By STEVE KRAH
Rob Smith identifies two qualities that he brings to his job as head baseball coach at Ohio University — intensity and consistency.
“There certainly is a lot of fire and passion in myself, yet a consistency in how we train, how we practice and what our expectations are,” says Smith, who was hired to lead the Bobcats program June 11, 2012. “I would like to think that I’m very competitive. I would like to think that resonates with our team and that we value hard work.”
Prior to taking over in Athens, Ohio, Indiana native Smith served two assistant stints at Purdue University on the staff of head coach Doug Schreiber and then at Creighton University for Ed Servais.
“Schreib is a very fiery, passionate coach,” says Smith. “He could really put a charge into a team. Coach Servais had that as well. He was probably the most consistent person I’ve ever been around.
“I’d like to think there’s a combination of a little bit of both (in me).”
Smith was a volunteer assistant at Purdue in 1999 then spent two seasons managing in the summer collegiate Northwoods League with the Wisconsin Woodchucks (winning a championship in 2001) before being hired by Schreiber as the Boilermakers pitching coach.
“Everything that I have been able to do as a coach I owe to that man without question,” says Smith of Schreiber. “He gave me a chance to be a college coach when I really didn’t have the resume to get that position.
“I had five awesome years there.”
Chadd Blasko, who was selected in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, was among Smith’s Purdue pitchers.
Smith was associate head coach at Creighton in Omaha, Neb., 2007-12, while gaining wisdom from Servais.
“He’s — without a doubt — one of the 10 best college baseball coaches in the country,” says Smith of Servais. “He’s an outstanding coach, a great teacher of the game.
“A lot of the things I learned about how to run a practice, how to manage a ball club I learned from my time at Creighton with Ed.”
Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, now with the San Francisco Giants organization, was a part of the Smith-led Bluejays staff.
Smith has built the Ohio Bobcats on a few simple concepts.
“In our program pitching and defense are two very big things that we spend a lot of time talking about,” says Smith. “It’s handling the ball and eliminating free bases.”
Ohio, a member of the Mid-American Conference, won MAC tournament titles and qualified for NCAA regional play in 2015 and 2017. Prior to 2015, the Bobcats had made just two NCAA tournament appearances in the 43 previous seasons.
Smith coached four Bobcats — right-handed pitchers Brett Barber, Tom Colletti and Logan Cozart and outfielder Mitch Longo — that went on to play minor league baseball. Colletti is currently in the San Diego Padres system, Cozart with the Colorado Rockies organization and Longo in the Cleveland Indians chain.
The 2019 team is 17-32 overall and 11-14 in the MAC and fighting for a spot in the six-team conference tournament, which is May 22-26 in Avon, Ohio. The Bobcats split the first two of a three-game series at Western Michigan, coached by Indiana native Billy Gernon, May 16 and 17.
There are three Indiana products on the roster — senior Kenny Ogg and freshmen Zyon Avery and Xavier Haendiges.
Smith grew up in Ellettsville, Ind., and is a 1991 graduate of Edgewood High School, where he played for and later coached under Bob Jones.
After his college playing career ended, Smith was hired to coach the Edgewood freshmen and also started a summer travel team called the Indiana Blue Storm.
Smith played at Vincennes University for National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Jerry Blemker and Indiana University Southeast for Rick Parr.
“Coach Blemker taught me a lot,” says Smith. “Certainly baseball stuff, but probably more so about discipline, growing up and being a man.
“He’s been very instrumental in my life. He helped me mature. He was very patient with me through some times where I probably not the easiest player to coach.
“His patience and understanding and his toughness helped me in so many ways.”
At IUS, Smith saw right away Parr’s passion and knowledge about hitting.
Smith’s first college coaching gig came in 1998 at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, where Mike Moyzis was head coach and Rick O’Dette (who would coach the the Pumas for years until the school was closed and is now leading the program at Saint Leo University in Florida).
At Ohio U., Smith uses statistics, trends and analysis to make decisions, especially in pitch calling.
“I believe in analytics,” says Smith. “I believe there’s a place for it. It’s very useful if you can get the right information.
“That’s always been the issue at the college level. The information you can get your hands on at times is spotty. It’s getting better and better. There’s the ability to watch film and more games are on TV. There’s a lot more resources to gather good information to make decisions.”
Smith says the higher the sample size, the more reliable the information.
Rob and RaeAnna are the parents of four teenagers — identical twins Sierra and Serena (19), Tyson (15) and Isabelle (13). The twins just completed their freshmen year at Ohio. Tyson is a high school freshman. Isabelle is in the seventh grade.
Rob Smith brings combination of intensity and consistency in his seventh season as head baseball coach at Ohio University in 2019. (/Emilee Chinn/Ohio University Photo)
Rob Smith started as head baseball coach at Ohio University June 11, 2012. He took he Bobcats to the Mid-American Conference tournament titles and NCAA tournament berths in 2015 and 2017. (Maddie Schroeder/Ohio University Photo)
Rob Smith is the head baseball coach at Ohio University. He grew up in Ellettsville, Ind. He played and coached Edgewood High School, played at Vincennes University and Indiana University Southeast and coached at Purdue University and Creighton University before landing in Athens. (Ohio University Photo)