Sept. 28, 2012


Nine Innings with John Szefc

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder


A year ago, Maryland narrowly missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.


Shortly after the season, coach Erik Bakich traded his rebuilding tools in to take the head job at Michigan. The Terps turned to John Szefc (pronounced chef) to pick up where Bakich left off.


In Szefc, Maryland gets a leader who won 61 percent of his games in seven years as head coach at Marist (212-137-1) and guided the Red Foxes to four NCAA appearances. It also gets a coach who spent 10 years honing his skills as an assistant in the Sun Belt and Big 12. 


Szefc, who starred as an outfielder at Drexel and earned a master’s degree in sports administration at Temple, took time out to answer questions from


First Inning – How does it feel to be running your own program again?
Tremendous; I really enjoyed it at Marist, and we were lucky enough to have great players and assistant coaches that led to success. I guess I have always had running my own program in my blood.

Second Inning – When you left your head coaching position at Marist to become an assistant at Louisiana-Lafayette, what were some of the reasons?
Felt we had reached a peak at Marist with four NCAA Tournament appearances, finishing third in the last three. I was ready for a new challenge.

Third Inning – How did stepping back into an assistant’s role help you as a coach?
It helped very much, both recruiting and coaching-wise. Seeing how all three guys I worked for did it gave me great perspective and additional coaching knowledge. I can’t put a price on what I learned from those three men.

Fourth Inning – What’s the most important thing you learned from the head coaches at your three previous stops, Tony Robichaux (ULL), Ritch Price (Kansas) and Brad Hill (Kansas State)?
Tony is great on creating ball park atmosphere – creating the show at the park. He taught me about building the program in the public’s eye among many other things. Ritch may be the nicest person in college baseball. He is huge on the positive. Baseball can be a very negative game, but Ritch always sees the positive and conveys it to the players. He also taught me about creating a relaxed positive atmosphere for players and coaches to work in everyday – to get the most out of them. Brad gave me a lot in just 18 months; great ideas about preparing an offense, outstanding practice organization and the best ways to use weight training. Finally, he taught me about coaching the speed part of the game. He is a very smart baseball man – as all three of them are.

Fifth Inning – As a hitting coach, are you more Ted Williams or Charlie Lau? And where else did you build your coaching philosophies?
I’d say a Ted Williams-type coach. I have built my philosophies over 22 years of doing it. Working with different coaches and players and taking things from different guys, trying to create my own niche.

Sixth Inning – Why Maryland, and why now?
Maryland provides an outstanding situation for growth moving forward. The previous staff did a good job setting this program up in many ways. I have been able to put the exact staff together that I had hoped for. It has created a great situation to put a solid roster in position to be successful. It was also a great situation for my wife and children.

Seventh Inning – The Terps nearly made the NCAA field a year ago. How do you and Maryland take the next step?
Preparation each day and executing a well-rounded defensive and offensive plan to take a strong, experienced group of returners and blend them with a great incoming recruiting class.

Eighth Inning – Maryland has eliminated sports because of budget constraints. How, if at all, has baseball been affected?
I think the administration here gives our program great support and resources to work with.

Ninth Inning – Becoming a head coach in the ACC is ___________:

Very rewarding to me. It is a great challenge that I enjoy working at each day.


(photo courtesy of Maryland Media Relations Office)