BEREA, Ohio -- The Baldwin Wallace University baseball team had fallen on hard times in the 2010 season, but after winning just 12 of their 36 games, the Yellow Jackets replaced the retiring 42-year head coach Bob Fisher with a young coach, Brian Harrison, who has become known for turning around the fortunes of programs everywhere he has been.
The former head coach of Cuyahoga Community College and Urbana University, and Westlake native, came home to Northeast Ohio, built upon the foundation of a 17-win season his first year, and tied the school record for wins in a season in each of the next two years, a mark he and the Yellow Jackets broke this year with their 29 wins, and counting.
Harrison not only led the Yellow Jackets to 29 wins this year, but also, the NCAA Division III College World Series for the first time in school history.
"He means everything to this program," sophomore infielder Mark Zimmerman said. "He brought an attitude once he came in of 'We're going to win the National Championship.' That's what he told me in my recruiting visit, and he takes that attitude every day, and he also brings that looseness.
"Just the hours he puts in, you could see the passion on his face when he's coaching. He walks the walk and talks the talk. It'd be awesome to reward him with a National Championship."
Senior pitcher Joe Capadona called Harrison "a great builder of talent," who takes the time to work with every player on the team, regardless of who recruited them, in order to get the best out of them for the good of the program.
"What Coach Harrison's done is literally turn the program around," Capadona said. "We weren't his recruits. We came in to play for the previous coach. He molded us, even though we weren't part of his recruiting class. He molded us into the great players that we've become. We have some really outstanding seniors this year.
"He loves the game, and he taught us how to play with a passion. Him having such success as a player, he's taught us how to be winners. When he got here, it was a loser's mentality, not a lot of winning years in the past. He brought just a new mentality, a new set of core values, and he's brought this together."
Fellow senior pitcher Dylan Fodor believes Harrison has had success at BW because the players respect his honest, straightforward approach to the game.
"If you're doing a good job, he'll let you know. If you're not, he'll let you know," Fodor said. "If there's something you've got to work on, he'll find out what it is you have to do to succeed. If he tries something with you and it doesn't work, he'll be the first one to admit that it was his fault.
"If he messes up in a game, maybe with a call, substitution or something, he'll be the first one to take the blame for it. Then, on the other side, if it's your fault, he won't hold that grudge. If you mess up during a game, and it's a crucial part of the game, he'll let you know, but he won't hold that grudge and carry it over to the next game."
The Yellow Jackets' top two hitters, junior All-American first baseman Kyle Chontos and sophomore infielder Mark Zimmerman, chose to come to BW over going to other schools because of Harrison.
And they are not alone in that regard, as the Yellow Jackets look to turn this first trip to the College World Series into the first of many in the near future.
"I had a couple schools that were looking at me for baseball," Zimmerman recalled. "I had a couple D-II schools, but the main reason was Coach Harrison. Just looking at his track record as the hitting coach at Dayton, he turned their offense around. Then, he went to Urbana and turned their whole program around. That was the main reason I came here."
Chontos added, "Coach Harrison was the first coach to say, 'I want you,' and that was really important to me to have a coach to say, 'Hey, I want you here in this program.' That really stuck with me, and that's why I ultimately came here.
"He's such a players' coach. He's so easy to get along with, and he just really cares about you. The passion that he has just rubs off on you. It just makes it easy to play for him and for a good group of guys."