Nov. 18, 2013
By: Emily Witt
CINCINNATI – New head baseball coach Ty Neal knows first-hand how it feels to grow from the ground up.
“You can get used to what it feels like to win, but you can also get used to losing,” the former Indiana University pitching coach spoke. “Both are contagious.”
Neal coached at IU for eight seasons, spending 2009-10 as the team’s infield and third-base coach and overseeing the development of all position players, but then returning to primarily working as a pitching coach in 2011, where he previously worked from 2006-08.
At the beginning of his eight years in Bloomington, the Hooisers were number ten in the Big Ten. By the time the Ohio native would leave the program in 2013, IU would be first-time participants in the College World Series.
“I went over with Tracy Smith, the head coach,” Neal said. “We took over a program. We wanted to get guys to buy into what it takes to be successful. Not just on the baseball field, but in life. We created a culture of making good decisions and working hard and taking pride in what they’re doing. And most importantly, taking pride in wearing the IU on their hat.”
The Miami University graduate holds firm to the belief that if you can change the culture, then success will follow.
“We need to change the culture and expect to win, expect to do things the right way and to put ourselves in a position to win,” Neal spoke. “When guys get up in the morning, when they’re deciding to hit snooze – You try and create that culture of, ‘I’m a part of something bigger than myself. And that’s something special. I’ve got to get out of bed because I want to be a part of this.’”
The Bearcats played a three-game series October 16, 18 and 20 entitled the Red/Black Series. The exhibition games are a tradition among college baseball for showcasing the team after fall practices.
“I was a little hands-off during the series and the one thing that I took from it is I do think that throughout the fall we learned how to play the game better,” Coach confessed. “It was good to see who can turn it up a notch and see who still needs to get better,” Neal said. “We want to put a strong emphasis on the competitive spirit and create the winning environment.”
After stepping back and witnessing the work from the fall, the coaches and players are given the opportunity to address the current strengths and weaknesses of the team and what they need to focus on for improvement in the spring.
“In my opinion, during the first week of fall practice these guys operated with very low energy,” Coach analyzed honestly. “I thought our energy was much better during the Red/Black series. When I think of playing the game right, I think of Pete Rose. Just seeing guys playing the game hard and getting on and off the field with a sense of urgency, it tells me that we made strides this fall.”
Yet Coach Neal understands that while the Bearcats have shown sharp growth both on and off the field, there is still room for improvement.
“We’re not ready yet to compete with the big boys on a national stage.” Neal spoke honestly. “We’ve got some dynamic guys offensively, we’ve got some guys that can run a bit, we’ve got some guys in the middle of the lineup that are going to be able to change the game with one swing, and we’ve got some guys at the bottom of the order that will have a little scrap to them. We’ve got some talented guys offensively, but we need to get better on defense and on the mound.”
Neal is regarded throughout the collegiate baseball community for his high recruitment abilities, and he believes he can continue to build that culture of champions through recruitment.
“We’re going to pin our ears back and work hard this winter,” Neal spoke. “That’s our job as coaches. But our other job as coaches is to recruit. And recruit, and recruit more, and keep on recruiting.”
Sophomore Woody Wallace believes that the new mindset by Coach Neal can help improve the team and the pitchers as well.
“Having Coach Neal and Coach Heilmann on the staff brings a lot of pitching knowledge to the table,” the catcher spoke. “Having taken a pitching staff to the College World Series, I think Coach Neal will be able to show pitchers what it takes to pitch at that level, and when we get there how to handle the atmosphere. We are very fortunate to have two great pitching minds on our roster.”
“He knows how to win,” freshman infielder Jake Richmond said. “I’m ready to get started.”
Coach Neal believes that although the fall series and practices gave the coaches an accurate idea of where the team stands, he has still maintained the same mindset since day one: championships.
“Every decision we make each day is preparing for a championship,” Neal proudly declares. “When that championship will happen, I don’t know. Not a lot of us have control over that. But everything we do today, we’re preparing for a championship for this next spring. If we don’t win it this spring, we’re still going to go out every single day until that happens. Every single day and every decision that we make, it’s with the anticipation that we’re going to be playing in the postseason. There’s a lot of promise here.”
Winter practice begins on January 24 as the Bearcats are set to open their season in February in Elon, N.C.