February 11, 2014
Feature on New Coaches in the Horizon
Nine Innings with
WSU's Greg Lovelady
Innings with Brian Schmack
By Sean Ryan
After serving as pitching coach for the past
seven years, Brian Schmack was promoted to head coach this past
summer following Tracy Woodson’s departure to take over the
program at Richmond.
Schmack was elevated to
associate head coach prior to the 2011 campaign. He helped the
Crusaders capture consecutive Horizon League titles over the
past two seasons.
Schmack enjoyed a 10-year
professional career from 1995-2004, pitching in the Chicago
White Sox, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers systems after
starting with the Newark Bison of the Frontier League. He
pitched in the Major Leagues with the Tigers in 2003, going 1-0
in 11 games with a 3.46 ERA.
Prior to pro baseball, Schmack pitched for four
seasons at Northern Illinois from 1992-95.
Schmack recently took time
from his busy schedule to answer our questions.
First Inning – How did your first fall go as
head coach? What are some of your strengths heading into the
I thought the fall went great. We stressed an
upbeat style of play and made sure the fundamentals were
executed properly. We wanted to teach guys the proper way to
play the game and hopefully it shows when we take the field. I
think our strengths will be our competitiveness on the mound and
in the box.
Inning – Valpo has made two straight trips to the Regionals.
Looking back, what’s been the recipe?
I think our guys played for each other. They
just flat out competed on a daily basis and had an attitude of
not accepting failure. Our pitchers threw the ball over the
plate and gave our team chances to be in every game.
Third Inning – You played three 5-4 games in
last year’s Regional. Describe that experience, from losing to
the Hoosiers in the ninth to eliminating Florida and getting
edged by Austin Peay.
It was an absolute emotional roller coaster.
From the high of leading in the 9th vs. Indiana to obviously
the low of losing it, back to the high of knocking out Florida
and then losing late to Austin Peay, it was draining. I
couldn't imagine being out on the field like our guys were. It's
a testament to their resiliency.
Fourth Inning – How do you build off of last
year’s Regional appearance?
I guess we recognize that anything is possible.
We approach each day realizing that while we may have gotten to
the Regionals, we haven't accomplished all we want to and that
keeps us going.
Fifth Inning – What did you learn from former
coach Tracy Woodson that will help you as a head coach?
In-game management including the bullpen.
Sixth Inning – What do you remember about your
only Major League win? Any other top Major League memories? Do
you remember who hit the only Major League homer off you?
I remember sweating it out. I had come out of a
tie game in the 5th and Dmitri Young had hit a go-ahead homer in
the bottom of that inning to put us up. I now had to sit
through 4 innings while the relievers held the lead and
fortunately they did. My favorite memory is my first strikeout,
as I didn't have too many. It was of Magglio Ordonez and he K'd
looking on an inside fastball. I gave up one home run and it's
one I'll never forget: a grand slam to Jorge Posada in Yankee
Stadium. Pitching against some future Hall of Famers like Derek
Jeter, Frank Thomas, Chipper Jones, Bernie Williams, and Carlos
Delgado made for memories I'll never forget.
Seventh Inning – You mainly relieved as a
Minor League pitcher, once saving 29 games to lead the Eastern
League. What is the key to a good reliever? How about a good
I think the key to a good closer and reliever are
the same. You have to pound the zone and also have to have a
short memory. It can be a highly stressful situation and the
person who can manage that stress will usually come out on top.
Eighth Inning – Name five of the toughest
hitters you faced in your pro career.
Some of the better hitters I faced that gave me
trouble were Carlos Lee, Ben Petrick, Gabe Kapler, Russell
Branyan and a guy named Pedro Swann, I just couldn't get him
out. Oh, and I guess I'd like another shot at Posada.
Ninth Inning – When recruiting pitchers, what
are three things you look for?
I look for arm action that can be repeated and
has some room for growth, fastball command, and composure. I
want my pitchers to be able to manage their emotions throughout
the course of a game.
(photos courtesy of Valpo Media