LAS CRUCES, N.M. – New Mexico State head baseball coach Rocky Ward recently became the all-time winningest coach at NM State surpassing Jim Kwasny who tallied 300 wins from 1969-82.
Ward, who is in his 12th season as Aggie head coach, picked up win No. 301 when his team defeated Akron 8-3 in game one of a doubleheader, Saturday, Feb. 27 at Presley Askew Field. NM State was victorious in game two as well and blasted the Zips 17-5 in the series finale to takes Ward’s win total to 303.
“There aren’t that many coaches who were able to go to a program and become the winningest coach in the program,” Ward said. “I guess it established kind of a legacy. There are a lot more important things than the things I have done, but you are kind of proud when you are at the top and made your mark on the program.”
Coach Ward continues to push his student-athletes year-in and year-out while also overcoming adversity and changing conference three times during his time at NM State. His 2003 team posted 43 wins, setting the school record for wins in a season; although, that record was broken by Ward’s 2009 team when it won 44 games.
NM State did, however, earn its first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and won the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament game as the Aggies defeated UNLV 14-12 in the regional round. That win came during a five-year span when NM State posted a record of 174-120 (2001-06), the most wins in a five-year span in the history of Aggie baseball.
Ward, who comes from a family of coaches, led the Aggies to a sweep over then No. 1 Texas Tech 19-17 and 12-11 in Las Cruces, April 29-30, 1997. His teams have been known for their offensive power as his 2003 and 2004 teams led the nation in home runs and RBI, while his 2009 team led the nation in runs scored, RBI, walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
bleedCrimson.net Interview With Coach Ward on becoming New Mexico State’s winningest coach:
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on win number 301 and becoming New Mexico State’s winningest coach?
Rocky Ward: I’ve thought about it a lot. We started looking at the possibility at the end of the year last year in the conference tournament. If we’d won and moved on we might have gotten it in a Regional and that would have been pretty cool. But that didn’t work out. It’s good to get it at home and the more you reflect back on it you start thinking about a lot of different games. The 13 runs we scored in the bottom of the ninth to beat No. 1 Texas Tech late in the year in my first season and games like that. A couple of my players based on the 300 win deal sent me messages reminding me that they had a few of those. It kind of makes you reflect back a little bit on all the guys and where we started and all the accomplishments we’ve succeeded at. But also the difficulties along the way and so it’s important to me on a personal basis. I think it’s important to the people closest to me and I think that’s what you find out about it. They’re happy for me. So now the weird thing about breaking one of these is it’s broken and now just keep adding to it and hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to make it a big number when it’s all said and done.
bc.net: What does the significance of becoming the winningest coach in a program’s history mean and what does it take to accomplish something like that?
RW: It takes big time commitment to do it. I think it forever puts you into a different light. They talk about legacies with Presidents and the last two term Presidents we’ve had and how they try to establish legacies and I always thought a little bit that it was silly but I kind of understand it. I feel like it’s something nobody can take away, something that I’ve done. To me on a personal basis. It’s not a hall of fame but it’s something I think that’s equally as important. To be able to be a part of a program and to be able to have had success, to be able to reach those types of goals. I think it’s great that I’ve been able to do it at New Mexico State. Coaching is difficult and it’s not been an easy road. There have been a lot of hours spent trying to get this done and to have gotten it done and to feel like you have a program that’s in real good condition at the same time and you can be confident that we’re going to add to that win total over the next few years, that’s pretty cool. That’s what I like about it more than anything. The next guy that comes along, hopefully a long time from now, hopefully it will be difficult for him because of number of wins but hopefully the program will be in a position that he’ll get there quicker.
bc.net: What does it mean for you to have this accomplishment with your dad by your side in the dugout as your assistant?
RW: It was really special for us for him to win 1,000 as the head coach here and me as the assistant. There are small personal things that kind of go unspoken to a certain extent. I’m sure he was happy to be here for this. This job to me has always been deeply personal because of the history of my family with New Mexico State and it has just been enhanced when you have dad here as part of the Hall of Fame and then coaching with me and helping me along the way to reach these goals. It also is what helps keeps you motivated. When you lose 13-11 yesterday on your first attempt to break it and then you come back and play a pretty good baseball game today. We’ve got another 15 minutes to enjoy it before we do it again. I don’t know how significant the accomplishment is now. I’m proud of it, I’m proud that the name is in the record books at the top but I hope that we’re talking about 400 here pretty soon and 500 and 600. 1,000 seems a long ways away. I signed a baseball for dad, one of the 300 balls with date and score and all that stuff and on the side I just put, “Pops, only 700 to go.” So that seems a long ways away now but it may get here before I want it to.