February means one thing for college sports; baseball is right around the corner, and the Tigers are more ready than ever.
When former Tiger head coach Daron Schoenrock retired after over 18 seasons with the program, the Tigers hired Kerrick Jackson in May to become its 17th head coach in program history, as well as its first black baseball coach. Upon his hiring, Jackson praised the potential of the program in his introductory press conference.
“I have always believed that this is a special program with unlimited potential ,”he said. “When you factor in the City of Memphis and its passion, the region and its talent, the baseball program and its history, and the University and its credibility, you have all you need to build a nationally respected program.”
Jackson spent time as an assistant coach throughout multiple college programs, and was the head coach for Southern University in 2018. After three seasons there, he left to become the president of the MLB Draft League, which specializes in developing and finding college level talent for the professional level.
It is safe to say that Jackson is highly qualified to coach the Tigers to success, and his players would agree.
“Coach Jackson has been phenomenal,” said sophomore pitcher Ethan Vandament. “I’ve never played for a coach who understands the game to the level that Coach Jackson does. He’s a true teacher of the game, he’s more concerned with us players learning the game than the result right now.”
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Drew Edwards spoke about how Jackson is changing the culture at Memphis.
“I think Coach Jackson has been amazing thus far,” Edwards said. “He has integrated a mentality and culture into this program that will surely last for many years to come. He has preached that we need to buy in, and be 100% bought in for us to excel. I believe that every player has done that already, and if that can be the standard in the future, there is a bright future for this program.”
The hiring of a new head coach brings new expectations from fans and the media, and the players themselves seem to have high hopes for the new season. “My expectations this season are to be above .500, win a conference championship,
and compete in a regional,” Vandament said.
“My expectations for this year are to win the conference championship and make a regional,” Edwards added. “Our team is half new players and half returners. I feel like we have integrated well, but we are still learning how to play with and for each other every day. We have a lot of room for improvement, but I think we will figure it out sooner rather than later.”
Excitement is building, not only for the new coach, but for the offseason renovations that were made to FedEx Park. A brand-new scoreboard, as well as a new turf field was built thanks to a $1.5 million donation by Avron Fogelman. The players are happy with the changes.
"I’m most looking forward to playing in this new stadium with this new team,” Edwards said.
“This is my fourth year here, and I am so excited to be able to represent this university on a beautiful new field with a great group of guys.”
The Tigers open the season at home on February 17 against Samford for the first of a three-game series.