It hasn’t taken Erik Bakich long to settle into his new gig as Maryland’s head baseball coach. In fact, when we spoke with Bakich on Tuesday (a day after he was formally introduced at Maryland), he was already in his comfort zone: on the recruiting trail.
Bakich made his reputation at Vanderbilt as one of the nation’s top recruiters thanks to his tireless work ethic and keen eye for talent. Like fellow former Clemson assistants Tim Corbin (now the head coach at Vandy) and Kevin O’Sullivan (Florida), Bakich will spend plenty of hours recruiting even now that he’s a head coach.
"Looking at the way Coach Corbin did it the first couple of years, taking me under his wing, and watching Coach O’Sullivan—he’s out here now—I don’t think I could ever not be on the road," Bakich said. "I love being out there, I love the chase."
Bakich thinks he’s found a young recruiter in the same mold in Dan Burton, who starred for Louisville’s 2007 College World Series team and spent last year recruiting for Austin Peay State in a volunteer capacity. Bakich hired Burton to be his recruiting coordinator, and Bakich has already been in contact with candidates for his pitching coach job.
"Tim Corbin hired me at a young age because I was a tireless worker, and Dan Burton is cut from the same cloth," said Bakich, now 31. "He’s full of energy, turbo-charged. He’ll hit the recruiting trail, attack that thing and find some players."
Bakich said he sees parallels between Maryland’s current position and where Vandy was seven years ago when he and Corbin arrived there. Contrary to common perception, Maryland has become fully funded in the last couple of years, and while the Terrapins’ facilities lag behind most of the teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Bakich has a long-term plan to remedy that shortcoming.
"From a facilities standpoint, I think it’s a situation where if you improve your team, improve the consistency and quality of play, then you can increase the fan interest," Bakich said. "You’ve got to connect with alumni in the Mid-Atlantic, then it’s a situation like Vanderbilt all over again, because we didn’t have a strong fan base in 2002 and 2003. But people enjoyed seeing the energy, the kids sprinting on and off the field. We’ve got to instill that hard-nosed, aggressive, blue-collar brand of baseball, creating an identity. We’ve got to get these players to play with an edge, play with confidence."
But it all starts with recruiting, and Bakich has a battle plan in that area, too.
"I looked at the roster, and I saw that there were a lot of good players in the state and Northern Virginia who weren’t going to the University of Maryland," Bakich said. "And they weren’t using the Northeast—they had one player on their roster from Northeast. For sure, that’s a great geographic area to jump into. But the most important area is your own state; you’ve got to take care of your own state. We’ve got to get some border control out there. There are some good players from Maryland playing elsewhere in the ACC and the SEC, and that’s unacceptable. We’ve got do to a better job getting the best players to stay home."
Bakich has bountiful energy, and he has a vision. Now it’s just a matter of selling it to recruits.
"It’s like at Vanderbilt when we had to sell a vision, and we had to talk about what we’re going to do, not what we’ve done," Bakich said. "Who doesn’t want to be part of a turnaround? Who doesn’t want to go in and build something? That fires me up."
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