Returning to tradition

Matt Peters

Stricklin heads program he helped build

Kent State’s baseball coach, Scott Stricklin, talks to the players on base during Wednesday’s game against Northern Kentucky. Stricklin is back coaching at his alma mater.

Credit: Matt Peters

Probably no one would fault Scott Stricklin for having the urge to grab a bat and head out onto the field.

Stricklin is in his first season as coach of the Kent State baseball team, but he is no stranger to the Kent State baseball program.

While Stricklin has spent the first two months of the season coaching Kent State, it wasn’t too long ago that he was a player for the team. Stricklin finished his collegiate career in 1993 with the Flashes as a catcher.

“I have my days of déjà vu,” Stricklin said. “You have some flashbacks of when you were a player. There’s a lot of history here. I went to school here. I met my wife here. This place means a lot to me. Driving to the stadium or driving to work, you always have flashbacks.”

Coaching was always in the plan for Stricklin, but coming back to Kent State for his first head coaching job is particularly special, he said.

“If you told me 10 years ago that I would be the head coach at Kent State, I would be very happy to hear that,” Stricklin said.

He spent the next five years after his Kent State career in the professional ranks. Although Stricklin never played a game in the majors, he was invited to several training camps and spent time in the Minnesota, Atlanta and Tampa Bay organizations. He came to Kent State after spending the last two years at Georgia Tech as an assistant coach.

Stricklin played at Kent State at a time when the program was on the rise. The program’s success was a result of hard work, Stricklin said.

He’s had the same experience as coach.

“This is my alma mater, so I kind of knew what to expect,” Stricklin said. “Tradition is very thick here. I knew I was going to get a lot of hard-working kids, blue-collar kids who play the game very hard. That’s the kind of team we are.

“We have an understanding. They play hard and they give us every bit of effort they got, and we are going to have a lot of fun,” he said.

The players have a coach who operates under the same pretense.

Stricklin received confirmation that he was hired on a Thursday during the summer. By Friday, he was already out watching baseball games recruiting. By the next Monday, he was officially introduced as the manager at a press conference.

The players have taken to that type of mentality. Junior second baseman Drew Saylor joined the team in January after transferring from Cincinnati.

“I’ve learned more in three months than the two years where I used to play,” Saylor said.

Stricklin also brings experience to the table.

“He’s been there. He’s been in every single situation you can imagine.” junior right-handed pitcher Phil Bojc said.

As coach, Stricklin is trying to get his players to learn the lessons he may have struggled with as a player.

“Some of the things I joke about with my players is, you’ll see it differently 10 years from now,” Stricklin said. “You try not to come across as you did everything right when you were player. We all screwed up, but that’s how we become good coaches.”

Managing Editor Kurt Snyder contributed to this story.

Contact sports editor Matt Peters at [email protected].