MARSHALL, Ill. —
The returning double-play combination for Indiana State’s baseball team could be in for an interesting future, its new coach hinted Friday morning.
Mitch Hannahs threw out a compliment and an implied challenge Friday to ISU’s Tyler Wampler, who was in the audience as Hannahs was introduced by Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman.
“Tyler Wampler is as good as any shortstop in the country,” Hannahs noted, “but he’s just one of 35 players.”
Should Wampler require a translation, the West Vigo graduate could ask his roommate what the new coach’s words meant.
Wampler shares a house with Derek Hannahs, the returning second baseman — and Mitch’s son.
Derek Hannahs had a .309 batting average for the Sycamores last season, best mark among the remaining players. It’s entirely possible that had the younger Hannahs not had such a successful season — earning a spot on his own — his father might not have pursued the coaching job.
“You cannot lie to the players,” stressed Mitch Hannahs, who used the one-of-35 quote with regards to his own son too. Asked if he’d ever coached Derek in the past, the new Sycamore mentor answered (with only a slight smile), “Yes, and he will tell you he didn’t enjoy it.”
To summarize, Mitch Hannahs has high expectations for his son, for his star players and for every player in an ISU uniform.
“I can promise that our young men will be very well respected on campus and in the community,” he said, “and they will be student-athletes.”
On the field, the new coach said, “We are going to be the aggressor, and we are going to dictate the game for nine innings. We will have no fear.”
Achievements on the field are just part of job, though, Hannahs added.
“Life is not baseball,” he said. “We will have great student-athletes who will work hard, but there’s also a higher mission … our players are not going to play for Mitch Hannahs, they are going to play for each other.”
Hannahs expects members of his new team to build relationships that will allow them to “stay connected throughout their lives,” and he obviously knows how that’s done. The evidence is his cell phone, which blew up from an abundance of congratulatory calls and text messages within hours of the announcement that he was ISU’s new coach.
This was Hannahs’ third application to become ISU’s head coach, after an All-America career at the school playing for Bob Warn and six seasons as one of Warn’s assistants before becoming head coach at Lincoln Trail College.
He’s not the coach at Lincoln Trail anymore, he’s the college’s president — “by far the most challenging coaching job I’ve ever had,” he said Friday — so it’s probably safe to say the job at his alma mater was the only baseball position he’d ever consider again.
“I told [my wife] Amy I would never take her far away from her family,” Hannahs said Friday (she’s a native of Monon, in northern Indiana, and was in attendance with their daughter Kylee and younger son Kaleb).
Judging by the former ISU players and current and former ISU faculty in attendance, it’s a popular hire.
“One of our own,” Prettyman described the new coach, presenting Hannahs with an ISU cap and uniform No. 22 “with great excitement and anticipation.”
Whether he’ll continue to wear his number as a player was uncertain, Hannahs joked. “I’ve been a coach long enough to know the coach takes whatever number is left,” he said.
Hannahs plans to have a coaching staff in place as soon as possible. As far as recruiting goes, he noted, “Your greatest recruiters are your players … everyone aspires to be part of something greater than themselves.”
Hannahs is 45, prompting a question about whether or not he’d be at Indiana State long enough to eclipse the coaching statistics of Warn, who was also in attendance Friday.
“I don’t think anybody will catch coach Warn,” Hannahs laughed. “If I can just maintain his energy level, I’ll be happy.”