Coaches Corner: Jeff Wicker – USC Salkehatchie

wickerjeff-head09.jpgCoaches Corner – Jeff Wicker: USC Salkehatchie recruiting coordinator Jeff Wicker is in his sixth year in Allendale. His passion for baseball is apparent but his Q & A with us resulting in one of the most humor-driven spotlights that we’ve ever published. Enjoy!

DP-How many years have you been in coaching? What got you into the business?

JW-This is my 9th year, and my 6th on the collegiate level. I coached two years of legion ball for Post 28 in Spartanburg, and also helped at Clover HS for parts of one year. I’m also entering my fourth summer of coaching in collegiate summer leagues. I got started after my sophomore year in college. I had Tommy John surgery late that spring and really couldn’t do anything that summer, so I volunteered (the first of many seasons!) as a local recreation league coach for a 15-18 year old team. A second elbow surgery actually led to me coaching legion, as well. I guess the saying that those who can’t play the game coach the game rang true!

DP-What is the most rewarding thing about being a baseball coach? 

JW-The relationships are by far the most rewarding part. I’m still very close with a lot of former players. Many of them are now finishing their college requirements and entering the work force. It’s awesome when you get a random email or phone call from past players. I’ve also made some great friends within the coaching ranks.

DP-What does the term "coach" mean to you? 

JW-It really depends on the day. Some days it means friend. Some days it means motivator. Some days it means disciplinarian. Some days it means academic advisor. I could probably name 20 different hats that a coach has to wear, but it all centers around teaching.

DP-What is something you wish everyone knew about your profession? 

JW-Through the many interviews preceding mine, most of your readers are probably aware that the hours are incredibly long, and the pay is incredibly small.

DP-We all know there is very little money in getting started in coaching at the college level yet the time involved is mind-boggling, why did you do it?

JW-As I briefly mentioned in the first question, the main reason I coach is because I can’t play anymore. After that, I just love going to the ballpark everyday. I’ve always been a student of the game, and coaching just seemed to be a natural progression. 

DP-How do you balance the time demands of coaching and your personal life?

JW-I don’t.

DP-Why is the JUCO route a good option?

JW-Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. Players get more time on the field under JUCO regulations. We’re allowed to play a fall schedule, and pretty much get the majority of the fall semester to have full team practice. With intra-squads and games, many of our hitters get upwards of 100 plate appearances in the fall. Most of our pitchers get 25-30 innings of mound time during that time span. Incoming freshmen are also competing against 19-20 year old sophomores, as opposed to 22-23 year old seniors for playing time. There’s a big difference.

DP-Take a few lines to sell USC Salkehatchie to a prep recruit:

JW-In addition to my answer to the previous question, USC Salkehatchie is a great place for a young man to grow as a person, student, and player. We don’t have any of the bright lights, but student-athletes have access to a quality education and pretty good baseball facilities. All of our facilities are on-campus. Coach Dorman does an unbelievable job on the playing surface. Our field is as good as any field we play on in the spring, if not the best. We also have a pretty good weight room and clubhouse at the field. The clubhouse and field are equipped with wireless internet access, and our SID is planning on webcasting and video streaming many of our home games in the near future. We also recently broke ground on a new 100 bed, housing facility 150 feet from our main classroom building. The school is growing, and I think people might be surprised at what we have to offer.

DP-What is the definition of a "student-athlete"? 

JW-Very few players get a chance to make a real living playing the game. A student-athlete is someone who realizes academics are the key to their future.

DP-What is your most memorable experience as a baseball coach? 

JW-Travis Howard’s walk-off grand slam in 2007 was a big one, but the most memorable experience was probably a legion game in 2001. We’re in an elimination game in the state playoffs. I was coaching with Brandon McKillop and Corey Galt. Galt couldn’t make it for some reason, and McKillop got tossed (shocker) in the seventh or eighth inning, putting me in the box for the first time all summer. We’re down eight runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Thanks to my brilliance, we scored eight runs in the ninth and win the game in extras.  

DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a baseball coach and why? 

JW-I have to pick two, and they’re probably the two grumpiest people I know. I played for Tim Medlin for five years at Newberry College and really learned the game from him. He also got me started in the college game by giving me the opportunity to coach with him one year. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about coaching from Bubba Dorman. This is my 6th year with him, and he’s an incredible teacher of the game.

DP-Who are the best three players you have coached against? 

JW-Lonnie Chisenhall (Pitt), Kyle Koeneman (Walters State), & Matt Little (Louisburg) 

DP-What does it mean to be a good teammate and is that important? 

JW-It means showing up everyday and giving effort.

DP-Do you have any superstitions? If so, what?

JW-It depends on the time of the year. Early in the year, with full sanity, I have very few. As the season progresses, and delirium sets in, I have many. It could be facial hair, order of getting dressed, how and where I park, pre-game meal, creams and sugars in my coffee, or a bevy of others. It gets real bad in the summer.

DP-What do you see as the biggest difference in high school-aged players today versus when you played? 

JW-I think we played more baseball out of the presence of coaches, which gave us better instincts and feel for the game.

wickerjeff.jpgDP-Now switching gears, think back to your days as a baseball player, please list any notable accolades: 

JW-No award was issued, but making it back from two elbow surgeries and a back problem were huge for me on a personal level… I won the Billy Douglas award at Newberry College (given to outstanding freshman athlete) following my freshman year. I also won 7 or 8 games against top-25 competition in college, including a win over #1 Florida Southern and #2 Georgia College, as well as a win over the Sean Heffernan led, Coker Cobras. It is true that good hitters struggle with bad pitching. (Wicker pictured left, circa mid-1990’s)

DP-What is your greatest high school thrill? 

JW-We won a lot of games, but playing with the caliber of players we had was awesome. We had 11 guys on one team go on to play professional or college baseball. We had a first, second, fourteenth, and fifteenth rounder one high school team.  

DP-What is your greatest thrill, or two, beyond high school?

JW-I live a pretty dull life… I recently became an uncle, and that has been really cool. She’s unbelievably spoiled. I also started touring major league ballparks a couple years ago and have managed to knock out six. I have three more planned for this summer.

DP-Who were the three best players you played against? 

JW-I never really paid a lot of attention to the guys I was playing against. DeWayne Wise is one name that comes to mind, though.

DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a person and why? 

JW-Probably my father. He’s just an extremely hard-working, dependable, and even-keeled person.

DP-What MLB feat in history do you wish you’d been inside the stadium to witness and why? 

JW-I’m not sure this qualifies as a feat, but I would have loved to be in Fenway Park for games four and five of the 2004 ALCS. Fenway is a special venue to watch a baseball game and those two games were classics. Red Sox vs. Yankees. ALCS. Extra innings. Red Sox defeating the curse and coming back from being down three games to none. There were tons of storylines involved.

DP-Who is you favorite athlete outside of baseball?

JW-I loathe the NBA, but LeBron James is an unbelievable athlete.

DP-Who is your favorite MLB pitcher and position player to watch and why? 

JW-I like watching Chris Carpenter pitch. He competes, attacks hitters, and has great stuff. Albert Pujols is my favorite position guy. He’s a machine! 

DP-Who is your favorite MLB team? 

JW-St. Louis Cardinals

DP-What is your favorite sport to play other than baseball? 

JW-I used to enjoy playing golf, but walking has recently taken precedent over hitting the little white ball. Please note that I was/am the worst player in the history of the game.

DP-What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball? 

JW-I really don’t watch a ton of sports on TV. I may catch some golf on a Sunday afternoon in the summer.

DP-What are some of your hobbies? 

JW-I’m a dork. I enjoy movies, reading, crossword puzzles, and music.

DP-What is your favorite movie?

JW-I am a movie buff, and I’m not sure I can give you just one. Some of my favorites are: Pulp Fiction, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Fletch, Christmas Vacation, Bull Durham and Shawshank Redemption.

DP-Who is your favorite actor? Actress?

JW-Actor- Morgan Freeman. Actress- Jessica Biel… been a fan since Mary Camden

DP-What is your favorite meal?

JW-Grilled chicken and any kind of potato.

DP-What is something people don’t know about you? 

JW-I teach full-time in the business department at USC Salkehatchie.

DP-If you could have dinner with three people in history, who would they be and why?     

JW-Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes– They were two brilliant economists and would definitely produce some interesting conversation/debate. The third would be Buck O’Neil. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2003 and he was an awesome person. He talked baseball for hours, and I would love to hear more of his stories firsthand.

DP-Where do you see yourself in ten years? 

JW-I have no clue!

DP-Give a high school player who is reading this article one piece of advice. 

JW-One day, no matter your ability, someone is going to tell you that you can’t play anymore. Creating opportunities is the name of the game. Education is the key to those opportunities.

DP-That is some absolutely hilarious stuff! Thank you for your responses!