Indiana was preparing to play at Florida State in the Super
Regionals, a Hoosier made news off the field.
The day before IU and FSU
opened their series, pitching coach Ty Neal was named the new
head coach at Cincinnati. But before he could report for duty
for the Bearcats, Neal had to make a trip to Omaha as the
Hoosiers stopped the Seminoles for a berth in the College
Neal spent eight seasons at
Indiana and also coached with Hoosiers coach Tracy Smith at
Miami (Ohio). An Ohio native who grew up less than an hour
from Cincinnati, Neal takes over a Bearcats program that went
24-32 and will play its first season in the American Athletic
Conference in 2014.
First Inning – Take me
through the process of your hiring, as it seemed to happen
quickly, even as Indiana was prepping to play FSU in the Super
Coach Tracy Smith was very
helpful and understanding in allowing me to entertain a
possible new position while the Hoosiers were piecing together
a Championship season. UC AD Whit Babcock visited with me in
Bloomington after we had won the Big Ten Conference
Tournament. My Sport Administrator, Maggie McKinley, called on
a Monday and asked if I was available for Whit to come and
visit on Tuesday (May 28). Apparently the interview went well,
and I drove over to Cincinnati for a second interview just
after winning the Regional. I then received a call from Whit
Friday morning just before the Super Regional asking if I
wanted to be the next head coach at the University of
Second Inning – What
made Cincinnati a good fit for you at this point in your
I am an Ohio guy, and I
knew this was a place with a beautiful campus, great academics
and a top-notch facility. But the best part about it is the
people making it tick. President Santa Ono, Whit Babcock and
his administration are real people and, most importantly, good
people who expect great things from everyone around them. That
is the only way I know how to operate, so it’s a good feeling
coming to work every day with people as humble yet hungry as I
am. As a competitor and having the desire to play at the
highest level, the American Athletic Conference will allow
this program to play quality opponents each weekend to prepare
us for postseason play. Our geographic location will also
allow us to keep a strong schedule. Our midweek games become
Kentucky, Louisville (after 2014), OSU and Indiana. Combine
our conference schedule and our midweek schedule to our
early-season southern trips, and we can position ourselves to
be eligible for an at-large bid each year (if we take care of
business). Strength of schedule is very important for
postseason play, and we have the ability to play a very
competitive schedule here at UC.
Third Inning – Describe
the experience of helping lead Indiana to the College World
The experience of helping
IU reach Omaha was a long process, which started when I went
over with Tracy Smith in 2005. The Hoosiers didn’t wake up one
day and say “Let’s go to Omaha this year.” This took a lot of
what I call “blood, sweat and tears” from a lot of different
people. It took a lot of people making big-time sacrifices to
make that happen. This is what college athletics is all about
– you put your heart and soul into the program in hopes of
competing for a Championship. I know my wife and kids made
big-time sacrifices, just as they are now, but that is what it
takes. I personally made the decision to involve my family as
much as I can, and it is very rewarding to know that a team
and a coach can make it to Omaha and still be a family man.
Fourth Inning – When the
season started, could you have anticipated it ending in Omaha?
When did it sink in that it could be a historic season?
I have seen a lot of great
college baseball players over the years. This team, just like
the previous IU teams, was very talented, but what separated
this team was their desire to prepare collectively as a unit.
We had no egos and this allowed the players to enjoy each
other’s company and put the program goals over their own. I am
a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I go into every season
feeling like the organization I represent should compete for a
Championship. If you are not creating a Championship Culture
you will probably lose important days along the way.
Inning – What are some things you learned coaching with Tracy
Smith at Miami and Indiana that will help you as a head coach?
He is extremely competitive
and has a knack for getting things accomplished. I have
witnessed head coaches take a passive approach in some areas
of their program, and it has cost them championships, wins and
sometimes even their jobs. Tracy Smith is very detail oriented
and allows his staff the autonomy to do their jobs, but the
second an area is slacking he will step in and make sure it is
back where he expects it. He expects the best from everyone
each day and it creates a competitive culture. He was also a
trained scout so I picked up a few things in evaluating
players, too. I feel he prepared me for this job, and I owe a
lot to him for giving me an opportunity to learn and develop
under his eye.
Sixth Inning – You grew
up less than an hour away from Cincinnati. What memories do
you have the city, and how does it feel to be coaching so
close to your hometown?
Cincinnati is a baseball
town. My dad used to take my brothers and me to Reds games as
kids. I grew up in the “Nasty Boy” era. I do have to say when
I think of Cincinnati I think of Pete Rose. I wish every kid
out there played the game the way he did. My dad has come out
to a few of my practices this fall, and it is a good feeling
being able to share this opportunity with him. Being at the
University of Cincinnati is an unbelievable opportunity for me
and my family. If you knew anything at all about what it took
for me to get here, you would understand what it means to me.
I relate everything to music (country specifically), and Garth
Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers” is how I describe this
amazing opportunity. I was snubbed on what I would label as
“lesser” jobs the past few years. I am appreciative now I
wasn’t the right guy for them…
Seventh Inning – You
pretty much coached every position at Indiana. If you had to
choose between pitchers or position players, which would you
prefer to coach?
Ha! I love this question. I
am a pitcher by trade and love talking pitching. However, I do
believe my personality is more served for being around and
grinding with the position guys daily. I consider myself a
baseball guy and interacting with the position guys allows me
to do it daily. Pitchers live a somewhat boring life and have
to possess patience. I will say this, when I pitched in
college, I made sure I busted my tail on my pitching workouts
but then when the work was complete, I had fun being at the
yard. I handled the fungo, I shagged flyballs, anything to
make my time enjoyable.
Eighth Inning – After
coaching the Bearcats this fall, where are some of your
We have a group of hungry
young men! We do have some talented guys in the program with
most of them being position guys. I do think we will find a
way to score some runs this spring. My expectation of course
is for us to compete for an AAC Championship and we are
preparing to do so.
Ninth Inning – What are
three things you look for in recruiting pitchers?
You must begin with
physical tools because this is something we cannot teach.
Physical Tools (arm
strength, body type/size)
Can he command a 2nd pitch
off same arm slot?