By MATT CORRAINI Tower Writer
There is a new face in the coaching office this year, and he comes in the form of our new baseball coach.
This past fall, Justin Thomas was named the next head coach of the Bethany College Baseball team. Now that spring is here, you can see Coach Thomas working hard getting his team in shape for the season. Even with players and assistant coaches adjusting to the new coach, hopes are looking very high for the season.
Coach Thomas is a native of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Thomas went to Slippery Rock University, where he played four years there as a pitcher. After graduating, he went back to his alma mater to be their Junior Varsity coach. The opportunity then arose for him to take on the role as the pitching coach for Penn State Greater Allegheny. Thomas, once there, was able to take his skills down to South Carolina, where he got hired as the head coach at Voorhees College. Thomas spent four years there before getting the head coach position at Bethany. Alongside his Collegiate experience, Thomas has coached in several summer leagues; most recently being the pitching coach for the D.C. Gray’s in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Summer League.
After getting hired last semester, Coach Thomas did not waste anytime. Within the first couple weeks of being head coach, Thomas rallied the team together to compete in the Appleton Challenge. This challenge consisted on separating into four teams and having them compete in a series of physical events. Some of the events consisted of max deadlift and squat, tug of war, and pull ups. The challenge is designed to not only test the team’s mental and physical toughness, but helps build the teams bond as well.
Now weeks into training, players are beginning to see what Coach Thomas is really like. Ryan Anselmino, a junior catcher, says, “JT is quiet, but his words are impactful and easy to buy in to. He definitely cares about all his players.”. Anselmino also talked about the environment of the team. He said “The environment has gone from toxic, to having a newfound passion for baseball”. He also explained how he believes the players finally have the confidence in the coaching staff that they need for a PAC Championship.
Coach Thomas has also made in impact on campus as well working with serval students on special projects for this upcoming season. He has been working hand and hand with Cody Kohlman, a senior Communications major, on hype up videos for the season. Cody explained that, “Watching JT from an outside perspective he has a lot of energy with the team. He’s able to relate to them as well. He’s always joking around with the guys but he’s able to be serious with them as well. It all seems like it comes natural to him”. Cody also commented on the environment of the team saying, “The environment has changed a lot. You used to hear things from the players that they didn’t like what was going on and that it seemed like they could have won games that they’ve lost. Now the guys seem to be way more relaxed and focused on winning and I think that has a lot to do with JT and his open attitude with the team”. Cody also explained that by just watching him, Cody can tell he is a player’s coach.
Now that we are only weeks away from regular season, Thomas as been working hard to get the team in shape. Thomas holds practice 6 days a weeks, mostly at 6 AM. Players have stated that practicing at 6 AM is going to make playing 4 PM games feel so much more energized. This has shown in their first 6 pre-season games, as they went 6-0. Thomas is not only working hard just for regular season, but in hopes of making playoffs. One of Thomas’s goal is to make it into playoffs and once that is done, they will focus one game at a time to make it as far as possible.