By: Director of Athletic Communications & Public Relations, Kevin Ruple
BEREA, Ohio -- He's always the happiest man on the baseball diamond with a big beaming smiling and loud, healthy laugh. He strides from the Yellow Jacket third base dugout to home plate or the pitching mound like jolly old St. Nick at Christmas time. It's Brian Harrison, by golly, the extremely successful eighth-year Head Baseball Coach at Baldwin Wallace University.
"I love coaching baseball and I love coaching baseball at Baldwin Wallace University," said Harrison, who won his 200th career game this spring and led the Yellow Jackets to the 2014 Division III World Series for the first time in school history. "Other than being with my family, I can't imagine being happier anywhere else but on the baseball field."
This spring brought more happiness to Harrison, his family and the Yellow Jacket baseball program as his team compiled a school single-season record 33 victories, a 33-14 overall record, the 2018 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
"I am extremely proud of this team in particular," said Harrison with a big grin. "We played our best baseball at the end of the season to get into the OAC Tournament and then hit the cover off the ball at the OAC tourney and earned the NCAA Tournament berth. Our guys were very resilient and I was proud of their never-give-up attitude."
The Eyes Have It
When Brian Harrison laughs, and smiles at a student-athlete, potential recruit, assistant coach or even a colleague on campus, he has a gleam in his eyes. That's just how Harrison is. He makes you feel at ease because he's at ease in the sanctuary of Fisher Field.
"This is my home-away-from-home," says a laughing Harrison. "I don't get to see my family as much as I would like this time of year due to practices, games and recruiting, so my wife, Tracey, tries to bring the boys (Braden and Luke) and my daughter (Harper) to as many games as she can and when they aren't playing their own games too!"
When Tracey and the kids are at the game, they are usually being chased by Tracey and Harrison's good friend, BW's own OAC Wrestling Coach of the Year Jamie Gibbs and his wife Jana. The two young and extremely successful coaches and their families have formed a familial Yellow Jacket bond.
"It's really cool," said Harrison. "I get to support Jamie during the winter and during wrestling season, and he's usually here supporting me at the baseball field in the spring. I don't get to see the kids running around a lot, but you can bet I hear about it!"
The Lineage of Success
At each of Harrison's four coaching stops, he's brought success to the program he's led or helped to lead, including at Cuyahoga Community College West and, then Urbana as a head coach and at the University of Dayton as the hitting coach prior to coming to BW. The graduate and former standout at St. Edward High School in Lakewood felt that by taking the BW job was like "coming back home".
"I am absolutely blessed to have this opportunity at this school, at a place that values the student-athlete and teaching kids how to win and be successful not only in baseball but in life," said Harrison. "And then, when you add the component of a great tradition of baseball success under Lars Wagner and Bob Fisher for more than 60 years, you have a winning combination."
On the field, Harrison has won 351 career games and owns a 210-126 mark at BW. Not only did BW advance to the College World Series in 2014, he led the team to the NCAA Div. III Regional Tournament a year later and his team played in the 2016 Ohio Athletic Conference Championship Game.
"We have had some success, but not as much as I would of liked by now," said Harrison, who is always striving to make himself, his coaching staff and his student-athletes better. This season was special. The way the kids played hard and didn't give up, and the way our seniors led. That's really what its all about for me -- the kids. Watching them grow, improve, mature and be successful."
The Former Hitter Was a Happy Camper in 2018
Harrison, who coaches and teaches hitting, was an outstanding hitter himself as a collegian. He is especially proud of this year's team. Harrison's team also set school records for runs scored (392), runs batted-in (358), home runs (43), stolen bases (111) and opposing batter strikeouts (349). at the 2018 OAC Tournament, his team had its pinnacle of success as it registered a .421 team batting average and outscored its three opponents by a combined score of 56-19.
"Man, that was fun to watch," said Harrison, his head bobbing up-and-down like a bobblehead. "The more I think about it, the more I get excited for our kids. They came to play and definitely made a statement."
And Harrison's Success Doesn't Stop on the Field
Harrison demands excellence both on and off the field of play. It is evident as his team has a 3.266 team grade average, including a perfect 4.0 by two-time Academic All-American and 2018 Google Cloud Division III Academic All-America of the Year Spencer Badia (Bellaire). He also is this year's BW Clyde Lamb Award winner. Nine of his student-athletes, who are sophomores or higher, have a 3.5 grade point average and will earn Academic All-OAC accolades this spring and six, including three others, are nominees for CoSIDA Academic All-District 7.
"We tell our young men and their families that their education comes first. It's that simple," said Harrison. "We tell them that if you are disciplined and work hard in the classroom, it makes it easier to be successful on the baseball field and with your teammates. That is our culture. It's what we believe, and we feel like we've been extremely successful in this endeavor."