By STEVE KRAH
A Purdue University graduate is applying some lessons he learned while playing for the Boilermakers in his role as an assistant baseball coach/recruiting coordinator at Kent (Ohio) State University.
Barrett Serrato, a graduate of West Chicago (Ill.) High School, played four seasons for head coach Doug Schreiber at Purdue (2009-12) and received a Physical Education degree and experienced a Big Ten Conference championship in 2012.
Former Boiler assistants Jamie Sailors (current Lafayette Aviators managers) and Spencer Allen (now a Northwestern University assistant) were involved in Serrato’s recruitment.
“It’s hard to pick one experience,” says Serrato of his time at Purdue. The whole thing was so enjoyable for me.
“We’ve got a team group chat now. Any time anybody texts it’s like we never left.”
Among players who were on the 2009 and 2012 rosters with Serrato are Kyle Bischoff (New Haven High School graduate), Ryan Bridges (Griffith), Eric Charles (Zionsville), Sean Collins (Pendleton Heights), Joe Haase (Knightstown), Jake Hansen (Westfield), Robert Ramer (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Tyler Spillner (Fort Wayne Northrop). Bridges was head coach at Hanover Central High School.
Three future big leaguers were juniors on the 2012 team — Cameron Perkins (Southport), Kevin Plawecki (Westfield) and Nick Wittgren (McCutcheon). Brett Andrzejewski (Westfield) was also on that team.
“We all really got along,” says Serrato. “We all jelled. On the field and off the field we really enjoyed our time.
“Winning conference in 2012 was the icing on the cake.”
That squad went 45-14 overall, 17-7 in the Big Ten and beat Indiana twice to win first Big Ten Tournament title. Serrato was named to the all-tournament team.
Another memorable moment for him came in 2011 while Purdue swept a three-game series from visiting Indiana. It was the first sweep of the Hoosiers in 14 years.
“I remember a couple of fans getting on top of the IU dugout (with brooms),” says Serrato. “That’s as good as it gets.”
In 177 games (151 starts) at Purdue, the lefty-swinging Serrato hit .309 with eight home runs, 117 runs batted in and 116 runs scored.
Lessons learned from Schreiber (who is now head coach at Purdue Fort Wayne) included discipline.
“You have to have discipline in everything you do,” says Serrato. “Be the toughest team on the field at all times. Play hard and don’t back down.
“If you have high goals and high standards you have to be able the stuff that comes with it.”
Serrato says Schreiber stressed fundamentals and following the path.
“You knew the standards and the rules,” says Schreiber. “Nobody got any special treatment. This is how we do things and we’re going to do it this way.
“That’s been the biggest carryover to what I do now.”
In Serrato’s last three seasons in West Lafayette, Jeff Duncan was a Boilers assistant and is heading into his 10th season as Kent State coach in 2023.
Selected in the 48th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins out of high school, Serrato was later picked in the 30th round by the Texas Rangers in 2012 and played in the minors in 2012 and 2013.
Serrato was on Duncan’s Golden Flashes staff 2015-17, coached 2018-19 at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and was at the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2019 before coming back to Kent State in January 2020.
“Coach Dunc is a people person,” says Serrato. “He relates to every type of person.
“He’s good at making sure each guy feels important.”
As recruiting coordinator, Serrato is after a certain kind of player.
“Here at Kent we have a bit of a track record in western (Pennysylvania) and Ohio,” says Serrato. “We have a similar stomping grounds to Purdue. We go into Chicago and Wisconsin. We get some guys from around the Detroit area. It’s a tough kind of kid.
“We’ve got high standards here. We’re going to go into some big places. We’re going to play some really good teams and we’re going to expect to win. If we don’t have a strong mental will — hey, we’re going to get this done — we’re not going to accomplish what this program has set out to do.”
With relationships as a priority, Serrato wants to bring the right people into the Golden Flashes fold.
“If there’s a bad attitude, we’re out,” says Serrato. “At the end of the day we need people who can handle failure and be mature in what they do.”
While looking at potential recruits, he is readying body language, energy and gathering information from multiple sources.
“Off the field are they positive people?,” says Serrato. “What are others saying about them?”
As a hitting coach, Serrato prepares his players to have mature conversations — something he gleaned from pro ball — and preaches three things in this order: mentality, approach and fundamentals.
“It’s that toughness, that go-get-it attitude,” says Serrato. “Anybody who’s been around this game knows that as a hitter you’re going to fail a lot. Guys who can’t take some punches are really going to struggle.
“With two strikes, we shortened up (our swings) and sacrifice power. Our motto is ‘win fastballs away with two strikes.’ If we get beat (inside) we tip our cap.”
Barrett, 32, and wife Karlie met at Kent State. The couple has two daughters.