Ranking College Coaches By Their Pro Playing Careers
College coaches having success as players is not unique. Many of them had minor league careers and still more were stars on their own college teams.
But college coaches who played in the big leagues are rare at this point in history. Just 16 accrued any service time at all, and only seven appeared in parts of more than three seasons.
Recent changes have depressed the number of ex-big leaguers coaching in college a bit. Darin Erstad, a 14-year big leaguer who was an all-star twice and won three Gold Glove awards, resigned at Nebraska after the 2019 season. Ryan Garko, who hit 21 home runs for the Indians in 2007, resigned as the coach at Pacific in January to join Joe Maddon’s staff with the Angels.
Danny Heep, who played 13 years in MLB, was the coach at Incarnate Word through the 2017 season. For that matter, the recently retired Wayne Graham got into some games in the big leagues in the 1960s with the Phillies and Mets.
Still, there are coaches at this level that had lengthy MLB careers and many more than had at least a cup of coffee or a distinguished run in the minor leagues. Here is our list of the 25 best pro careers among current college coaches.
1. Troy Percival, UC Riverside
14 seasons in MLB, four-time All-Star, 358 career saves
Percival, who currently coaches his son Cole at UC Riverside, spent 14 seasons in MLB, becoming one of the most accomplished closers in history along the way. He made four all-star teams, saved 358 games and won a World Series with the Angels in 2002.
2. Chris Sabo, Akron
Nine seasons in MLB, three-time All-Star, 1988 Rookie of the Year
A teammate of Barry Larkin at Michigan and with the Reds, Sabo became a Cincinnati legend during his time in the big leagues, known nearly as much for his flat-top haircut and signature goggles as his Rookie of the Year award in 1988. He made three all-star teams and lifted a World Series trophy when the Reds won it all in 1990.
3. Scott Bradley, Princeton
Nine seasons in MLB, .257/.302/.343 career hitter
Bradley carved out a solid nine-year career for himself, mostly as a member of the Mariners. He was primarily a catcher, but also saw time in the outfield and at first and third base. His best season was in 1986, split between the White Sox and Mariners, when he hit .300/.347/.432 in 77 games.
4. John Stuper, Yale
Four seasons in MLB, 32-28, 3.96, 111 G, 76 GS
Stuper spent four productive seasons in the starting rotation for the Cardinals (1982-1984) and Reds (1985). His best season was his second, when he went 12-11 with a 3.68 ERA in 198 innings, but he was also a key piece of the 1982 World Series-winning Cardinals, when he had a 3.36 ERA in 23 appearances, which included 21 starts.
5. Andy Stankiewicz, Grand Canyon
Seven seasons in MLB, .241/.313/.315 career hitter
Stankiewicz didn’t make his MLB debut until 1992, when he was 28 years old, but he made the most of his time once he got there, carving out a seven-year career in the big leagues with four different franchises. His best season was his rookie campaign, when he hit .268 with 22 doubles for the Yankees.
6. Tracy Woodson, Richmond
Five seasons in MLB, .247/.279/.328 in 506 AB
A corner infielder, Woodson played three seasons for the Dodgers from 1987-1989, winning a World Series in 1988, and then returned to the big leagues in 1992 and 1993 with the Cardinals. In a limited role, he hit .307 for the Cardinals in 1992.
7. Eric Wedge, Wichita State
Four seasons in MLB, 86 career ABs, .233/.340/.430
Although Wedge would come to be known more for his managerial stints with the Indians and Mariners, he spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues from 1991-1994. Wedge hit .299/.389/.498 for AAA Pawtucket in 1992, which helped earn him his second call-up to Boston, where he homered five times in 68 at-bats for the Red Sox.
8. Mike Neu, California
Two seasons in MLB, 3.72 ERA, 33 G
Neu technically pitched in two different seasons in MLB, but his career consists of 32 games pitched for the Athletics in 2003 and one game with the Marlins in 2004. He proved to be effective in his one season in Oakland, putting up a 3.64 ERA in 42 innings of relief.
9. Steve Holm, Illinois State
Three seasons in MLB, 108 career ABs, .241/.336/.361
A college shortstop who converted to catcher to enhance his professional prospects, Holm’s switch paid off with parts of three seasons in the big leagues with the Giants and Twins. He hit just one homer in those three seasons, but it was a big one, a go-ahead seventh-inning homer to lead the Giants to a win over the Phillies in 2008.
10. Jason Anderson, Eastern Illinois
Three seasons in MLB, 6.39 ERA, 32 G
Anderson, a right-handed pitcher, appeared in parts of three seasons for the Yankees, Mets and Indians. His 2003 rookie season, which was split between the two New York franchises, was his best ,as he had a 4.88 ERA in 28 appearances.
11. Brian Schmack, Valparaiso
One season in MLB, 3.46 ERA, 11 G
Schmack got just one crack at the big leagues, but he was an effective righthander for the Tigers in a small sample during the 2003 season. In 11 appearances, he had a 3.46 ERA over 13 innings of work.
12. Steve Bieser, Missouri
Two seasons in MLB, 80 career ABs, .250/.351/.300
During a 13-year career in affiliated baseball, Bieser got parts of two seasons in the big leagues - a 47-game stint with the Mets in 1997 and 13 games with the Pirates in 1998. A versatile defensive player who could most notably play catcher and all three outfield positions, he continued to be an effective player in the minor leagues until hanging it up after the 2001 season.
13. Kevin Mulvey, Villanova
Two seasons in MLB, 7.90 ERA, 10 G
Mulvey spent parts of two seasons in MLB for the Twins and Diamondbacks, starting four games for Arizona in 2009. His best start during that 2009 season came on September 23, when he threw six innings against the Giants, giving up two hits and three runs.
14. Jeff Duncan, Kent State
Two seasons in MLB, 154 career ABs, .182/.276/.227
An outfielder who had a knack for getting on base and could steal some bags once he got there, Duncan spent part of 2003 and 2004 in the big leagues with the Mets. His minor league numbers show the kind of player he could be at his best, even after his stints in the big leagues. In 2006 with AAA Las Vegas, he hit .299 with a .384 on-base percentage and 21 stolen bases.
15. Steve Rodriguez, Baylor
One season in MLB, 39 career ABs, .179/.289/.205
A legend at Pepperdine for helping lead the Waves to the 1992 national championship, Rodriguez spent 18 games with the Red Sox and Tigers in 1995. His first big league hit came on an infield single off of Angels lefthander Chuck Finley on May 28 of that year.
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16. Mike Glavine, Northeastern
One season in MLB, 7 career ABs, .143/.143/.143
For six games during the 2003 season, Glavine, a very successful power hitter in the minor leagues, joined his brother Tom with the Mets. His only hit came in his final at-bat in the majors, a single on September 28 off of Marlins closer Braden Looper.
17. Mitch Canham, Oregon State
Four seasons in Triple-A, .253/.339/.358 in eight affiliated seasons
Although he never cracked the big leagues, Canham spent time in Triple-A four different times with the Padres, Athletics, Cardinals and Royals. His most extended look at the level came in 2012 at Memphis, when he got into 18 games with the Redbirds. When he was done playing, Canham went into coaching at the pro level and looked ticketed to reach the big leagues as a coach before taking the job at his alma mater Oregon State.
18. David Miller, LaSalle
Three seasons in Triple-A, .264/.333/.382 in six affiliated seasons
After starring on some of coach Jack Leggett’s early Clemson teams, Miller vaulted to Triple-A Buffalo in the Indians system very quickly. In 1998 with Buffalo, he had perhaps his best season with the bat in the minors, hitting .267 with a .362 on-base percentage and nine home runs. He also got looks at AAA in 1999 and 2000 before finishing his career in affiliated ball in 2002.
19. Pat Hallmark, Texas-San Antonio
One season in Triple-A, .278/.350/.372 in nine affiliated seasons
Hallmark earned a promotion to Triple-A Omaha in the Royals system in 2001 on the strength of hitting .326/.409/.455 with Double-A Wichita in 2000. That tracks with what Hallmark did during the rest of his minor league career, as he was consistently an effective offensive player. In nine seasons in affiliated baseball, he hit .278/.350/.372.
20. Ryan Klosterman, Bryant
Three seasons in Triple-A, .242/.329/.382 in eight affiliated seasons
A shortstop for Tim Corbin’s first two seasons at Vanderbilt, Klosterman played eight seasons in affiliated baseball, reaching Triple-A New Orleans in the Marlins system in 2009, 2010 and 2011. His longest look at the level came in 2011, when he got into 29 games.
21. Wes Carroll, Evansville
Two seasons in Triple-A, .247/.301/.305 in five affiliated seasons
Though he never made it to the big leagues to join his brother Jamey, Wes Carroll did get to share the infield with him during spring training with the Nationals in 2006. A middle infielder by trade, Carroll could also handle third base and outfield. He got his first taste of Triple-A in 2004 and then spent all of 2005 there before hanging it up after the spring training he spent with Washington in 2006.
22. Alex Sogard, Wright State
One season in Triple-A, 4.38 ERA in 170 G in five affiliated seasons
Sogard made it to Triple-A with Oklahoma City, then in the Astros organization, in 2013, but his best years in the minor leagues came in his stints at Double-A. In 2014 with Corpus Christi, he had a 2.91 ERA in 25 appearances and 43.1 innings of work.
23. Jim Sherman, Delaware
One season in Triple-A, .267/.334/.463 in six affiliated seasons
A power hitter in his playing days, Sherman reached Triple-A Tucson in the Astros organization for a brief period of time in 1986 on the strength of his season at Double-A Columbus in 1985, when he hit .279/.331/.511 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI.
24. Nick Derba, Maine
Three seasons in Triple-A, .194/.308/.293 in six affiliated seasons
Derba reached the precipice of the big leagues three times for the Cardinals with Triple-A Memphis in 2010, 2011 and 2012, getting his longest look at the level in 2012, when he got into 36 games.
25. Rick Hirtensteiner, Pepperdine
One season in Triple-A, .268/.346/.382 in six affiliated seasons
Hirtensteiner had a unique pro career that took him from affiliated ball in the Expos system to the independent St. Paul Saints and back to affiliated ball as a member of the Marlins organization. He reached Triple-A in 1993 with the Expos, but his best season in the upper levels of the minors was hitting .263/.327/.359 with 18 stolen bases at Double-A Harrisburg in 1992.