VALPARAISO | Playing the role of co-pilot to former Valparaiso baseball coach Tracy Woodson for the last seven years, Brian Schmack couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to run the show himself.
Now Schmack will get that chance. The Valparaiso pitching coach has been elevated to head coach following Woodson’s departure to Richmond last week.
Schmack becomes the 17th head coach in school history and just the third since Paul Twenge took over the program in 1988.
“You get into coaching and there is a draw to want to be in charge,” Schmack said. “I’m thrilled for the opportunity. I’ve been blessed to have my own mini-team with the pitchers and now I’m looking forward to the challenge of leading all of the guys.”
Schmack understands he has big shoes to fill. Woodson helped turn around a sputtering program, leading the Crusaders to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
“A lot of the things that will happen will be relatively the same,” Schmack said. “The way we’ll approach practices and games might be a bit different. We’ll bunt more; we’ll play a more aggressive style. I’ll be the same I was with the pitchers.”
Schmack put forward his vision for the program in an interview with director of athletics Mark LaBarbera and left such a good impression that LaBarbera made a quick hire.
“This was an easy hire,” LaBarbera said. “Brian has the respect of the team, has a great vision for Valparaiso baseball and can build off the foundation that Tracy put forward.”
Schmack got plenty of phone calls and texts from players after Woodson’s departure, many offering their support for the head job. By Wednesday morning Schmack was able to call all the players back with the good news.
As for as Woodson’s relationship with Valparaiso and the baseball team in particular, Schmack is still looking forward to discussing strategy with his former boss.
“You spend seven years with a guy, almost a fifth of my life, and you don’t just cut it off cold turkey,” Schmack said.
Schmack played professional baseball for nine years, culminating with a trip to the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 2003. The Northern Illinois graduate appeared in 11 games and won his only MLB game against Cleveland on Sept. 2, 2003.
“Brian is a baseball guy,” LaBarbera said. “I appreciate the way he approaches the game. We have a chance to move forward with Brian and get to the next step of winning a regional.”