A dozen or so professional scouts aimed their radar guns toward the mound last year every time Rob Gilliam '09X pitched.
If you thought one looked familiar, you were right. It was Neil Avent '92 MS.
Neil served as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 1991-2003. Coach Mike Gaski brought him aboard a half-year before the program's first season, in 1991. Starting a baseball program from scratch very rewarding, Neil says.
Despite the late-night driving, he loves being a scout. You get paid to watch baseball games.
He's a regional scout for the Oakland A's. He evaluates prospects. Every scout for every team has favorite guys, but that doesn't mean another team won't snatch them. The draft, quite honestly, is out of your hands. You can hope, but your hopes can be dashed in an instant. In 10 seconds, the kid you were hoping to get is gone. Just like that.
His best moment as a scout? My first draft, 2006, I was fortunate enough to draft two kids out of UNCG. They were Jermaine Mitchell and Neil's recruit, Patrick Currin. You can offer them an opportunity to fufill a dream.
Rob Gilliam now has that opportunity.
What does a scout look for in a pitching prospect like Rob? First, his stuff: good arm, good velocity, a repertoire of pitches, consistent mechanics for consistent results. The statistics tell you only so much. You have to go watch, Neil says. You look at his build, how he carries himself. And consider how he'll mature. You have to dream a little bit.
If you want to be a big leaguer, you have to be special. You've got to have it.
Brian Moehler '93X had it no question about it. Brian led the Spartan pitching staff in strikeouts in 1991 and 1992. Currently pitching for the Houston Astros at age 38, he has earned 83 wins and struck out 831 in his major league career.
The Spartans' current pitching roster features Blake Hassebrock, whom Baseball America named to their top summer prospect list in August. His fastball reaches 93-94 mph consistently. His best outing last year was 7 2/3 innings against Appalachian State, when he allowed only three hits and no runs, striking out six. He is definitely not a secret amongst the MLB scouts in this area, Neil says. I am sure that the seats will be littered with radar guns again this spring.
Others returning? Warren Slack, who last season had the third best earned run average in the SoCon, 3.77. Matt Parish had a 4.70 ERA for eighth best in the SoCon.
Will any make it to the big leagues? Time will tell. For now, there's a season to focus on. The team began strong with a three-win sweep at home.
After 26 years of leading Spartan men's soccer, Coach Michael Parker announced he is stepping down.
In June 1984, Michael Parker took over a men's soccer program that had already won two national championships. Parker had led his Div. III Lock Haven program to three national championships. Later in the '80s, he would lead the Spartans to three consecutive Div. III national titles. Ultimately, the Spartans would win 382 matches under his guidance.
It has been quite a ride, said Parker, who was the first men's soccer coach in NCAA history to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament in all three divisions.
In 1985, Parker was named the Div. III National Coach of the Year. In 1989, Parker was named Div. II National Coach of the Year. At UNCG, he coached 11 All-Americans and four Academic All-Americans. When he stepped down, he was the winningest active coach in Div. I.
Some soccer achievements during the Parker tenure:
- Reached NCAA Tournament 15 times, including eight in the program's Div. I era.
- Thirteen conference regular season championships: 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2005, 2006.
- Seven conference tournament titles: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2006, 2008.
- Best winning percentage in SoCon against member schools: 70-29-6 since joining the SoCon.
- In 2004, spent four consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation.
- In four of the last six years, reached the NCAA Tournament Final 16.
Justin Maullin has been appointed head coach on an interim basis. Maullin had been assistant coach for the last five years.
They're like brothers, the freshmen men's basketball players say. While the other players live off-campus, they live in the same residence hall. They pal around. And this season, they've grown up in a hurry. Taking on six ACC teams and a tough SoCon schedule will do that to you.
Taylor Hoffer did not play due to leg surgery. But the other freshmen have been called on to make big contributions.
Point guard Kyle Randall is on the court for three-quarters of each game and is the second highest scorer on the team. He says the move from high school to Div. I ball was a leap. He turned 18 in September and found himself facing muscular, 22-year-old guards. But the tough early-season schedule was very valuable. Playing against ACC schools, I paid attention to people at my position. He cited Wake Forest's Ishmael Smith. Always talking to his players, floor leadership I can carry that over to our team.
Post-player Brian Cole also talks about the transition from high school to Div. I ball. You have to bring your A game every time, he says. And the level of conditioning required? I thought I was in shape I was wrong.
Cole plays about 16 minutes a game and has become one of the top eight scorers. There's been a lot to take in, he says. The plays where to be and when to be there … how to post, when to post, how to seal your man off. The coaches instruct, and the upperclassmen pass along tricks of the trade, as well.
I think we've come a long way, getting better as the season went on, guard Korey Van Dussen says. He plays nearly half the game, and is also one of the top eight scorers. He looks ahead to the off-season, when he plans to work on his shot, his conditioning and his strength.
Cole and Randall talk specifically about work in the weight room. Core training will help them in moving laterally on the court, Randall says, essential for basketball.
Until then, they'll continue to hang together. And especially hang with Cole. He's the one with a car.