Denison baseball staff has Ohio Valley flavor
The Denison University baseball program was in need of a shot-in-the-arm.
After posting a 13-26 campaign in 2012, the Big Red athletic brass found itself in need of a coaching change.
It turned to one of the winningest programs in NCAA Division III to fill the vacancy by plucking long-time Marietta College assistant coach Mike Deegan from the reigning national champion Pioneers’ staff.
For Deegan, the Denison post is his first head coaching gig, but plenty of opportunities had presented themselves over the years.
“This was the fourth job I was offered since I was at Marietta,” Deegan said. “It’s very tough to leave because Marietta is such a special place. The town is unbelievable and from a baseball standpoint, you get a chance to coach really good players. We certainly didn’t go running out of Marietta. This was just a good fit and a good time for me and my family.”
Deegan was a member of the Pioneers’ staff for nine seasons after completing his playing career there. During that time, Marietta won three national championships, hoisting the trophy in 2006, 2011 and this past season.
“It’s such a process to take over a program, but I am really excited,” Deegan said. “It’s been a crazy summer of getting things going, so we’re excited for the next phase. Our kids come back (to class) and we’ll start our non-traditional season in mid September, and we’ll start doing all of the things to try to establish the history and platform to be successful in the spring.”
A few months after being on the job, Deegan, whose grandparents still reside in Wheeling, hired former River High and University of Akron standout Ryne Romick as one of his assistant coaches to work with pitchers, catchers and oversee academics.
Deegan, who played in the OVBL for the Martins Ferry River Dogs one summer, first met Romick when he was recruiting him to Marietta several years ago. The two hooked up again last year when Romick, who was a graduate assistant at Ohio Valley University, offered to help out at Marietta baseball camps.
“You can learn a lot about coaches at camps, too,” Deegan said. “I saw how hard Ryne worked. He’s extremely knowledgeable and he’s a good, down-to-earth human being.
“I really think we can get some things accomplished.”
Romick, who is staying with Deegan and his family until he finds an apartment, officially joined the Big Red staff last week after spending the summer as pitching coach for the New Bedford Bay Sox in the New England College Baseball League.
“Coach Deegan and I really hit it off,” Romick said. “We had a good relationship. I spent a lot of time at those camps picking his brain because he’s such a knowledgeable baseball man.”
The Denison post is a volunteer position, which Romick hopes could become a full-time post down the road. However, the experience he’s gaining is the most valuable part.
“I am going to figure out how to make it work (financially),” Romick said. “I applied for a bunch of jobs and the coaches I talked to all seem to already have a guy in mind, which is a big part of the college coaching business. Coach Deegan told me he wanted me to do what’s best for me, but if I really wanted to coach, we could make it work.”
Romick and Deegan spent most of last week sorting through equipment and taking inventory of what they have and need as they await the return of the Denison student body to the Granville campus.
“Ryne’s been here about a week and he’s already provided me with a huge shot in the arm,” Deegan said. “He’s just a super guy and I can’t be more excited.”
Even before getting back to Ohio, Romick was working on an academic plan for the players and actually modeled his system after one being utilized by Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer.
“I stole some stuff from Urban Meyer,” Romick admitted. “He uses a color-coded model and puts his players into groups based on how well they’re doing or how much attention they need. So, I took some of that and came up with a plan.”
Romick called his job and time with the Bay Sox one of the best summers of his life.
“Getting to spend time with Coach (Rick) Miller was huge for me,” Romick said. “I hit him up for as much information as I could. It was just story after story from a guy who played 15 seasons in the bigs.”
The Bay Sox finished 27-19 and lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Newport.
“I really learned a lot about dealing with the mental aspect of the game,” Romick said. “We had a bunch of good kids and we ended up doing really well.”
Being at Denison, which plays in the North Coast Athletic Conference, reminds Romick of being back in New England because of the lifestyle there.
“There are some highly intellectual people (at Denison),” Romick confirmed. “Academics are pretty serious here. They have lacrosse, field hockey and swimming and diving is the most popular sport, so it’s a different kind of culture than most Ohio schools.”
The Big Red schedule hasn’t been formally announced yet, but the work is well under way.
“We have so much to accomplish,” Deegan said. “We have to make the guys act like champions in the classroom, in terms of taking care of our field and practice. Our goal is to compete regionally and then we’ll aim for nationally.
“But we have to have the champions’ mindset if we’re going to turn this program around.”
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org