Ben Malcomson: Mind, Body, and Soul: Jeff Mercer Embodies the Heart of an IU Program That Craves to be Elite
Do not let my title fool you. Our Indiana Hoosiers are a great baseball team. They have proven that. What they desire to be is on a whole other level. All teams want to win, win big, and win consistently. All teams want to be elite.
They have had a taste of a winning culture and a fan base that is rallying around this team in LARGER bodies due in LARGE part to winning baseball games and an uptick in social media exposure from places like my cream and crimson brothers and sisters over at iubase.com.
All that hard work to a better, brighter future was somewhat clouded recently when the news broke that Chris Lemonis was leaving the program to take over the same role at Mississippi State. Another good coach lost to one of the blue bloods of the collegiate sport. The question that was thrown around the most wasn’t, “Why did Chris Lemonis choose to leave?” The more important question being tossed around was, “Why do THEY keep choosing to leave?”
Is it about money alone? Is it weather-related? Is it just too hard to pass up the temptation of coaching a historically rich baseball program that is already solidified as a blue blood? Personally, I think it is all of the above in some fashion or another.
Before last night, the state of the program from a fan’s perspective was like staring at an incomplete canvas. Beautifully crafted, yet unfulfilled. Where is Bob Ross when you need him to draw in a happy tree to make you forget, for even just a moment, that life can suck sometimes?
Maybe I am getting a bit carried away. My point is, we have unfinished business. The only way forward is to find that next great artist to take on this project and turn it into something truly special.
In steps 32-year old Jeff Mercer (an Indiana native), who was announced yesterday that he will take over the role of head coach of the Indiana baseball team. This is not just a terrific hire, this is the right hire.
Let me break it down for you:
Mind – Sharp as a tack. This guy has the brains for the game like he was made for this. Proven success at all phases. Recruiting, development, and on-field play. How that translates to the Big Ten upper-tier level of play, only time will tell. But, it sure as hell does not hurt to be called the Brad Stevens of college baseball.
Body – His body of work. Best summed up with these samples from iuhoosiers.com article:
"Mercer was named Wright State head coach in July of 2016 and was the first former Raider player to lead the program. In his two seasons at the helm, WSU posted a 77-38 record (.670; average of 38.5 wins per season), a regular season and conference tournament title along with an appearance in the 2018 Stanford NCAA Regional, and the program's first ever national ranking in 2017. Mercer's squads posted a 43-15 record (.741) in conference games over the two seasons."
"Mercer brings a winning background to Indiana. In his time as a head coach (2017-18) and an assistant coach (2014-16) at Wright State, he has been a part of three Horizon League regular season and conference tournament titles, three NCAA appearances, and a combined record of 199-92 (.684). The Raiders won four NCAA tournament games over those three appearances, having reached the regional finals twice."
Soul – You can tell that this guy has a true love and passion for the game itself and those around him. You do not have to look very far to see numerous messages talking about Mercer as a recruiter, as a coach, and as a human being. His players in the past reflected that. His future players will reflect that as well.
At Indiana, he will have the opportunity to take full advantage of the resources given to him to build, mold, and create a true work of art.
The only real question left now that Lemonis is gone, what will the iubase.com team do about the Lemo hat? They cannot possibly continue the Lemo hat rewards. They will have to go with something new. How about Mercer Mullets? I like it! We just need to convince him to grow one and we are set!
In all seriousness, I am pleased with the hire. I think fellow Indiana fans are in for a real treat watching him lead this Hoosier baseball program into action next season.
I will say one last thing. How I managed to fit Bob Ross into this conversation is a miracle in of itself. Anything is possible, folks! New head coach Jeff Mercer said it best himself, “the sky is the limit for IU baseball.” That is right, Coach! I can dream too. Now, grow that mullet!
Best of luck to him. Have a great Tuesday! Go Hoosiers!