Myers introduced as WKU’s new head baseball coach

Cole Claybourn

Athletics Director Ross Bjork said that as he interviewed candidates for WKU’s head baseball coaching vacancy and reviewed applications, one person’s profile kept sticking out.

That person was Matt Myers, who was introduced on Tuesday as WKU’s new head coach after spending the last four seasons as both pitching coach and assistant coach.

Bjork said the success that WKU has experienced since Myers’ arrival couldn’t be ignored, and being able to continue that was ultimately what made him go with Myers as coach.

“There was a tremendous amount of equity that’s been built, particularly over the last six years,” Bjork said. “It was our goal to preserve that. When it came down to it, somebody had to beat Matt out, and that did not happen.”

Myers bested a list of candidates that Bjork said included former Major League players, former collegiate head coaches, current collegiate head coaches and current collegiate assistant coaches.

Bjork said he was flattered as he read over the impressive list of names. But he added that the level of interest was a testament to how far the WKU baseball program had come.

This also won’t be Myers’ first go-around at head coach. He spent four seasons as head coach at University of North Carolina-Asheville,

Myers talked about his time there, where, as a 25-year-old, he took over a college program with limited resources and was told, “go do your job.”

Myers went on to set the school record for wins a conference wins during his tenure and was named the 2003 Big South Coach of the Year.

“When we first sat down with Matt, we said ‘Okay, he set the bar. This staff set the bar,'” Bjork said. “He won the job based on his plan, based on being a former head coach before – all of those things went into it.”

Myers said when he interviewed for the job, he spoke about three things: continuity, stability, and pride.

The most important thing was keeping the program’s energy intact.

“It started with Chris. It’s my job to keep it going,” Myers said. “We’ve got a lot of momentum going right now. We don’t want to stop what we’re doing or where we’re going.”

Myers acknowledged that when he arrived at WKU, he wondered how success might help him move to another job.

But now that he’s been with the program and gotten embedded in the community, he said he doesn’t want to leave for a long time.

“This is one of the best places I’ve ever been, and that’s more than just the job,” he said. “You want someone that’s here for a long time. At my age, people think this is a stepping stone. It’s no stepping stone for me.

“This is a vision for not four or five years. This is a vision for a long time. This program is here to stay.”

Myers has already set some high goals for the program on just his first day as head coach, but he said the program is fully capable of reaching them.

“We want to compete for Sun Belt Championship every year and be a mainstay in the NCAAs,” he said. “I think that’s a very realistic goal.

“We also want to bring an NCAA Regional to Bowling Green. We’ve already proven that we can create an atmosphere, and we’ve already proven that we can win at Nick Denes Field.”

As far as what a Matt Myers-coached team’s makeup will be, not surprisingly, the former star pitcher at Tennessee said pitching and defense will be the “cornerstone – the foundation.”

He also said fans can expect to see more “small ball” being played. The NCAA made a change this year for aluminum bats, taking a lot of the power out of them. Myers said that aspect will affect how they recruit players.

“With these new bats, baseball has changed,” he said. “We’ll hit, but we’re going to play the game a lot faster. Speed is going to become a big part of what we’re doing. And you will never see our kids without energy.”

Just after Finwood departed for Old Dominion, signee Jerad Eickhoff signed with the Texas Rangers. Although Eickhoff, who drafted in the 15th round of this year’s MLB First Year Player Draft, said Finwood’s departure didn’t play in to his decision, Myers said he feared the same trend continuing.

He quickly realized that he was wrong.

“The recruits have been unbelievable throughout this process, and that was a scare for me,” Myers said. “In fact, kids were actually calling me wanting to come to campus today.”

Myers talked about continuing to recruit the best players in the state of Kentucky, Tennessee, and other states, and said the last three years have proven they can do that.

He used pitchers Justin Hageman and Tanner Perkins as examples, saying they’ve become “without a doubt the top 1-2 combo in this league, maybe in this region.”

“When you have momentum, continuity, and stability, and you’re winning because you’re doing it right, it makes for a really nice package to sell to a kid,” Myers said.

They continued that trend this year, signing Louisville St. Xavier’s Matt Spalding, regarded as the best high school pitcher in the state.

He said they’re still “working on” getting Spalding on campus, who was often regarded as the best pitcher in the state for the 2011 class.

Spalding was drafted in the 29th round by the Boston Red Sox in this year’s MLB First Year Player Draft. If he chooses to sign with the Red Sox, his National Letter of Intent with WKU would be forgone.

Myers will receive a four-year contract worth a base salary of $125,000 a year, plus incentives, Bjork said.

Bjork said Finwood’s contract had a stipulation in it that said if he left to go to another school before his contract ended, a game would be scheduled between WKU and that school. He said WKU athletic officials are still sorting out details on that.

Myers said he’ll remain the team’s pitching coach and will retain assistant coach Blake Allen and will hire one assistant to handle the infielders.

Myers fought back tears as he looked toward the future and thanked Bjork for the opportunity he was given.

“This is a day I’ll never forget, and I will not let you down,” he said.