Feb. 10, 2014
Ivy League Preview
Nine Innings with Penn's John
By Sean Ryan
Yurkow spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at the
University of Pennsylvania before being promoted to the W.
Joseph Blood Head Coach of Baseball at Penn.
assistant with the Quakers, Yurkow oversaw recruiting, worked
with the hitters as well as the infielders, and coached third
was a four-year starter at second base for Rowan, earning
All-America honors. He was an assistant at Rowan for two seasons
before heading to Duke as an assistant from 2001-05.
recently took time to answer our questions about his path to
becoming head coach at Penn.
First Inning – How does it feel to be a D-I head baseball coach
for the first time?
exciting and it’s a great opportunity, Penn is a special place.
I couldn’t think of a better place than the University of
Pennsylvania to be a head coach.
Second Inning – How did the fall go? What did you learn about
fall season went very well. I thought our coaching staff did a
great job with the transition and teaching of our new system. We
made steady improvement from start to finish. The main thing
that stood out was our pitching depth. I’m hoping that it will
be one of our strengths this spring.
Third Inning – When Penn decided to make a move with its head
coach last year, what did you feel you had to show to prove you
were the right person for the job?
didn’t feel I had to prove anything. I just thought I had to
continue to run the day-to-day operations and keep recruiting.
It was a challenge at times with the uncertainty surrounding the
coaching search. It was unique being an internal candidate, but
I felt that I had a good perspective on the university and the
baseball program after being here for seven years as an
assistant. I couldn’t have been any happier with how it worked
Fourth Inning – What did you learn under John Cole that helped
prepare you for the head job?
learned a tremendous amount from John both on and off the field.
John was organized and detailed in everything he did. He was
always prepared. He taught me a great deal about the
administrative duties of being a head coach. I was very
fortunate to work for him, and he made me a better coach.
Fifth Inning – Now that you’ve gone through the fall, what are
the biggest differences from being an assistant coach?
me, it’s realizing how many more people you interact with
throughout the week. Whether it is working with alumni,
fundraising, or facility management, more of my time now has
been dedicated to the administrative side of coaching.
Sixth Inning – Describe what it’s like to recruit players to an
Ivy League school?
really have to be thorough with our initial recruiting phase of
acquiring information on players. With our academic requirements
we have to make sure we’re pursuing student-athletes who will be
a fit at Penn. Luckily for us, our admissions department does a
great job of communicating throughout the year of what the
Seventh Inning – Speaking of recruiting, what are three things
you look for in a hitter?
one, bat speed, it’s hard to teach. Second is approach, it gets
overlooked more than any other characteristic at the high school
level. If a hitter has a plan at the plate, chances are he will
contribute early in his college career. Lastly, mental
toughness. It can be a bit tougher to judge this in the
recruiting process but it separates a good college hitter from
an average college hitter.
Eighth Inning – What are your favorite memories about being an
assistant at Duke?
things stand out; one was watching our players develop and have
success at the pro level, and two, having an opportunity to work
for Bill Hillier. He gave me an opportunity early in my
coaching career. Bill was a good coach and more importantly a
tremendous human being. He did a great job connecting with his
players and staff.
Ninth Inning – Temple, a program you know well, announced it is
eliminating baseball. What’s your reaction to that news?
think it’s a terrible situation for everyone involved. It’s bad
for college baseball in general. Coach Wheeler and his
assistants are personal friends and great coaches. I really feel
for them. They were doing a great job at Temple and the program
was headed in the right direction. I wouldn’t count them out
just yet. I’m still hoping they’ll have the opportunity to have
alums step up, and help him save Temple baseball.