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Oregon State Picks Mitch Canham As Its Next Coach

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Oregon State coach Mitch Canham

Oregon State on Thursday named Mitch Canham, a catcher on the school’s 2006 and 2007 national championship teams and currently a minor league manager in the Mariners’ system, as its next head coach.

Thursday’s move was a surprise, as the Beavers were expected to promote either associate head coach Pat Bailey or pitching coach Nate Yeskie as the permanent successor to Pat Casey, who retired last September. Instead, athletic director Scott Barnes picked Canham, who is a well-regarded and fast-rising minor league manager but has no experience coaching in college.

But Oregon State’s situation has been surprising for nine months now. Casey surprisingly announced his retirement last September, moving into a new role as senior associate athletic director just a couple months after guiding the Beavers to a third national title. It was soon revealed that in renegotiating Casey’s contract for his new position, Barnes had inserted a clause that allowed Casey the opportunity to decide to return to the dugout with a deadline of June 1.

That deadline came and went earlier this month with no word from Casey. Then, on June 4, Barnes announced Casey had decided not to return and that Oregon State would begin a coaching search. It took him just nine days to reach a conclusion, selecting Canham, 34, over Bailey and Yeskie.

Canham, a Washington native, played four years at Oregon State before he was drafted 57th overall by the Padres in 2007. That spring, as a senior, he hit .326/.447/.524 with 10 home runs. He played eight years in affiliated ball, reaching Triple-A.

Canham began his managerial career in 2016 with low Class A Clinton, managing the LumberKings to a first-place regular season finish in the Midwest League. He moved up to high Class A Modesto for the next two seasons and won the California League championship in 2017. This year, he had taken on Double-A Arkansas, which has already clinched the first-half title in the Texas League's North Division.

Canham will now step away from pro ball, where some felt like he was on a big league track, and return to his alma mater. He faces an immediate challenge of getting acclimated to the college game and recruiting. He also must figure out how to manage his coaching staff, which had been one of the best in the country with Bailey, Yeskie and Andy Jenkins. Who among that group stays remains to be seen, but they all have relationships with Canham, who was regularly around the program during his playing career.

Oregon State is also going through an on-field transition. Catcher Adley Rutschman, the College Player of the Year and No. 1 overall draft pick, will move on to pro ball, as will shortstop Beau Phillip and righthander Grant Gambrell, who were drafted in the second and third rounds, respectively. Righthanders Bryce Fehmel, a rotation mainstay, and Dylan Pearce both graduate, and ace Kevin Abel, the 2018 Freshman of the Year, will miss at least the start of next season as he continues recovery from Tommy John surgery. That leaves more than 200 innings that have to be replaced, as well as the Beavers’ two best hitters.

Still, Oregon State is coming off a 36-20-1 season and has hosted a home regional three years in a row. The Beavers have recruited at a high level and there is talent on the team. It’s not a ready-made operation for Canham, but it’s also one that gives him a chance for quick success.

Canham is the third-youngest Power Five conference head coach and connects Oregon State to its championship tradition. It’s a bold choice by the Beavers, but as long as Canham proves he can continue their success on the recruiting trail, it’s one that could soon pay dividends.

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