After 21 seasons with Steve Smith at the helm of Baylor Baseball, it became time for a change. Steve Rodriguez has been hired as the new head coach of the Bears in June. Smith managed the Bears to a 686-469-1 record during his tenure as the Baylor coach but after 3 consecutive losing seasons following a conference title in 2012, Rodriguez was called in to bring new life to Baylor Baseball.
“Steve is a dynamic leader, players’ coach, tireless recruiter and wonderful mission fit for our program. His highly successful coaching career and major league baseball playing experience will afford our student-athletes a rewarding experience as we build a championship program,” athletic director Ian McCaw said of Coach Rodriguez, who was a coach for the Pepperdine Waves since 2004.
Rodriguez, who posted a record of 400-301 during his tenure as the Waves’ manager, comes to Waco with the hope of revitalizing the program after a 23-32 season last year.
“It’s going to depend on the players,” Rodriguez said. “We are going to work hard. If we win right now, great. All I know is we are going to get better. Whether it is a little bit or a lot, that is going to be depending on how fast our learning curve can be.”
Hard work and a new face could certainly spell success for the Bears, as they posted a team ERA of 4.71 and a .255 team batting average but despite those numbers, Rodriguez still believes in his new squad.
“I’ve seen statistics, I can look at film, but I want to see it, I want to see what it looks like, I want to see what the technique looks like, I want to see what the passion looks like,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t see a lot of those on paper, you can’t see that passion and that desire on video.”
With a clear commitment to hard work and passion, Rodriguez seems to be concentrated on the intangible side of baseball and the rest will fall in place.
Rodriguez’s new face and high energy has also rubbed off on his new players.
“We’re excited about how much energy he brings, and we can’t wait until we get on that field,” senior catcher Matt Menard said. “We’re ready for something new, especially after these last three seasons. We’re ready to get back out there and get back on the right track.”
Rodriguez also states that a Baylor community fresh with excitement and a fan base full of generosity was a big part of him coming to Waco.
“To be honest, I came here and it was the people. When you come here and you get a chance to meet the people, you get to see them, interact with the students and student-athletes…[I] had a chance to see the campus, had a chance to see the environment, and then when you go to a football game and you see excitement in the student body” Rodriguez said.
That type of hype and transparency in both the fan base and student community can help Rodriguez improve the team simply by getting people in the seats and supporting the program. If that can attract a proven coach to Waco, it can surely attract recruits and fans to Baylor Ballpark.
Coach Rodriguez looks to bring not only a new brand and new level of excitement to Waco this upcoming season. With the Bears posting a 16-12 record in Waco, Baylor only went 5-15 in true away games, a trend that will need to be improved upon in order for the Bears to compete with the likes of TCU and Oklahoma State for the top of the Big 12.