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April 14, 2003 - Image 12

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4B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - April 14, 2003





Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney attempts to reconstruct a broken program

By Gennaro Filice Daily Sports Writer

very morning, upon entering his office located directly
under the stands of Ray Fisher Stadium, Michigan
aseball coach Rich Maloney encounters his deepest
desire: Perched directly over the skipper's desk, a poster-sized
print showcases a location that, upon viewing, causes anyone
who has ever touched a baseball to salivate. A venue that
annually displays amateur baseball's finest talent. A ballpark
that drives Maloney forward each day. What is this mecca of
America's pastime? Omaha, Neb.'s own Rosenblatt Stadium
- host of college baseball's World Series.
"That's the plan, that's all part of the plan, that's the
dream," Maloney said as he endlessly gawked at the print. "I
want to go to Rosenblatt. I want to take a team there, and I
want to be a part of that. I'm a dreamer."
Taking over a program that hasn't enjoyed a winning sea-
son this millennium (1999 was the last time the Wolverines
finished above .500), many may consider Maloney's Rosen-
blatt-dreamin' wishful thinking. But Michigan's new field-
general carries a mystique on the diamond that commands
respect. As senior infielder Jordan Cantalamessa simply puts
it, "Wherever this guy goes, people start doing well."
Currently in his first season with the Wolverines, the 37-
year-old Maloney has already led the Wolverines to a 14-15
record through 29 games (a three-game improvement from
last year's 11-18 record through the same amount of
games). Although progress in his inaugural season is
important, Maloney knows that the rebuilding process
doesn't happen overnight.
"We are going to lay the foundation this year for future
success in the program," Maloney said.
Michigan players fully support their new coach and share
his confidence in the coming years.
"You can definitely count on the future of Michigan base-
ball being positive," sophomore pitcher Matt Collins said.
After a minor league playing career and his first head
coaching stint at Ball State, Maloney hopes to utilize his
experience, knowledge and player-friendly coaching style to
rebuild a once-revered program that has recently fallen on
some tough times.
As Kelle Maloney (Rich's wife of 13 years) will tell you,
her husband developed a passion for baseball at a very
early age.
"From what his mother tells me, he grew up with a mitt
and ball in his hand at the age of two," Kelle said.
But, raised in the Detroit suburb of Roseville, Maloney's
sporting interests as a youth expanded beyond the diamond.
"Being a Michigan kid, typically because of the weather,
we all play many sports," Maloney said. "I loved football as a
quarterback; I had an absolute passion for football."
Feeling that he should concentrate on one sport, though
Maloney factored his short stature into the decision and
ditched the gridiron.
"With my size, (baseball) was a no-brainer for me ,"
Maloney said. "I wasn't going to be a John Navarre
type of guy."
Maloney flourished on the sandlot, and as a high
school senior in 1982, he decided to take his talents to
Western Michigan University.
"I always grew up wanting to play for Michigan, but unfor-
tunately I didn't have that opportunity (as he was not offered
a scholarship)," Maloney said. "The year before I went to
Western Michigan, they had nine players drafted. So I told
my dad that besides Michigan - because they were the pre-
mier program at the time - (Western Michigan) was where I
had to go."{
During his career as a Bronco, Maloney earned three varsi-

ty letters (1984-86) and served as team captain twice. Fol-
lowing a third-team All-America season as a senior short-
stop, Maloney was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 13th
round of the major league draft. Maloney spent six years in
the minor leagues, earning minor league all-star honors
After finishing up his playing days, Maloney wasn't ready
to leave his beloved game. After recalling the superb tutelage
he received throughout his career, Maloney found a way to
stay in the game.
"I think of the coaches who I played for, even when I was
young. I had several wonderful human beings breathe fresh
air into me; they really inspired me to become the best I
could be in baseball and in other endeavors," Maloney said.
"That's where I derived my coaching career from."
In his first coaching assignment, Maloney served as an
assistant for his alma mater from 1992 to 95. Not sure
whether his newfound passion would work out, Maloney
returned to school in 1993 to earn his teaching credential.
Although he did add an English degree to his communi-
cations/journalism undergraduate degree, thanks to an
enticing job offer, Maloney's teaching aspirations went on
hold - permanently. Ball State of Muncie, Ind. gave
Maloney his first head-coaching job, and he ran with it,
showing the enthusiasm that would eventually find a
home at Michigan.
"(At Ball State) we changed an attitude, and when we
changed an attitude, the program changed," he said. "We
used the motto, 'You gotta believe,' and they bought it, hook,
line and sinker - they went for it."
The last two years prior to Maloney's hiring, Ball State had
finished a combined 48 games under .500. Maloney swiftly
transformed the program from Mid-American Conference
bottom feeders to perennial contenders. In his seven years at
Ball State (1996-2002), he compiled a 256-144-1 record.
Maloney won two MAC championships (1999, 2001) and
two MAC Coach of the Year awards (1998, 2001).
As a Cardinal, Maloney prided himself on being fully ded-
icated to his players.
"While I was at Ball State, I had great relationships with
the players across the board, and they sold out for me
because I think they knew that I sold out for them, too,"
Maloney said.
Boasting a major league draft sum of more than 20 players
in his tenure at Ball State, Maloney enjoyed many special
moments. One of the most rewarding events of Maloney's
life occurred with an outfielder named Larry Bigbie. The
Baltimore Orioles selected Bigbie with the 18th pick of the
first round in 1999, and Maloney received the honor of deliv-
ering the news.
"I walk into (Larry's house) and I said, 'Hey Larry, I got
some news for you,' " Maloney recalled. "And he goes,
'What's up coach?' And I said, 'Son, you're a millionaire.'
He cried in my arms like a baby, (and that's) something I'll
never forget in my entire life."
Another player who enjoyed Maloney's instruction at Ball
State, pitcher Bryan Bullington, became the first MAC player
ever to be drafted first overall when the Pittsburgh Pirates
selected him last season. Bullington credits his success to
Maloney and his supportive coaching approach.
"On the field, he's got a lot of baseball knowledge, and he
works really well with his players," Bullington said. "Off the
field he's a class guy, and he'll do anything for his players to
help them advance in their careers - academically or on the
baseball field."
Maloney's stay at Ball State was ideal, but when Bill Mar-

Michigan coach Rich Maloney hopes to eventually lead the Wolverines to the College World Series for the first time since 1984.

tin offered him the chance to become the 18th head baseball
coach at Michigan, the coach had to fulfill his lifelong goal
of wearing the block 'M'.
"I came here because I felt in my heart that this was a spe-
cial place, and that this program was a sleeping giant waiting
to happen," Maloney said.
Kelle Maloney, who grew up next to Rich in Fraser, has
always strongly supported her husband's decision.
"We knew that (Michigan) is where we needed to be"
Kelle said. "We have family here in Michigan, and we both
grew up bleeding maize and blue."
The coach still misses the small university in Muncie, but
looks forward to spawning another successful program in
Ann Arbor.
"It was very hard to leave Ball State; it's still a struggle at
times because I miss the players that are still currently in the
program," said Maloney. "But, they know I love them, care
about them and wish them the best, and that I would give the
shirt off my back for them to do well. They'll always be a
part of my family.
"But now I get an opportunity to start a new family, and
that's a great thing, too."
Only two months into his career at Michigan, Maloney has
already connected with many Wolverines on an intimate
"Coach is almost like a role model figure, like a father fig-
ure, because he's always there with a helping hand, he's
always there when you're down," junior catcher Jake Fox
said. "(With Maloney's family atmosphere), you feel like you
have a lot more to play for."
Maloney's influence for the close-knit relationships with
his players comes from his strong situation at home.
Rich and Kelle - "the backbone of our family" according
to Rich.- have three children(Alex Nick and Natalie)-that
take precedent over everything.
"My real passion is being with my kids, so any time
that I really have, that isn't related to what I'm doing
here at the University, is really dedicated to my wife and

kids," Maloney said.
Besides the "family atmosphere," Maloney looks to incor-
porate many things into the Michigan program that he suc-
cessfully utilized at Ball State.
"We're repeating most of the steps and taking it a little fur-
ther with the experience of seven years (at Ball State)," Mal-
oney said. "When I had got that job, I was just a brand new
head coach, with no experience as a head coach, and so I was
acting instinctively - now I'm acting more on experience."
One of the key things Maloney wants to integrate into the
Wolverine game plan is a blue-collar style of play. Maloney
spoke of this desire in the third person as if he were viewing
the team.
"When (people) watch one of Maloney's teams play, it's all
about hustle, character and drive - it won't be a lack olO
those things that will determine our success because we'll
have those ingredients," Maloney said.
Maloney strives to establish very well-rounded student-
athletes who enjoy success off as well as on the field.
"I value education very highly" Maloney said. "If we win
on the baseball field, but we lose in the classroom, then we're
not really winners. You want to excel at everything you do.
"Bill hired me definitely with (education) in mind. We're
all at the same accord here, we believe that the Michigan
degree is a very important thing in these kids' lives."
Although Maloney's goals at Michigan are vast, the coach
refuses to lower his lofty expectations.
"When you're a dreamer and achiever, you get after it,
that's all we know," Maloney said. "We don't know any dif-
ferent, and we don't settle for mediocrity - it's not a part of
who we are."
So, Maloney's Omaha fantasy lives on. Michigan's last trip
to the eight-team College World Series - which represents
the last;Big Ten team toplay in Rosenblatt -occurred in
1984 under the leadership of shortstop Barry Larkin.
Maloney knows that the rebuilding process at Michigan
will be a long, hard procedure. But, he continuesto dreamf
gazing into the Rosenblatt print..

By the pool or in the mud, Michigan water polo coach Matt Anderson is always there to support his team

By Ellen McGarrityfl Daily Sports Writer

t was an unseasonably warm day in March,
and Michigan water polo coach Matt Ander-
son was out with his team while it ran laps
around the soccer field.
"All the snow had just melted, and there was
this big puddle of mud," said freshman Megan
Hausmann, remembering the incident. "And he
said to Rachel (Burkons), 'You don't have to
come to morning practice tomorrow if you dive
head first into that puddle.' And Rachel just ran
face first and plopped into it. Then Matt said,
'Anybody else not want to go to morning prac-
tice?' "
After this tempting invitation, Anderson's
entire team proceeded to dive into the mud pud-
dle, not caring what mess awaited them.
"The killer part is that Matt did it too!" senior
Delia Sonda said. "He went back to (his office)
and changed clothes just so he could dive in the

mud with us."
Anybody who knows Anderson well would
not be surprised that this 37-year-old man
would jump at the chance to share in his team's
romp in the mud. He's the kind of guy who will
one minute have his team doing practices that
would rival the USA National Team and the
next will jump in the pool with them, splashing
around with foam noodles and telling jokes.
"He has the potential to make people blos-
som," sophomore Sheetal Narsai said. "He finds
lots of potential in people and helps then grow
as a player."
The Road to Ann Arbor
Hired last November, after former coach
Amber Drury-Pinto left to take charge of the
University of California-Berkeley water polo
program, Anderson has had an enormously

positive impact on the team in his first season
at Michigan.
"I am truly blessed that I am able to interact
with these (players)," said Anderson about
becoming the new Michigan coach. "I just want
to allow them to enjoy their college experience."
But Anderson's water polo days began long
before he reached his ultimate goal of becoming
a collegiate head coach.
Born in West Germany where his father was
stationed in the Air Force, Anderson then
endured six moves across the U.S. until finally
settling in San Diego.
Anderson was first introduced to water polo
in high school when he played on club teams in
the summer. A couple years later, when his col-
lege roommate at San Jose State asked if he
would join the school's team with him, he didn't
hesitate to sign on.
Although San Jose State's team had just
been bumped from varsity status to club
because of Title IX, the team still had the priv-
ilege to play against other varsity teams and
even the national team.
By senior year, Anderson's coach, Vaughn
Kublecheck, saw potential in him to become a
successful coach, too, and suggested that he
start at the high school level. Anderson, who
was planning on beginning a career in journal-
ism, decided to take Kublecheck's advice and
began coaching a high school team.
"I was going to be the next great sports
reporter," said Anderson jokingly, "but that all
changed (when I began coaching water polo)."
For the next 10 years, Anderson continued to
coach at high schools in California, until 2000
when he jumped up to the collegiate level as
assistant coach for his alma mater, San Jose
State. A year later, he made a much bigger
move - across the country to join Indiana's
program as assistant coach.
After just one season, the opportunity of
being head coach at Michigan presented itself,
and Anderson beat out several other candidates
to earn his spot in Ann Arbor.
"I think very highly of Matt," Indiana coach
Barry King said. "I think it speaks volumes on
his coaching ability that he was only at IU for
one year as an assistant and now he is the head

top teachers of the game."
Anderson has not only impressed Michigan's
athletic department, but also the players he's
coached this season.
Older team members who have been around
long enough to see the team through two other
coaches will tell you that Anderson is the ideal
leader, combining the people-skills of former
coach Scott Russell and the water polo expertise
of Drury-Pinto.
"I think that Matt is more of a complete pack-
age," Sonda said. "He's the best coach that
we've had."
Anderson's knowledge of the game is exten-
sive, as he has coached at all levels and had the
chance to study with some of the nation's best
water polo players.
"He's coached both girls and boys, national
team players, collegiate players, and high school
players - he's been an assistant coach and a
head coach," Sonda said. "I'm sure this has
helped him to deal with the trials and tribula-
tions of thirty college age women."
Probably the most important assets Ander-
son brings to the team is his love of people
and his wonderful way of communicating with
his players.
"He has a way with relating to us that our
other coaches couldn't (achieve) as far as just
bringing out the best in us," senior Stephanie
Morse said. "He knows how to make us laugh
and how to stop fights. He knows how to get us
to work hard and from that, we know when it's
time to get in the game and when it's time to
have fun and enjoy ourselves."
When you enter Anderson's office, his dedi-
cation to the team is immediately evident.
Among the water polo paraphemnalia are pic-
tures of him with his team - at Six Flags, at a
pizza eating contest. And on his desk is a huge
jar of candy - always filled - for players and
guests to treat themselves to.
"I think the biggest thing he brings to the
team is heart;' Narsai said. "We can trust him.
He says that if anything ever happens to us, no
matter if it's three in the morning, we better call
him. He's kind of like family."
Michigan in Good Hands
A a Rare n aa, jv havPr~ol I nt mn ibfienatnc

tion for the Eastern Championships to be held
April 25-27 in Boston. If the team triumphs
there, it will earn another NCAA berth to the
final four.
"To be a good coach, number one is com-
munication with your players" Anderson said.
"Number two is getting the best out of your
players. And number three is understanding
the nuances of your game. I believe that if you
are a good coach, you can adapt to whatever
sport it is. I think Red (Berenson, coach of the
Michigan hockey team) could come over and
with a little bit of studying, could become a
good water polo coach. If you're a coach,
you're a coach."
Anderson is now looking forward to what he
can do with this team.
"The hopes I have (for the team) coincide
with the Michigan tradition," Anderson said.
"My goal is to play for a national championship
- because I've got to play for one before I can
win one."
Anderson has already made structural
changes to the team in hope of putting it at
a level closer to that of top-ranked West
Coast teams.
"He's doing more of a 'let's win' rotation now
than an 'everybody plays' rotation - it's not
about seniority," said Hausmann, who is a fresh-
man driver for the team.
Team members said they don't mind that
Anderson sometimes takes players out if they
aren't playing their best. Narsai commented that
Anderson has a good sense of when a player
doesn't match up with the other team. The goal
is to win the game, and keeping the players that
are at their best in the game is what counts.
Anderson has also made changes to the
team's practice schedule.
"This is the first year that I could say that we
have had a 'hell week' - a week or two of very
intense training," Sonda said. "He had us do that
(few weeks ago, and we were swimming four .
miles a day."
And according to Hausmann, the general
practices that the team does have also stepped
up in difficulty.
Looking ahead
It is likely that Anderson will continue to

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