By Greg DeVries
Steve Smith earned a very special accolade on Tuesday night after the baseball team earned their 20th win in a row against Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
But it wasn’t the win streak that earned head coach Smith a permanent spot among Baylor’s all-time legends.
The win was Smith’s 650th of his coaching career. He surpassed his predecessor, Mickey Sullivan, who tallied a record of 649-428-4 from 1974-1994.
The win makes Smith Baylor’s all-time leader in wins for a coach in any sport.
“It is absolutely special to be the winningest head coach in Baylor baseball history. It absolutely is,” Smith said. “It is absolutely special to be right next to Mickey in a record book.”
Sullivan is a legend in his own right. Win total aside, Sullivan’s Bears appeared in the College World Series twice, won three Southwest Conference Championships and he was named the Southwest Conference’s Coach of the year five times.
“It’s not even really fair. I had facilities to work with that Mickey could have only dreamed of,” Smith said. “When it came time to build this stadium, the people that put the money in, they did it because of Mickey Sullivan.”
As the applause for Smith continued, his wife made her way onto the diamond to give him a congratulatory kiss.
Luckily she made it to Smith before senior Joey Hainsfurther did. While Smith was being interviewed, Hainsfurther snuck up behind him and smashed a towel full of shaving cream in Smith’s face as the dugout cheered.
“I did not know that was coming. I never would have expected that,” junior third baseman Cal Towey said about the shaving cream. “[It took] some big cojones right there. We might be having track practice tomorrow.”
The team disappeared into the locker room while Smith wiped the shaving cream from his face.
“If you stay with something long enough, these kinds of records are sort of records of perseverance and longevity. For that, I’m proud,” Smith said.
Smith has carved out his place in Baylor history with more than just a lengthy coaching tenure. In addition to the wins, Smith has one College World Series appearance, two Big 12 Championships, and has been named the Big 12 Coach of the Year four times.
Smith’s predecessor Sullivan passed away on March 22 of this season. Smith said Sullivan would be happy to see his record for wins broken.
“I love Mickey,” Smith said. “He’s not sad at all. As a matter of fact, he’s happier than we all are. I’m sure he and my dad right now are high-fiving each other.”
Despite the fact that the record is an individual achievement, Smith continued to talk about his players and the job that they have done on the field.
“I’m proud of them. I really like this group of guys. I’ve never had a group I didn’t like, but these guys are doing a heck of a job being coachable,” Smith said about his players. “We grieve together. I don’t want to overstate it, but when you lose one like we lost last year, that is as close in baseball context to death emotionally as you can get. We grieve together. I think that’s one reason why we’re so close.”
The players were just as quick to credit coach Smith as he was to credit them.
“That is a pretty big honor. To just be a part of that is pretty humbling,” sophomore left-handed pitcher Brad Kuntz said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of that whole thing.”