling stories about the negative ways these choices affected my life and the team. I began to realize how many aspects of my life were altered by these choices and that I was not happy with what I had accomplished at Cal Poly. I no longer wanted to just get through these years before pro ball, I wanted to make a positive difference on the program and be remembered for doing so.


With the thought of the years we had wasted prior to 2009, we began the season focused and truly committed to each other for the first time since I entered Cal Poly in the fall of 2005.  We opened the season by beating an impressive Rice team that most likely had more talent than we did from top to bottom. The feeling of earning that first series win because we wanted it more than they did sparked change we had all hoped for. 


To this day, I can’t thank Coach Lee enough for the support and direction that helped turn our team and my life around. My experience helped me realize I have always been a leader, but now I am choosing to show the guys around me the right path instead. By no means have I become the perfect student-athlete, but I do strive to do things the right way on and off the field. In the classroom I went from just trying to be eligible to working towards a 3.0. I don’t remember ever having this much energy, I work hard in the off season for both myself and my teammates, and can honestly say I gave everything to last season. Furthermore, the change has impacted my teammates in the same way, and if you ask any fourth or fifth-year player on our team, they can give numerous examples of how different things are. We are looking forward to beginning our season and we expect big things from our new group of guys. This season is a new challenge and we shift our focus from implementing change, to building a tradition to be proud of. I hope that my first blog has given everyone a glimpse of our program as a whole and that by the final entries you will feel like a part of our journey as well.


(photos courtesy of Cal Poly Media Relations Office)