Greg Beals bounded out of the dugout and into a sea of scarlet. He huddled with his players in left field before a game against his former team, Ball State, on Wednesday.
Four years ago, just up that same base line at Bill Davis Stadium, Beals sat with his wife and three daughters as he was introduced as the 11th coach in 127 years of Ohio State baseball. This is the fourth season for the 1988 Kenton Ridge graduate. Two of the three seniors on the team were recruited by Beals’ predecessor, Bob Todd, but none of the current players have played at Ohio State for anyone other than Beals.
This is his team now, his program.
“I’m very much a self-evaluator and a man-in-the-mirror type guy, looking at what we’ve done and what we have to do to get better,” Beals said. “I feel good about where we’re at in the process, but we’re still very much in the process.”
The Buckeyes lost 8-6 to Ball State on Wednesday, falling to 21-17. Ohio State has slumped in the last three weeks, losing 10 of 14 games and slipping to ninth (4-8) in the Big Ten in a year in which they were picked to finish third.
In the big picture, though, Beals feels good about where the program is headed. He was 26-27 in his first season, then 33-27 in 2012 and 35-23 last season. Five starters returned from the 2013 team that tied for second in the Big Ten at 15-9.
“In my opinion, the talent we’re looking for on the field continues to evolve,” Beals said. “The pitching staff continues to evolve. We’ve been nicked up a little bit this year, which has affected our depth. It hasn’t affected our ability to pitch and play, but it’s affected our depth a little bit. Fortunately, we have depth, so we’re still strong now, but as we go into the stretch run, I’m a little concerned.”
The Buckeyes lost freshman pitcher Adam Niemeyer, a Minster grad, to Tommy John surgery after three appearances. Beals said that injury happened because of a pre-existing condition. He’s always paying attention to the health of his players because he wants to make sure he and his coaches aren’t getting players hurt.
Getting them to the next level is a big goal every season. Ohio State had three seniors drafted last year.
“Every guy in that locker room, when he steps on the campus, comes with the intention of playing professionally some day,” Beals said. “For me, the backbone of our program is our player development. I was blessed to be around good coaches who took an interest in helping you get to the next level. That’s really main my main goal: to help our guys achieve those goals. In the meantime, if we’re recruiting the right kid and we’ve prepared and developed them, the winning and losing will take care of itself on the field here at Ohio State.”
Beals continues to get support from Springfield. Former Kenton Ridge coach Tom Randall, one of Beals’ closest friends, was in the stands Wednesday, as he almost always is.
“It’s been a blessing to be close to home,” Beals said. “My brother’s over here at regularly. My mom’s retired, so she’s over here regularly. Coach Randall’s here almost every night and even in the fall comes over. That’s great. Coach has been so special to me. It’s good he’s able to reap some of the benefits of what we’re doing here now.”