2 July 2008
New Hyannis Skipper Rick Robinson
A Winner At Heart
HYANNIS - Early batting practice is taking place at McKeon Park and the Hyannis Mets are mired in a three-game losing streak. Coach Rick Robinson is standing next to the batting cage working with hitters, because the offense has scored just two runs in the last two games, and Robinson will do anything to help this team get back on track.
No coach enjoys losing, but Robinson, the baseball coach at Young Harris College in Georgia, has a disdain for it that seems to reach further than most.
“I don’t know a whole lot of coaches who like to lose and if they do like to lose, then they’re used to it,” Robinson said. “I think losing is one of those things I’m not used to.”
The primary reason that Robinson is not used to defeat, is, well, he never has really dealt with it. In his three college coaching stops at Brevard College in North Carolina, Old Dominion University and now Young Harris, he always has found success.
At Brevard College, he started the baseball program “from scratch” and led the team to a 30- win season. As an assistant at Old Dominion, the Monarchs twice made appearances in an NCAA Division I Regional. During his nine seasons at Young Harris, the Mountain Lions have won eight Georgia Junior College Athletic Association conference championships, while winning at an astonishing .762 (419-131) clip.
Robinson’s formula for success is built around drilling fundamentals, as well as keeping players disciplined, on and off the field. He says his players have a great knowledge of the game, and are prepared to hit and run, and bunt.
This makes it no surprise that when the Mets’ roster was ravaged by the Major League Baseball Draft that Robinson called up a couple of his former players, outfielder Trent Ashcraft and shortstop Michael Glantz, to sign temporary contracts.
“He does everything by the book, he’s probably the smartest baseball coach I’ve ever played for and plays the game the right way,” said Glantz, who is headed for Penn State in the fall.
Glantz and Ashcraft are now full contract players, but they’re not the only success stories to come out of Young Harris.
“The poster child for Young Harris College so to speak is Nick Markakis,” says Robinson, who says the current Baltimore Orioles outfielder was an “average baseball player” when he entered YH and the seventh overall pick in the MLB Draft’s first Round when he left.
Even Robinson is surprised by all the success he’s had in both winning and placing players at four-year schools, saying, “We (Young Harris) are really and truly not supposed to be successful.”
He can even list the reasons that make success so elusive: it costs $25,000 a year to go to a two-year college, close to an 1100 SAT score is required to get in, most of the players have a high school grade point average of at least 3.5, Young Harris has only five baseball scholarships as opposed to 24 for most junior colleges, and the climate, the Mountains of Georgia, are not baseball-friendly.
So what makes Young Harris so successful?
“I firmly believe there was a time that came in my life, that God decided he wanted me to go to Young Harris College and it’s because of Him and His divine intervention that we’ve been able to be successful, and I believe that with all my heart,” Robinson says. “And for whatever reason He decided to bless Young Harris College with a lot of baseball victories and a lot of great young men.”
Robinson’s faith is a big part of his life and carries over into his coaching and the way he handles players.
“Everything I do, I try to do it in a way that I feel like God would be pleased with it and that some way it reflects God’s glory,” he says.
So maybe it is the fact that Robinson lives his life this way, or that he recruits well, or that he can just flat out coach, but one thing is certain: Rick Robinson is a winner.
“Whether I’ve coached a middle school girls’ basketball team or a 15-year-old fast pitch softball team the first summer I was out of college, I’ve never lost,” says the coach as a grin creeps onto his face when asked about losing.
He says he has always been in situations where people said he could not win, and that hasn’t stopped here in Hyannis.
“When people heard I was coming here they had all these reasons why the organization wasn’t successful and couldn’t be successful, and I’ve taken that as a personal challenge,” Robinson says.
So far, he has done a pretty good job of fulfilling that challenge, leading the Mets to a smoking 6-2 start out of the gate. Although they have fallen to 7-6, Robinson is not bothered.
A big departure from the past, Hyannis leads the Cape League with a sparkling 2.29 team earned run average, well ahead of the East Division Harwich Mariners (2.59).
“It’s possible to win if you do things the right way with the right kind of people,” he says.
If that statement holds true, watch out Cape Cod, because Rick Robinson does things the right way.
Chris Blake CCBL Intern ([email protected])
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Stefanie Marini, Laura Rasmussen