Jan. 21, 2011
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head baseball coach Brad Hill announced today a restructuring of his coaching staff with the hiring of two new assistant coaches and the transitioning of long-time assistant coach Sean McCann.
Former Kansas hitting coach John Szefc (pronounced CHEF) has been named Associate Head Coach and will serve as the team’s hitting coach. Also, former Wildcat assistant Josh Reynolds has been hired as the pitching coach.
McCann, who has served as the Cats’ pitching coach and recruiting coordinator since Hill was named head coach prior to the 2004 season, has resigned from his full-time position due to health reasons. While reducing his workload, McCann will remain on the staff for the 2011 season as a volunteer assistant coach.
“I can’t express enough gratitude to Sean for everything he has done at Kansas State,” Hill said. “He has been an invaluable member of my staff at K-State since day one and has poured his heart and soul into making this program what it is today. He has been one of the biggest reasons K-State baseball has grown over the past several seasons. But it has taken a toll on Sean's health. We are happy he has decided to stay on staff this year in a reduced role, and we will continue to rely on him for his wealth of knowledge about the game and our program.”
In his seven seasons as pitching coach, McCann transformed the Wildcat staff into one of the best in the Big 12. His pitching staffs from 2005 to 2009 recorded the five lowest team ERAs in school history since the introduction of aluminum bats in 1977. In addition, he recruited and coached K-State’s career wins leader, Brad Hutt, career saves leader, Daniel Edwards, and single-season wins leader, A.J. Morris, the 2009 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. He also recruited and coach Ben Hornbeck, Thomas Rooke and James Allen to Freshman All-America honors. As recruiting coordinator, McCann signed 22 eventual All-Big 12 performers, including five named First Team All-Big 12 and the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year, Nick Martini.
“I want to thank Coach Hill for bringing me here seven years ago,” McCann said. “It has been a privilege to work side-by-side with such a good person and baseball man. I know Coach likes to give his assistant coaches credit for the successes of the program, but the fact is that Brad has been the person driving the players and coaches to reach new heights year after year.
“Right now I’m in a situation where I can no longer be relied on to work on a full-time basis, which is a requirement in order to be an effective coach at this level,” McCann continued. “Having to step back after putting all of my energy into this job over the last seven years is very hard. However, knowing that we have two excellent coaches entering the program in John and Josh makes things a lot easier. I’m very familiar with both guys and there is no question that K-State baseball is going to continue to climb the ladder with them.”
A 21-year coaching veteran who has helped guide teams to seven regionals and four conference championships at the Division I level, Szefc becomes the first Associate Head Coach under Hill at Kansas State. He will be the team’s hitting coach, direct the Wildcat offense and also work with the infielders. He replaces Andy Sawyers, who resigned on January 14, to become Associate Head Coach at Texas A&M.
“When we were looking at assistant coaches, we wanted to find someone who has a similar style of offense to what we have run the past couple seasons,” said Hill. “John’s highly aggressive and pressure-oriented offenses have been successful throughout his career. He also has recruiting ties in Texas, which is very important to our program.”
Szefc, who has coached 58 players that were either drafted or signed pro contracts since 1997, served as the head assistant coach at the University of Louisiana from 2003-08. During his first three years there, the Ragin’ Cajun offense saw a dramatic 60-point jump in batting average. In fact, three of his team’s batting averages still rank in the top five of UL history, including the 2005 squad that was second with a .327 average, set a school record for hits (774) and also finished second in runs scored (551) and RBI (490).
During Szefc’s tenure at UL, the Ragin’ Cajuns won the Sun Belt Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in both 2005 and 2007.
Szefc joined the staff at Kansas in 2009, and during his two seasons in Lawrence he helped guide the Jayhawks to a 17-point improvement in overall team batting average. In Big 12 games last season, Kansas hit .305, which ranked second in the conference, while it led the league in base hits, and finished second in runs scored and walks during league play.
Szefc also brings head coaching experience to Manhattan as he headed up the Marist program from 1996-2002, leading the Red Foxes to their first baseball title as a member of the Northeast Conference in 1997. He also guided Marist to three more NCAA Tournament appearances in 2000, 2001 and 2002, including a 41-14 record during his final year at the school. The 2002 squad claimed a victory over Southwest Missouri State in the NCAA Lincoln Regional, while five of Szefc’s players on that team went on to be selected in the MLB Draft.
Szefc won multiple awards as a head coach as he was named the 1997 NEC Coach of the year, while he earned American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Northeast Region Coach of the Year honors in 2001.
“This is an exciting situation to come into knowing the kind of group coming back between both the position players and the pitchers,” Szefc said. “I know how hard it was to beat these guys, and I’ve always respected the way that Brad runs the program and how the guys play with a blue-collar attitude. There are a lot of good players here with tons of experience. I want to come in and keep things going, mesh my ideas with Brad’s and keep the machine running well.
“I was fortunate that (KU Coach) Ritch Price gave me the opportunity to work in the Big 12. I had a good two years at Kansas and I very much value the experience that I had in Lawrence.”
A player at Connecticut before transferring to Drexel, Szefc earned his bachelor’s degree in corporate communications from Drexel in 1989, while he obtained a master’s degree in sports administration from Temple in 1992. He and his wife, Barbara, have a daughter, Anna (5), and two sons, John Michael (4) and Sam (1).
Reynolds, also familiar with the Big 12 as he was a volunteer coach at Kansas State in 2005 and 2006, will replace McCann as the program’s full-time pitching coach.
A 2006 K-State graduate, Reynolds was the pitching coach at Evansville in 2009 and 2010. Under Reynolds, UE dropped its team ERA by over a full point in two years, while he produced four All-Missouri Valley Conference pitchers in two years, the second-highest total among league schools during that span.
Reynolds was also successful recruiting in the upper Midwest, specifically the Chicago and Ohio areas, during his time at Evansville.
“Josh has played and coached under Sean before, including here at K-State, so he knows the expectations and how the program is run,” Hill said. “Josh has unbelievable feel for the game and did so as a player. He was the best athlete on the mound that I have ever coached. He will be able to pass that on to the pitchers in our program.”
Reynolds tutored Corey Davisson to 2010 All-MVC honors after setting the UE single-season records for appearances (33) and winning percentage (9-1, .900). Closer Tom Heithoff, a two-time All-MVC performer, totaled 18 saves under the direction of Reynolds, the second most in a career in school history.
Reynolds was a graduate manager for the Wildcats in 2008 after spending one season as the pitching coach at Northeast Texas Community College in 2007.
“I am excited to be back at Kansas State and work for Coach Hill,” Reynolds said. “I was fortunate to have played for him at Central Missouri State, and having the chance to work for him is special. I hope I can continue to add to the success that the pitching staff has enjoyed under Coach McCann. He’s been my mentor in this profession. He’s the one that got me into coaching, and I’m in this position today because of everything I’ve learned from him.”
A former player under Hill at Central Missouri State from 1998-2000, Reynolds was the No. 4 pitcher at his high school and, with a great work ethic, became a two-time MIAA and All-American pitcher for the Mules. Reynolds was drafted in 2000 by the New York Mets in the third round after his junior season.
The Holts Summit, Mo., native, broke the career record for wins at Central Missouri with 32, which came in just three seasons on the mound. He also ranks in the top five all-time in innings pitched and strikeouts. During Reynolds’ time at Central Missouri, the Mules amassed a 132-31 record, won three MIAA titles and made two appearances in the Division II World Series. Central Missouri recognized Reynolds’ achievements in 2007 by inducting him into its athletics Hall of Fame.
Reynolds was married to the former Ashleigh Freeman in 2008.
Kansas State opens the 2011 season with a three-game series at Pacific beginning on Feb. 18. The 31-game home schedule opens on Friday, March 4, with a four-game series against Western Illinois. Season and single-game tickets may be purchased by visiting the K-State Athletic Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets.