Feb. 14, 2013
The University of Michigan baseball program welcomes a whole new coaching staff for the 2013 season. The staff has now been here for around seven months and will coach its first game on Friday, Feb. 15, at California. As we countdown Opening Day, we will introduce and get to know the new staff.
Our last Meet the New Staff Q & A is head coach Erik Bakich. Bakich was announced as the 19th head coach in the history of University of Michigan baseball on June 27, 2012. He arrived in Ann Arbor after spending three seasons as head coach at the University of Maryland. He led the Terrapins to a 32-24 record in 2012, which was a 15-win improvement from his first season at College Park. Maryland had a 3.21 team ERA in 2012, which was third in the ACC. Bakich also had four players drafted from the 2012 team in this year's MLB First-Year Player Draft, including Alfredo Rodriguez, who was picked in the 17th round by the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent seven seasons Vanderbilt University as the Commodores' recruiting coordinator. Under Bakich's assistance, Vanderbilty was 276-157 which included a 54-win team in 2007.
In this Q & A, Bakich talks about his coaching style, the growth of Team 147 from the fall into the spring and the strengths of his coaching staff.
Q: You've been in Ann Arbor for seven months now. How do you and your family like the community?
A: My wife and I talked the other night about how when we left Nashville in the summer of 2009 we didn't know if we would ever find a place that we loved as much as Nashville. We love Ann Arbor every bit, if not more, than we enjoyed our time in Nashville. This is an incredible community with friendly people, great schools, and an incredibly passionate fan base. We couldn't be happier.
Q: How would you describe your coaching style and how you run a program?
A: Our program is predicated on recruiting and player development. Our goals are always going to be to recruit the very best players in the state, region, and nation and then develop them to their maximum potential as students, as baseball players, and as people. The more strategic baseball championship formula that has been very consistent among all of the schools that I have been fortunate enough to coach at has been about building a team based on pitching and defense. So we'll spend our scholarship money and look to build this program to win championships by focusing on pitching and defense.
Q: How has the team grown from the first days of fall ball until now?
A: I think that the players have drastically improved, but most importantly have a great foundation with their mental game training and with the leadership training they have done. I think they have a convicted belief of what Michigan Baseball is all about, what the identity of Team 147 is, and that was the most important thing of this first year. We wanted to lay the foundation for this program, because if they stick to those fundamentals, they're going to find themselves winning a lot of ballgames.
Q: How has recruiting been for you and your staff in these seven months?
A: Well, we've got a staff of three recruiting coordinators, and as a staff we feel like that's one of the things that separate us from everyone else. Coach (Nick) Schnabel is our recruiting coordinator and he's one of the best in the country. Coach (Sean) Kenny used to be the recruiting coordinator at Pepperdine and he's one of the best in the country, and I was the recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt. And between the three of us, it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. We are relentlessly passionate about finding and targeting the very best players in Michigan, in the Midwest and in the nation. So recruiting has gone very well. We have 14 players coming in next year and right now we're working on finalizing the recruiting class for the 2015 season. We're investing the majority of our time on the players that will be here for the 2016 season. Once you finish with one class, you move on to the next.
Q: You are good friends with Coach Schnabel, worked with Coach Kenny at Maryland and coached Aaron Etchison. How has the relationship been with you and the staff as a whole?
A: We've got the best coaching staff in the Big Ten and it rivals any coaching staff in the nation. I think Sean Kenny is one of the best pitching coaches in the country. To take the Maryland staff that he had last year that, on paper, was nowhere near as good as a lot of the other schools in that conference and to lead the ACC in ERA up until the last week in the season and still finish in the top three, it just speaks volumes to his ability to develop a pitching staff. Coach Schnabel is one of the most tireless, relentless recruiters in college baseball, period. He's a machine and he has no off switch. Michigan and our staff are extremely fortunate to have those two guys spearheading our recruiting and our player development. Aaron Etchison is a rising star in the coaching ranks. He is extremely passionate about recruiting and player development and he was very important for us to bring him here because he knows the system we are trying to implement having been a player at Maryland the last two years. He's a great person, he's a tremendous worker, and he is picking up everything from Coach Schnabel and Coach Kenny and I. Coach Welton brings an incredible amount of wisdom and experience, having been a head coach and athletic director for over 30 years. Having been a loyal fan of Michigan and on the baseball staff last year, his experience, wisdom, and friendship are invaluable to this program. Between the four of those guys, it's as good of a dynamic that anyone could hope for or ask for.
Q: Patrick Biondi was named the team captain for the 2013 season and there also was a Leadership Council named with five players. For the fans that might not know, what is the Leadership Council?
A: Well, the most important goal of fall baseball was to establish the identity of Team 147 and what Michigan baseball is all about. We set out to create core values for our program and for this team, and we came up with five core values that describe what the ingredients are for this program to return to the championship level and how our players can demonstrate those things in the four areas that they're college baseball players, which is the classroom, the community, practice and training, and in games. And the words we came up with are relentless, blue collar, confident, disciplined, and selfless. So all of our players can now articulate and demonstrate what it means to be all of those things in the four areas that we are college baseball players. At the end of the fall, the players voted on who best exemplifies what the identity of Michigan baseball is, and who will best help lead this program as part of a leadership council. And we had five guys who were the top vote getters, and one guy who was a unanimous selection among his teammates. Mike O'Neill, Chad Jasman, Kyle Clark, Ben Ballantine and Pat Biondi were elected to the Leadership Council and Pat Biondi was the unanimous vote getter as who should represent this team as its leader and as its captain. We chose to make Pat Biondi the captain of the 2013 Michigan baseball team, Team 147.
Q: How excited are you to start the season?
A: Our staff and I could not be more proud of these players; the work that they've put in, their preparation, their training and their buy-in to this team and to its core values. So we couldn't be more excited to get into the trenches with them and continue this process. Championships are on the horizon, and Michigan deserves to be champions and these players deserve to be champions because they've trained like champions every day.