Michigan Baseball: Wolverines Announce New Head Coach — Erik Bakich — Profile
After an unproductive last two years, Coach Maloney resigned as Head Coach of the Michigan program. Maloney is now back at Ball State and we wish him well. He is a good man and a good coach. Just a few years ago Michigan baseball was rolling along and in the NCAA tournament with high hopes for the future, but then the talent and performance level dropped.
The new hire, Bakich, has some clear strengths. First he has done very well at recruiting. He had success in this venture at East Carolina, a typical southern baseball program. He had success at Clemson, Vanderbilt, and finally the case could be made for success at Maryland, even though the record on the surface may not support that judgment.
Second, the players he has recruited and worked with as a coach have done very well. Depending on the source read, Bakich has had over 75 players sign professional contracts.
At the collegiate level, talent and development are the two absolutely critical starting points for baseball success. Talented freshman, similar to basketball, can succeed, and succeed quicker with high level training.
Coach Bakich is 34 years old and has three years of head coaching experience. The record at Maryland was turning around. While not the equal of the Southeast Conference, Atlantic Coast baseball is very strong. The competition level of the ACC made turning Maryland’s program around a true challenge. Florida State is a national powerhouse, and on occasions, past and present, Miami is a true baseball power. Clemson is a long time traditional national power; Wake Forest is above average as is North Carolina. Teams such as Virginia, North Carolina State, and Georgia Tech are probably equal to most big conference northern and midwest teams.
There will be questions that arise with this hire; there always are. The age and minimal coaching experience of Bakich will be placed into conversation. His lack of midwest ties will take time to overcome. The cream of the crop for the 2012 class has already signed with a university or is off to minor league baseball. He appears to have been the second choice for the position, with the first choice spiking his rejection is Michigan’s face.
The Big Ten is not as bad of a baseball conference as some believe. The conference was down this year but many very good freshmen and sophomores will return for next year. There are some programs that have made progress in the last few years not usually thought of as big time baseball programs, that is, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State. Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota have enjoyed periods of baseball strength historically, but lately these programs have not enjoyed dominance year in and year out. So, a young coach who is a good recruiter is not going to strike instant fear in the opposition.
Bakich does have ties to the south and mid-atlantic areas, and it would make perfect sense for him to return, at least short term, to these areas for recruiting. Players following coaches to a new destination is not nearly as common in baseball, so do not expect a plethora of good talent to tag along for the transition.
Recruiting and player development is as stated critical, but so is bench-coaching decision-making. The author remains uninformed as to the nature of Bakich’s coaching style: is he aggressive, does he value short-ball and pitching over long-ball offense? There is one clue: his success as a hitting coach at Vanderbilt is very impressive. This indicates teaching, a sound knowledge of hitting, and the hitters understanding the nature of hitting. In the new day of college baseball, with the emaciated metal bats, the averages and power production plummeted this year. The teaching of hitting now becomes paramount to program success and the nature of college baseball just became more like the wood bat era.
Who will Coach Bakich line up as assistants? It is critical in baseball to have someone who is a supreme manager and developer of pitching talent. It is critical to have a third base coach who makes the correct decisions. It is critical to have very loyal assistants that place the energy into the players and the program instead of self-serving objectives.
Former major league pitcher Eric Milton has been named Maryland Interim Coach while a search is undertaken. He is a Maryland alum. This brings into question the possibility of Bakich attracting a former Michigan player as a volunteer or assistant coach.
Sean Kenney is the current pitching coach at Maryland. His alma mater is Eastern Michigan. His record of developing pitchers is well documented.
The entire current coaching staff of Maryland arrived with Bakich three years ago, some may stay at Maryland and some may join Bakich in Ann Arbor. The next few days or weeks should shed light on the final staff composition at Michigan.
Coach Bakich may not have the challenge he had at Maryland, but he does have a significant challenge. Ohio State is a young team and should rebound next year toward the top of league standings. Michigan was at the league bottom and needs more talent and production. The cupboard is not bare, but the shelves have spaces of air. It will be imperative to have a great recruiting class next year while trying to show some improvement to recruits.
Good luck to Coach Bakich, he seems eager to take up residence in Ann Arbor.
Here are a few quotes from the press conference:
“I am extremely excited to be here.” – Coach Bakich
“Michigan is about excellence. A place I wanted to be a part of.” – Coach Bakich
“It’s about restoring the glory…we are not going to take a back seat.” – Coach Bakich
“We are going to make sure the University of Michigan gets the best players from Michigan.” – Coach Bakich
“This program is going to be built on relentless energy.” – Coach Bakich
“Going to make sure we’re strong on the mound and defensively.” – Coach Bakich
Inside Michigan Baseball – Head Coach Erik Bakich
Michigan Baseball – Erik Bakich Press Conference
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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