There will be a lot more emotion at Bob Wren Stadium, or at least new head coach Rob Smith hopes that’s the case.
This past season, after 24 years, Joe Carbone stepped down as head coach of the Ohio University baseball team. Carbone’s retired as the winningest coach in Ohio University athletics history. He spent his college playing days at Ohio University and when he became coach, he built off the coaching style he played under. Smith offers a completely different coaching style, after many years of the same.
“It was just was whole different style,” says sophomore center fielder Tyler Wells. “Coach Carbone, he had been here for 24 years and played at Ohio, so it was kind of the same system that he had playing under his coaching staff, so it just kind of moved through the years and never really changed, so this year it’s just a lot different than in previous years.”
For the returning Bobcats, they have noticed an increased level of intensity at practices. Carbone approached the game with a laidback style. Smith brings a high intensity level to the game. The new coach let his new players know that as soon as he arrived at Ohio University.
“I’m a high-energy coach—I think effort’s important.” Smith says. “I’m not a laidback guy. It’s not a laidback style. We’re not really interested in laidback players. We want guys that play with a strong passion, that play with a lot of emotion and play with a lot of energy. Those are the kind of kids that I want in our program and that’s what we’re trying to get out of the current players that we have.”
So far, he’s spent his time as head coach working on getting the players to his level of intensity, but they’re not where he wants them yet.
“While that’s certainly been a challenge, on certain levels, their effort’s really, really good,” Smith says. “The emotion they put into it sometimes isn’t quite there yet though and they’re still learning how to let their guard down and allow themselves to play with that type of attitude.”
Smith’s favorite part of coaching is motivating his players, so he will be able to use that to inspire them to bring the same intensity to the game that he does.
“That’s really where I enjoy getting out on the field and trying to make guys better and pushing them to find limits maybe they didn’t know they had and trying to make them better players and better people,” he says.
Smith has had the opportunity to better many players in his coaching career, including stops at Creighton and Purdue. He had a five-year stint at Purdue where he was able to help the Boilermakers reach their third-consecutive Big Ten Tournament appearance. He spent six years at Creighton where he helped the team conference championships, three NCAA tournament appearances and four NCAA tournament wins.
He spent ten years as a pitching coach, which afforded him the chance to coach 12 players who went on to be drafted or offered professional contracts.
“I’ve been lucky to coach a lot of really, really good players,” Smith says. “It’s hard to single out one or two of them because I’ve been lucky that I’ve coached a lot of just hard-working, successful guys and I’ve just been fortunate enough to be a part of their success.”
Building on his experience as a pitching coach, while at Ohio University, he will place an emphasis on pitching, which he considers to be crucial for any winning team.
“I think really if you’re going to build a championship-caliber team, it’s got to start with pitching and it’s got to start with defense,” he says. “You can’t expect to just sit back and try to outslug people. If you can’t routine plays and you can’t throw the ball over home plate and that sort of thing, you’re not going to be a successful club.”
Smith plans to develop the Ohio University baseball team into a successful club. For him that means a trip to the NCAA tournament.
“He’s here to help us win,” Wells says. “That’s the reason for bringing in a new coach and coming from a winning school in Creighton—he was at Purdue before that—we’re looking here this year and the future to get a lot more wins.”
In order for Smith to reach his ultimate goal for the team, he looks to establish the way of doing things for the team. He wants to see his players work hard and play with effort. The ultimate goal is what he has his mind set on, though.
“I think from a long-term standpoint, I think the NCAA tournament,” he says. “I mean that’s where it starts and ends with me.”
To get there, he knows the team will have to win the MAC tournament. In order to accomplish that, he knows that the pitching and defense will be crucial. The team isn’t there yet, but Smith believes that it can get there.
“That’s what we’re building towards—what we’re trying to develop here. It’ll take time and while I certainly have to remind myself to have patience, we’d like to see it happen sooner than later,” he says. “But it will happen, and that’s the style we’re going to have to use if we’re going to become what we want to become.”
This is just the beginning for Smith at Ohio University. He will be able to call on his experience at two successful schools to try to bring that success to the Bobcats. The start isn’t what he would have liked to have been, but he sees the effort there.
“I’ve enjoyed the players. Even though our results haven’t been what any of us want, I enjoy what they’ve done in terms of their effort and I’d like to see them play with more emotion. I’d like to see them execute better, but I’ve really had a lot of fun coaching them because they’ve responded, their effort’s been tremendous,” Smith says. “They want to be good, they want to get better, they’re just still continuing to work to try to get to where they want to be.
The players have taken notice of Smith’s emotion toward the game.
“I like his emotion that he brings to the game,” Wells says. “He’s in here at practice doing everything with us and in the game. He has as much emotion as any of us. He’s trying to get us to have more enthusiasm like he has toward the game because that’ll bring more energy to us and we have more energy toward the game.”
The added energy has the potential to bring more wins to the Bobcat and could be the start toward the ultimate goal for Smith. He’s following a memorable coach in Carbone, but Smith looks to carve his own path at Ohio University.