Baseball America has partnered with the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) for more than 20 years to present the Assistant Coach of the Year award. Previous honorees have included Tim Corbin (Clemson) and Brian O’Connor (Notre Dame), who went on to win national championships as head coaches, Derek Johnson (Vanderbilt), who is now a major league pitching coach, and longtime assistants such as Dean Stotz (Stanford), Rob Fornasiere (Minnesota) and Mike Birkbeck (Kent State).
Michigan assistant head coach Nick Schnabel is this year’s honoree at the Division I level after helping lead the Wolverines to a runner-up finish at the College World Series.
Again this year, Baseball America and ABCA are honoring coaches beyond Division I – recognizing coaches from the Division II, Division III, NAIA, junior college and high school ranks. This year’s honorees include a coach who this year won a national title, as well as some longtime assistants at premier programs from across the country.
The winners will be recognized in January at ABCA’s convention in Nashville.
NCAA Division I
Nick Schnabel, Michigan
Schnabel in 2019 completed his seventh season as an assistant coach at Michigan, where he serves as recruiting coordinator as well as working with the Wolverine infielders and hitters. Schnabel helped guide the Wolverines to their eighth College World Series appearance and the program’s third-ever trip to the CWS finals. Michigan hitters led the Big Ten in batting average, on-base percentage, stolen bases, runs scored, doubles and walks in 2019.
NCAA Division II
Charlie Spano, Mercyhurst (Pa.)
Spano has spent 11 seasons at Mercyhurst, serving as the Lakers’ third base coach and recruiting coordinator. Spano, who also works closely with the infielders and team’s base running, has coached 11 all-conference infielders and helped the Lakers to three Division II World Series appearances, eight NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2011 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Tournament title.
NCAA Division III
Geoff Fox, Chapman (Calif.)
Fox joined the Chapman coaching staff in 2014 after spending eight seasons as an assistant at Saddleback (Calif.) JC. He this year helped Chapman win its second Division III national championship. During his time at Chapman, the Panthers won nearly 70 percent of their games and captured Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament titles in 2018 and 2019.
Mitch Schmidt, Bellevue (Neb.)
In 13 seasons at Bellevue, Schmidt has helped the Bruins to 10 seasons of 40 wins or more, including three 50-win seasons. He has helped guide the program to seven conference tournament titles and four NAIA World Series appearances, including this spring.
NJCAA Division I
Tyler Herbst, Iowa Western
The 2019 season marked Herbst’s fifth season at Iowa Western. During his tenure there, the Reivers have averaged over 50 wins per season and made four NJCAA World Series appearances. The Reivers have also collected five consecutive Iowa Community College Athletic Conference regular season conference championships and four NJCAA regional and district titles.
NJCAA Division II
Trevor Burmeister, Madison (Wisc.)
Burmeister returned to Madison, where he had been an all-conference player in 2011, prior to the 2017 season. Burmeister has helped the WolfPack to back-to-back NJCAA Division II World Series appearances in 2018 and 2019, as well as three NJCAA Regional Tournament appearances. During Burmeister’s first three seasons on staff, the WolfPack have averaged 38 wins per season.
NJCAA Division III
Lane Potter, Herkimer (N.Y.)
Potter joined the Herkimer coaching staff in the spring of 2016 and serves as the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for the Generals. In each of the last two seasons, the Generals captured NJCAA Regional Tournament titles and advanced to the NJCAA Division III World Series.
Eric Solberg, Fresno (Calif.)
Solberg has guided Fresno pitching staffs for over 20 years and has coached four pitchers who have gone on to reach the major leagues, including all-star Ted Lilly. Solberg’s 2019 staff finished the season with a 3.14 team ERA and 463 strikeouts as the Rams advanced the California Community College Athletic Association NorCal Super Regionals.
High School Division I
Steve Holleman, Owasso (Okla.) HS
Holleman joined the Owasso High coaching staff in 1979. In over 40 years with the program, he has been a part of more than 1,000 wins and 11 state championships, most recently in 2015. He has numerous coaching awards to his credit and is a member of the Oklahoma Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Owasso Athletic Hall of Fame.
High School Division II
Derek Leppert, Olathe (Kan.) West HS
Leppert has served as an assistant baseball coach at Olathe West High for the past two seasons and was previously on the staff at Blue Valley Southwest High. While at Blue Valley, Leppert helped guide the program to three-straight state tournament appearances from 2013-2015, finishing runner-up in 2014 and capturing the 5A state title in 2015.
High School Division III
Jim Canonica, Maple Hill HS (Castleton, N.Y.)
Canonica is a longtime assistant and former head coach at Maple Hill High, a program he’s been involved with for 52 seasons. During his time as head coach, Canonica racked up 243 career wins and had a career winning percentage of .628. Maple Hill’s Canonica Field is named in his honor.