Glance at Coppin State University’s baseball roster, and something immediately stands out: the hometowns of the players. Or make that the home states. Or, in some cases, the home countries.
“You can look at any roster in the country and you won’t see the diversity that Coppin has,” said head coach Sherman Reed.
How has a program that won five games in 2011, one game in 2012 and three games in 2015 managed to recruit players from four different countries and 14 different states, including Washington D.C.?
It all starts with Reed and his desire to create a specific culture surrounding Coppin State baseball.
“I wanted to change the total student-athlete experience,” said Reed, who is in his eighth year as head coach at the historically black university in West Baltimore. “We’re a Division 1 program, and as I’ve often said, ‘We may not have the University of Maryland’s budget, but we still expect to compete at that level.’ So, I really wanted to try and uplift all activities regarding baseball.”
Because of Coppin’s lackluster baseball history, Reed discovered that many local prospects overlook the Eagles when considering where to play collegiately.
“When you get to the local market here, you have a generation of folks in the area that may never have remembered a time when Coppin was successful in baseball,” Reed said. “We tend to not get the interest here in Maryland or even Virginia.”
Never blowing off a phone call
With no choice but to recruit elsewhere, Reed must exhaust all options when searching for talent. And the “hometown” section of his roster looks like a departure board at an airport: Maryland, Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Utah, Hawaii, Mexico, Venezuela, Aruba.
“We never blow off a call or email,” Reed said. “We will answer the phone; we will reply back to an email. It makes for long 10 hour days, but what we found is that the one call we don’t respond back to could be that one kid that could help improve your program.”
Reed, a Baltimore native, has used nearly 40 years of professional and collegiate baseball experience to make national and international connections.
At Towson University, he played under Billy Hunter, the longtime Orioles coach and former Texas Rangers manager. Reed has coached high schoolers, pony leaguers, and college players; he also spent time as the coordinator of the Urban Baseball Camp for the Kansas City Royals.
“With some of my experience in scouting and just being in the game as long as I’ve been in the game, we’ve got a lot of eyes all over the world – literally,” Reed said. “We’ve got a lot of friends that want to see us be successful here at Coppin. We tend to get calls from coaches, summer coaches, on kids that may not be on the radar for a lot of schools.”
If it weren’t for Jahmon Taylor’s travel ball coach, for instance, the playing career of Coppin’s junior right-hander may have ended after high school. True to Reed’s word, he picked up the call from Taylor’s coach and traveled south to watch the Florida native pitch.
“I wasn’t getting recruited by other schools,” Taylor said. “Coppin was my only opportunity to continue my career after high school. That opportunity is really what’s motivated me up to this point.”
This season, the once-overlooked right-hander boasts the lowest ERA in the MEAC (2.88), as well as 64 strikeouts and an opponents’ batting average of .226.
Melting pot to postseason contender
Taylor is one of five players from Florida – the state with the most players at Coppin. With such a mixed group from various backgrounds and cultures, building team camaraderie may seem difficult. But, according to senior outfielder Andres Santana, it’s the opposite.
“With all the different cultures, I think it makes it easier (to mesh),” said Santana, who is from New Jersey. “You want to learn – you want to learn from their background and what their state or city or country’s like. We become more interested in learning about each other. I think it makes our bond become stronger.”
Reed’s no-stone-unturned method has resulted in an historic season. Coppin (17-21-1 overall, 16-4 conference) currently sits in first place of the MEAC North. A 12-8 win on Sunday over Delaware State University, secured the Eagles 14th MEAC win, breaking the 22-year-old record for most conference wins in a season.
For a team that hasn’t won a conference title since 1995, the Eagles do not lack confidence, which they hope to carry into the final stretch of their regular season. Only one conference win separates them from clinching a playoff berth. They’ll have three shots against Norfolk State University and one more against Delaware State to get that necessary victory before the MEAC Tournament begins May 16 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“This team is so driven,” Taylor said. “Everyone wants (a championship). If we lose a game, you can see it in everyone’s eyes. They know we shouldn’t be losing. There’s nothing but motivation and confidence coming from every one of our players.”
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week
Jack Barry, 3B, Salisbury University
Junior/Laurel, Md./Reservoir High School/ Bats/Throws: R/R
Keeping Barry off our top performers list has been almost as hard as getting the Laurel native out. Barry was named Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Week after going 10-for-17 at the plate over a four-game stretch. He notched seven extra base hits, including two home runs. Barry scored seven runs and fell just a single short of the cycle in an 11-3 win over Penn State, Harrisburg. He finished the regular season batting .408 with seven homers, 28 RBIs, 42 runs scored and six stolen bases. With the help of Barry, Salisbury (28-10 overall, 15-3 conference) clinched the top seed in the CAC.
Marcos Castillo, OF, Coppin State University
Freshman/Round Rock, Texas/ Bats/Throws: R/R
Castillo earned MEAC Baseball Rookie of the Week honors for the first time. In a three-game series against Delaware State, Castillo went 6-for-10, driving in five runs and scoring five times. He registered one RBI in each game, helping Coppin take two-of-three from the Hornets. On the year, Castillo is batting .306 with 38 hits and 22 RBIs; he has also swiped 10 bases.
Dillon Bowman, SS, Johns Hopkins University
Sophomore/Greensboro, N.C./ Bats/Throws: R/R
Tied for the Centennial Conference lead in home runs, Bowman launched another three bombs against Dickinson College to bring his total to eight. In the first game of a doubleheader against the Red Devils, Bowman hit a two-run homer to put the Blue Jays on the board. In the fifth inning and trailing 3-2, Bowman took an 0-2 pitch over the left field fence to tie the game, which Hopkins ultimately won, 9-7. In the Blue Jays’ second win of the afternoon, Bowman sent a solo shot over the left-center fence to put Hopkins up 7-3. The Blue Jays’ 9-4 victory clinched the second seed in the conference tournament.
The U.S. Naval Academy (34-12 overall, 18-7 conference) concluded its Patriot League schedule with a doubleheader sweep of Lafayette College. Navy has clinched at least a No. 2 seed in the Patriot League playoffs. The only team with a chance to take the top spot from Navy is the U.S. Military Academy (Army). Army would have to win all four of its final Patriot League games to steal the top seed from Navy. … In a 4-1 win over Delaware State, Coppin’s Reed won his 55th MEAC game, breaking the school record for conference victories. With 81 career wins, Reed is only two shy of Jason Booker’s all-time school record. … Hood College (29-9 overall, 12-9 conference) defeated Johns Hopkins 7-5 in 12 innings in the Blazers’ final non-conference tune-up before the postseason starts. Hood finished with its best record in program history, and went a perfect 17-0 against non-conference opponents.
Matchup to watch
On Thursday evening, Hood makes its first playoff appearance in school history against Arcadia University. Hood is 1-2 versus Arcadia on the year.