One of college baseball's most respected and accomplished pitching coaches is leaving for a job in professional ball. Baseball America learned Sunday that Vanderbilt associate head coach Derek Johnson will become the Cubs' minor league pitching coordinator.
Johnson, the 2010 Baseball America/ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year, deserves a great deal of credit for helping Tim Corbin build Vanderbilt into an elite program on the national level. Johnson joined the Vandy staff a year before Corbin was hired as head coach in 2002, and Corbin made the wise decision to keep him on the staff. In the last decade, Johnson has earned a glowing reputation among his peers and the scouting community for his ability to develop power arms, including David Price, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray, Jeremy Sowers and plenty of others.
"He's had as much impact on our program as anyone," Corbin told BA in the fall of 2010. "I think what D.J. has done with these kids is far-reaching. He's kept them healthy, he's made each one of them better. You look at the kids, the pitchers specifically, that have come out of our program, being able to pitch at the next level—it goes without saying . . . We would not have our success without having him on our staff." [...] Continue Reading »
Coaches often say the best time to evaluate recruiting classes is four years after recruits show up on campus, when the full measure of their impact can be accurately assessed. Of course, we're a forward-thinking publication for a forward-thinking audience, and we'll always rank recruiting classes when they show up on campus in an attempt to predict which schools have bright futures ahead of them. It is instructional, however, to look back at our 2008 recruiting class rankings (subscribers only) and see how we did. This is also a way to give credit to recruiting coordinators whose classes turned out far better than initially thought.
So, below is how we would rank the 2008 recruiting classes in hindsight, based on what the players accomplished in school. Postseason success weighs heavily in our calculus, but we're also looking at whether the players in these classes were vital cornerstone players or role players who were just along for the ride. The best classes have a blend of both. Draft results have no bearing on these revised rankings, but you'll notice that most of the classes that experienced the most success also produced a number of marquee draft picks (with a glaring exception at the very top).
Overall, the rankings four years ago were pretty strong. Thirteen of our Top 25 classes in 2008 crack our "revised" list four years later. But there were a few glaring omissions from the Top 25 four years ago, led by the top-ranked class on our list.
1. SOUTH CAROLINA
2008 rank: NR.
Recruiting coordinator: Monte Lee/Chad Holbrook.
Key players: Michael Roth, Matt Price, Jackie Bradley Jr., Bobby Haney, Adam Matthews, Justin Dalles, Nick Ebert, Nolan Belcher, Adam Westmoreland.
The bottom line: Simply put, this is one of the most accomplished classes in college baseball history—the foundation for two national titles and a CWS runner-up finish. Only Bradley was drafted inside the top five rounds, which proves that sometimes the best recruiting classes aren't the most prospect-heavy. [...] Continue Reading »
Gregg Ritchie knows he raised some eyebrows when he decided to leave his job as a major league hitting coach with the Pirates in order to take over as head coach at his alma mater, George Washington. That career path is just about unheard-of.
"A lot of people say, 'That's the major leagues,' " said Ritchie, who was introduced as GW's new coach last week. "Yeah, you're right, that's the major leagues. It's a great, fantastic thing—it's unbelievable. It's the pinnacle of the baseball world, really. But at the same time, spending all that time away from your family, wanting to become a better father . . . This is a great opportunity to do something you really love, and do it somewhere you really love, and be home with your family at the same time. That's the trifecta. It made it a lot easier decision.
"I know some people don't understand it, but when it's family, it made it easier."
Ritchie said he hasn't spent a summer at home—which remains about 45 miles south of GW, where he lived in high school—since he was 15. Travel baseball, college baseball, pro baseball, followed by a successful coaching career in the pro ranks has kept Ritchie on the road since the early 1980s. [...] Continue Reading »
Georgia Tech battled injuries to its pitching staff last year, and now one of its key arms will miss all of the 2013 season, as well. Junior righthander Matt Grimes had Tommy John surgery after re-injuring his elbow in a scrimmage earlier this week.
Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said Grimes missed most of last year with elbow problems and rested all summer. Grimes was pitching again in intrasquad scrimmages this fall, throwing three outings. His last pitch before the surgery was 91 mph, according to Hall, but he said his elbow didn't feel right.
A trip to Dr. James Andrews revealed the bad news, as Andrews recommended surgery because the MRI on Grimes' elbow looked worse than the one on file from last spring.
[...] Continue Reading »
George Washington's coaching hire was worth the long wait.
The Colonials made a splash Thursday, hiring GW alum Gregg Ritchie as their new head coach. Ritchie has spent the last two years as the major league hitting coach for the Pirates, following a five-year stint as the organization's minor league hitting coordinator. It's one thing for minor league instructors to leave for college coaching jobs, but big league coaches very seldom leave for the college ranks.
"Coming back to George Washington brings my career full circle, as in many ways this is where it all started for me," said Ritchie, a 1999 inductee into the school's athletic hall of fame. "I met my wife here at GW, and we both made a lifetime of extraordinary memories going to school and competing in the heart of the nation's capital. To have this opportunity to coach at my alma mater and play our home games in the premier facility in the conference at Barcroft Park is extremely special."
An outfielder and pitcher at GW in the mid-1980s, Ritchie played seven years in the Giants system and another with the Rangers before concluding his playing career in 1995. He began coaching in the White Sox system the following year.
Tom Sheridan, who was leading the program on an interim basis since August 10, will remain on Ritchie's staff as associate head coach. Dave Lorber, who spent last year on the staff at Stony Brook, was hired in September to fill the other full-time assistant role.
With Ritchie's hire, the coaching carousel appears finally to have stopped spinning in 2012. Yesterday, new Western Illinois head coach Ryan Brownlee filled out his coaching staff, hiring former Iowa assistant Dusty Napoleon and retaining WIU pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Shane Davis. The Leathernecks hired Brownlee (who had spent 15 years as an assistant at Iowa) on Sept. 28.
Towson's athletic department on Tuesday recommended a proposal to cut its baseball and men's soccer programs after this academic year, pending final approval by the university president in mid-November.
Athletic director Mike Waddell said the proposals to cut the two teams will save the athletic program about $800,000. He also said the cuts are aimed at complying with Title IX legislation, which calls for the athletic program representation to remain consistent with the school's 60-40 female-male student ratio. As part of the proposal, the school would re-establish a men's tennis team as well.
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, long-time Towson coach Mike Gottlieb expressed frustration with the university's lack of communication and lack of commitment to its student-athletes. The Sun reported Tuesday that the school had been considering the cuts since last fall, but Gottlieb said he was kept in the dark until this week. [...] Continue Reading »
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