As a first-year head coach, Wright State’s Greg Lovelady is taking every opportunity to improve his understanding of the game and management of the ballplayers in his care.
It’s Lovelady’s 10th year overall at Wright State, but his first in charge of everything after nine seasons as Rob Cooper’s assistant. His baseball pedigree includes two national championships (1999, 2001) as a player at Miami, a brief pro career in the Florida Marlins minor league system, and three regional appearances with the Raiders (2006, 2009, 2011).
His aspirations for the Raiders are just as high as what has come before: bring in solid athletes who can be molded into strong baseball players who are competitors; reach the NCAA regionals; and, eventually, achieve the College World Series.
It’s not an instant path, and along the way his team has to learn to handle tough playing conditions, harsh, electric venues and the challenge of top competition.
The Raiders got all of those things in two weeks with games against the Mike Gillespie-coached UC Irvine Anteaters and the Pat Casey-coached Oregon State Beavers. Wright State went 2-3 against that competition.
“You definitely learn as a young guy when you have a chance to do it against guys like Mike Gillespie and Pat Casey,” Lovelady said.
Going from assistant to head coach has been an adjustment, but Lovelady has seized the example of his predecessor and delegated many on-field responsibilities.
“Coach Cooper gave me a lot of autonomy and responsibility,” Lovelady said. “I coached third base and I called the pitches. I was mentally drained after games because I was doing something on every pitch. I felt I owed it to my assistants to give them the same sort of autonomy and trust.”
So Lovelady gave up those responsibilities and deals instead with all the other necessities of a baseball game. Handling those chores is something he’s constantly learning and observing how others do it.
Coaching opposite Gillespie, the former Southern California coach who now has 1,000 career wins, and Casey, whose Beavers have made four CWS appearances in the last nine years, is always educational.
“You definitely learn watching him make some moves and different lineups, how he is in the dugout,” Lovelady said. “It can be a little overwhelming and whatnot, a little humbling, but it’s also a great opportunity for me to learn and to soak up as much as we can, especially from those guys who have been so successful.”
While Lovelady didn’t make the Raiders’ schedule – Cooper did that last summer – he is embracing the challenges. He knows Wright State can reach the regional stage and he wants his athletes prepared for that stage.
To that end, playing a four-game set in Corvallis, Ore., in early March is a big positive. The then fourth-ranked Beavers hosted both a regional and super regional en route to the CWS last spring. Their fans turned out despite weekend-long mist and rain.
“For 32 of the 36 innings this weekend – the wheels kind of fell off there in the last game – we showed we can play with this level of competition,” Lovelady said. “We always talk about filling up the confidence bucket, and seeing guys have success against quality competition, it will help us later in the season.”