Johns Hopkins University head coach Bob Babb grew up in a baseball household.
Not only did he play, but his father, John, was the head coach at Bloomsburg High School and later Bloomsburg (Pa.) University.
When Babb decided to attend Johns Hopkins University, however, it was as a basketball player, a point guard. Baseball would be his second priority, but he thought attending Hopkins would be his best opportunity to play both.
He did, for a year. Then he quit playing basketball, remained with the program as a student assistant, and concentrated on baseball.
Babb played all over the diamond – mainly the infield — for the Blue Jays from 1974 to 1977. He’s still one of the program’s all-time leaders in stolen bases with 65.
Then he began dabbling in coaching.
Fast forward about 38 years.
Creating a baseball legacy
Babb, 62, is one of the most established and successful head coaches in college baseball. He has 1,102 career victories (5th most active in Division 3), 13 Centennial Conference titles, 20 NCAA Regional appearances and three World Series appearances.
Not too bad for a basketball-first guy.
After graduating from Hopkins, Babb couldn’t stay away from campus. He helped his old head coach, Denny Cox, with the baseball team and also worked as a football assistant, remaining as part of that staff until 1998. (In 1993, he assisted Hopkins’ defensive coordinator Chip Kelly, who ultimately became the nation’s Coach of the Year at the University of Oregon before heading to the NFL.)
Babb has spent a career juggling various interests and goals. While an assistant baseball coach, he taught social studies for two years at Lansdowne High School. After being named head coach at Hopkins in 1980, he continued to pursue his Master’s degree from Morgan State University, while teaching physical education classes there.
He was in his mid-20s when he landed Hopkins’ head coaching job, a rather unique situation.
“We had 18 guys try out and, naturally, all 18 made it,” Babb said. “I think nine or 10 of them were seniors who played with me when they were freshmen and I was a senior.”
He had a terrific first season, going 21-6-3 and earning a trip to the NCAA Regional tournament. In 1989, Babb’s club made its first Division 3 College World Series tournament and was Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) champions.
“We had a team very similar to this year’s team in that maybe we weren’t the most talented,” he said, “but we got the most out of our talent.”
It would be another 19 seasons before he led the Jays back to the World Series, but over that span he collected 10 regional tournament appearances and nine, 30-plus win seasons.
Heartbreak and continued success
In 2008, Babb may have had his most talented squad: A 42-8 record and a gut-wrenching World Series experience.
After winning their first two games, the Blue Jays lost to Trinity (Conn.) College. They then had to beat Trinity twice to win it all. After a 4-3 victory in the first contest, Johns Hopkins took a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth in the championship game before consecutive, bases-loaded walks ended its title hopes, 5-4.
Two years later, Babb and the Jays would return to the College World Series tournament, but finished fifth.
Babb has had plenty of success since, including four regional tournament appearances, a couple of conference championships and several impressive milestones.
In 2014, Babb collected his 1,000th career victory and had Hopkins’ new diamond, Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium, named after him. The grand opening of the multi-million-dollar project brought in hundreds of friends, family and baseball alumni.
“It was quite an honor,” Babb said. “It’s something I am very proud of, naturally.”
The following summer, he was notified of his induction into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“I think I got a call in August, before the January ceremony, saying that I was elected,” he said. “And, again, that was quite an honor.”
Leading men in 2017
This year, Babb has another solid squad. The Blue Jays are ranked fourth in Division 3 with a 33-6 record and host the Centennial Conference tournament beginning today.
“If things go right, we could go a long way,” Babb said. “If they don’t, we could have a sudden end to our season.”
During his time at Hopkins, Babb has coached 12 Centennial Conference Players of the Year, nine Pitchers of the Year and 15 of his former players have signed pro contracts.
He’s also led hundreds of young men, such as 2017 senior captain, Tommy Mee.
“He’s taught me the mental side of the game. My stats have gone up each year because of his coaching,” Mee said. “He’s also a big supporter of academics, and wants us all to be contributing members of society.
“He’s a hero of mine.”
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week
Tyler Friis, OF, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Jr./Appleton, Wisc./Appleton North HS
Friis was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Player of the Week on Monday. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound leadoff hitter batted .500 with seven runs scored, four RBIs and four extra base hits. He now leads the team with 24 runs scored and becomes the second Hawk player to earn MEAC honors this season.
Richie Palacios, INF, Towson University
Soph./Brooklyn, N.Y./Berkely Carroll School
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound standout infielder had another solid weekend. He hit .500 in three games against the College of William & Mary, including an extra base hit of each kind. Palacios also scored four times and drove in a pair of runs.
Greg Schneider, RHP, Frostburg State University
Jr./Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson HS
Schneider was named Capital Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week and was placed on the D3Baseball.com Team of the Week. The righty struck out a career-best 15 batters against Mount Aloysius last Wednesday. He allowed three hits and one run while picking up his fourth win of the season. His 103 strikeouts are the most in Division 3 this season.
Moments worth mentioning
Stevenson University head coach Jason Tawney is stepping down from his post, according to industry sources. Tawney has been in charge of the Mustangs for the past 15 seasons. During his tenure, Stevenson claimed three, runner-up finishes in the North Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, two in the Capital Athletic Conference and two in the MAC Commonwealth. An official announcement is expected at a later date. … On Sunday, Salisbury University upset then top-seeded Shenandoah (Va.) University, 8-4. The Seagulls (31-9) have won eight of their last nine. … Many of the local Division 3 teams saw their seasons come to an end in the past week. Hood College (20-20), McDaniel College (13-22), Stevenson (18-22), St. Mary’s College of Maryland (9-22) and Washington College (15-23) all missed out on their respective conference tournaments. Frostburg State (17-19) also did not qualify for the postseason, but has three non-conference matchups remaining on its schedule. … The University of Maryland (30-13) is now 3-0 in capturing “The Ripken Cup” against Towson University. The Terps won the annual, in-state clash at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen on Wednesday, 6-5. … Maryland head coach John Szefc is the first coach in program history to lead the Terps to five consecutive, 30-win seasons. … Navy catcher Adrian Chinnery has made the cut of 10 finalists for the nation’s Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) Award. Voting for the annual honor, which is given to a Division 1 athletes for outstanding leadership on and off the field, is conducted here.
Matchup to watch
There’s an interesting game Sunday at the United States Naval Academy. The Midshipmen (36-15) host Division 3’s Susquehanna University (Pa.) for their final, regular-season game. Navy added the contest to keep the rust off between its early May contest with University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Patriot League semifinals May 13. The game counts towards the Mids’ overall record. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m.