Indiana hires Miami (Ohio) head coach Dan Simonds as hitting/catching coach

The first time Tracy Smith convinced Dan Simonds to leave a head coaching job to be Smith’s assistant was 14 years ago. At that point, he convinced him to leave the minor leagues for the college game.

On Monday, he pulled it off again, this time convincing him to leave a Mid-American Conference program for a team coming off its first ever College World Series.

Simonds, who has been the head coach at Miami (Ohio) since the 2006 season when Smith left the Red Hawks to be head coach at Indiana, will now work as Smith’s associate head coach at IU. He fills the vacancy left by former pitching coach Ty Neal, now the head coach at Cincinnati. The staff will shake-up responsibilities, however, with Simonds working as hitting coach and catching coach. Assistant Ben Greenspan becomes the recruiting coordinator and a volunteer assistant to be named later will handle the pitchers.

“It’s a tough decision, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity for me and my family,” Simonds said. “I get to work with someone who I think is one of the best coaches in the country and a guy I’m very familiar with. I’m really excited with the direction he’s taken Indiana baseball with the past success that he’s had and the things he wants to do to continue that. I do want to be a part of that and sustain it and keep it moving.”

The two men originally met as professional baseball players in 1990. They were teammates with the Winston-Salem Spirits, then the Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Both started coaching once their careers ended — which for both was shortly thereafter — but Smith became a college coach and Simonds originally went the professional route, serving as a bullpen catcher/assistant coach for the Cubs from 1992-94, then spending time in the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres organizations. He was manager of the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, the Padres’ Class A team in 1999, when Smith convinced him to join his staff at Miami (Ohio).

“He wore me down,” said Simonds, a 48-year-old Boston native and 1987 Davidson graduate. “…He reached out to me, and at the time, the bus trips and eating McDonald’s all the time, living that Bull Durham lifestyle was starting to get a little old, and I wanted to see what this is all about. It’s a lot different than the pro game, and there’s certainly a lot more involved. But in college, you’re really developing people and not just the player. That’s what was really appealing to me.”

Simonds worked as the hitting coach for Smith for five seasons, helping the Red Hawks to the 2000 MAC title before taking the head coaching job at Xavier for the 2005 season. Smith left for Indiana after that season and Simonds returned to Miami to succeed him.

In eight years at Miami, he led the Red Hawks to six winning seasons and a 232-222 overall record. This year’s squad was 26-30, but in his tenure he produced 16 Major League Baseball draft picks and 16 All-MAC picks. Included in that group is Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton.

“He’s a grinder,” Smith said. “He’s a player’s guy on the field and he’s a tireless worker when it comes to the development piece.”

Though Neal’s departure left Smith in need of a pitching instructor, Smith felt it was most important to hire a top lieutenant and therefore someone he knew well.

“That keeps the continuity of what we have going,” Smith said. “The fact that we had worked before on players, the fact that we had worked before on recruiting, I knew what I was getting.”

Simonds certainly knew what he was getting in taking on Smith as a boss, and he was excited about what he was taking over at Indiana. He will be in charge of a lineup that led the Big Ten in batting average (.302), runs (434) and home runs (53) among most other major categories and also finished in the top 25 nationally in each of those categories and could return its top three hitters from that group in Kyle Schwarber, Sam Travis and Dustin DeMuth.

That combined with IU’s new facility in Bart Kaufman Field and groundbreaking College World Series run in 2013 was attractive enough for Simonds to walk away from a head coaching job for the second time.

“Indiana was one of the best teams in the country this year,” Simonds said. “… Indiana is certainly going to sell itself a little bit more, certainly in the Midwest and I think nationally. You’re still going to have to get out and hump it and find players, but recruiting here got a little bit easier.”

One comment

  1. We’re now good and very good in three areas: hitting/catching (the new hire, Simonds) and clapping (Crean).

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