UTA baseball gains NJCAA hall of fame coach

The UTA baseball team stands for the national anthem before the game against Texas A&M University Corpus Christi on Feb. 14 at Clay Gould Ballpark.

On Aug. 21, the baseball team added a Hall of Famer to its coaching staff in volunteer coach Galen McSpadden.

He has had an illustrious career as a player and a coach, being inducted into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame, the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, the Athletics Hall of Fame at Southeast Missouri State University and the Liberal Bee Jays Hall of Fame.

McSpadden’s coaching career began at Seward County Community College in 1982. He became the program’s head coach after ending his playing career with the San Diego Padres organization. He said it was initially hard to find players that would want to play for Seward County without full scholarships.

“Not only were we stuck out in rural America where no one wants to go to Liberal, Kansas,” McSpadden said. “To make them come there, and they had to pay for some of their schooling, it was very, very hard to recruit.”

McSpadden said he called recruits to gauge their interest in the Seward County program and made sure they got a real opportunity to play.

He retired in 2018 following 37 seasons with the Seward County Saints. After retiring he moved to Midlothian, Texas, where he could maintain a relationship with his family. Although he ended his coaching career, he had always wondered what it would be like to coach at a Division I-level university. He said he still wants to make an impact on the lives of young men and help in the game.

“The passion is still there. Because I retired didn’t mean that the fire went out,” McSpadden said. “You can put out a fire, but a lot of times there’s a lot of hot coals, all you gotta do is throw some opportunity on there and the fire starts again.”

He was offered a volunteer coaching position by head coach Darin Thomas, who made time to keep in touch with him. Thomas played for McSpadden as a freshman in 1985 and coached alongside him at Seward County from 1991 to 2000.

McSpadden is joining a team that picked up a 12-4 record before the season ended abruptly due to COVID-19.

“When we had the opening, and we were getting ready to hire Brady [Cox], we knew we needed a volunteer assistant,” Thomas said. “I was thinking it, but then I heard different people, including coach [Chad] Comer, go, ‘What about coach McSpadden?’”

Thomas and the rest of the baseball staff saw the opportunity to bring McSpadden in as a homerun. He said McSpadden will bring a lot of experience to the team, and that’s something both the coaching staff and players can benefit from.

As McSpadden enters his first year at UTA, he already has relationships established with coaches and players like pitchers Tanner King and Ryan Thomas, and infielder/outfielder Dylan Paul. He also coached Jakob Hernandez, a former UTA player who went pro. McSpadden said he feels accomplished about making an impact on the young men he has had the opportunity to coach.

“My biggest accomplishment is knowing that I may have had a difference in a lot of people’s lives, and for that I’m very thankful,” McSpadden said. “You don’t coach for the money at some levels, you do it for the love of the game.”

King said McSpadden is the reason he is still a pitcher and why he came to UTA. As a freshman, King went to Seward County not knowing how to pitch, but McSpadden taught him the nuances of the position.

“He pretty much taught me this pitch works with this pitch well,” King said. “He made me more effective as a pitcher.”

King said McSpadden also taught him how to lead by example. He said he knows the Hall of Fame coach will make a positive impact on the Mavericks.

“He’s a huge addition to this team. You just don’t make the Hall of Fame by accident,” King said. “He has a lot of experience, and I think the guys will like him a lot.”

Before coming to UTA, McSpadden served as Seward County’s athletic director. In his 37 seasons, he picked up 1,243 wins, ranking him seventh all-time in NJCAA history. He also appeared in multiple JUCO World Series.

Splitting time as an athletic director and baseball coach enlarged his vision to create a better athletic department. McSpadden has helped 85 players sign on with MLB organizations.

McSpadden said he was able to shape the minds of many young men, and he helped them accomplish their goals, whether they wanted to play baseball at the university level or wanted help as individuals outside of the sport.

“No matter whether they win or lose at the game, I want them to feel worth. I want them to feel appreciated,” McSpadden said. “I want them to come out confident [and] able to make their own decisions.”

@JayRod003

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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