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TCBB talks with Hall of Fame Coach Ed Flaherty, Part 2

Coach Ed Flaherty has become a regional legend and an NACB Hall of Famer in his 22 years as Head Coach of Southern Maine.  With a career record of 689 and 301 (.695 winning percentage), Coach Flaherty figures to cross into rarefied air with the potential to win his 700th game for the Huskies in 2009.  The Huskies will also be going for their third national DIII title in 2009 after falling short in the Northeast Regional against the Trinity (CT) juggernaut this past spring.  Coach Flaherty graduated from Maine, where he played baseball.  He was inducted into the University of Maine Hall of Fame in 1992, the State of Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2005.

Last week we talked Southern Maine with Coach Flaherty. (Part 1 available here.)  He’s been kind enough to sit down with us for some more questions.

TheCollegeBaseballBlog – In 2004 you were elected to join the American Baseball Coach Association’s Hall of Fame.  Can you talk a little about the honor and impact of the induction?

Ed Flaherty – It is a very humbling honor.  As a young coach, I was in awe of many of the men that are in the Hall of Fame.  Now to be in the same company as them seems ridiculous to me, but I’m not going to give it back.  It is great to be honored in such a way for the profession that I truly love.

TCBB – In your 23 seasons, you’ve now accumulated 2 National Championships, a .695 winning percentage and stand 11 wins short of 700 career victories.  What have you done to take the legacy of your predecessor (David Drew) to build a program that annually competes at the highest level in DIII?

EF – The University of Southern Maine really wants to do well in all the programs they sponsor. Dave Drew was very successful in his tenure as coach and all I have done is expand our program to a regional program instead of just in state.  We have built a new stadium and new field house which from a facility standpoint is enticing to high school prospects.  The other key thing I have done is to assemble what I consider the best assistant coaches in the country to teach our players the game.

TCBB – As well as building winning teams on the field, you have a reputation of being a teacher off of it as well for your student-athletes.  In your 23 years, what non-baseball memory do you look back on most fondly when you recall the players you’ve coached?

EF – I enjoy teaching my Coaching Fundamental class at the university to the general population.

TCBB – As we discussed in Part 1 of this interview, you’re preparing to send a second son to play for Coach Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt.  Ryan was Gatorade Player of the Year in Maine in 2005.  During his recruitment, what stood out to your family that helped make the decision to forgo the Major League Baseball Draft and to choose Vanderbilt?

EF – In my mind there is a price to pass up a Vanderbilt education and the ability to play in the SEC.  That number was never presented to Ryan or our family so therefore it was a no-brainer.  It has worked out great so far as Ryan has three years behind him and was picked in the 1st round.  He was not drafted out of high school.  Much credit has to go to Coach Corbin and his staff as they developed Ryan well beyond my expectations.

TCBB – You’re talking to what might be the biggest Ryan Flaherty fan outside of the Flaherty family, so I must ask how things are going for Ryan with the Boise Hawks since being selected in the Supplemental First Round by the Chicago Cubs in the 2008 MLB Draft.  As of the date of this interview, he’s hitting .305 with 6 HR and a .905 OPS, so he’s been doing great on the field.  How’s the adjustment to professional ball been for him?

EF – He has adapted well and I think the college background has helped that.  He’s has needed to learn to play every day and withstand some of the aches and pains that come with playing every day.

TCBB – With your induction into the ABCA Hall of Fame taking place in Nashville and with Ryan’s standout career for the Commodores, you’re garnering some ties to the Athens of the South.  The next arrives in 2009 when Regan will enroll at Vanderbilt to play for the Commodores.  Can you tell us a little about Regan’s game?

EF – Regan is a left-handed hitting 1B/P/OF who is very athletic.  He is different from his brother in that he is left-handed and can pitch.  You will see very similar approaches at the plate.

TCBB – So far, we’ve discussed some of the prospects for USM and your accomplishments as a Coach and player parent.  Now we’d like to pick your brain on some of the issues that have developed over the last two years with respect to rule changes in the NCAA game.  You served as President of both the American Baseball Coaches Association and the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association, so you’re well versed on the impact of NCAA rules on baseball programs across the nation.  In 2008, the Huskies started their season well into March, so the Uniform Start Date in late February pretty much did not apply to Southern Maine, but do you think it will have a positive impact on the competitiveness of northern baseball programs?

EF – I really do not feel it will help northern baseball programs.  The competitive northern schools have always played on the first date available.  The fact remains that if a young man is talented enough, his opportunities to develop will be better in the south.  The only way to really even things out would be to play the college season in the summer and that will never happen.

TCBB – Along those same lines, do you find that the scholarship and roster limits imposed on D1 programs will have an impact toward making more student-athletes look at opportunities to play with programs in the north, in DII and DIII?

EF – This will help D2 and D3 programs as these players who do not make rosters will find other avenues to play ball.

TCBB – With the removal of the one-time transfer exemption that allowed student-athletes to change schools once without having to sit out a red-shirt year, do you feel that there is more pressure on a coach to recruit with responsibility or for the student-athlete to be aware of what programs are the best fit for them?

EF – I think it is a responsibility of both the coach and the family.  Many families are not aware what level their boy is able to play at.  Hopefully the coach has done his homework on the player and makes a good evaluation so that the boy is not in a situation where he will need to transfer.

Again, much thanks to Coach Flaherty for his time, and best of luck from everyone at TCBB on the march to 700 wins.

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