PULLMAN – It’s supposed to be one of the sport’s cardinal sins – no crying in baseball – but Brian Green couldn’t brush away his emotions Wednesday as he was formally introduced as Washington State’s 17th baseball coach.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind I was not going to cry and I was going to be tough, and then I rolled in and saw this stuff and here come the tears,” Green said. “I can hear people saying, ‘Here he goes again.’ But I am going to cry today and I’m going to be proud of those tears, about what this place means to me and what this place is going to mean to my family.”
Seated next to athletic director Pat Chun and two Cougar ball caps – one crimson, one anthracite – at the Rankich Club Room at Martin Stadium, Green spoke about his vision for WSU’s baseball program, expanding on the recruiting tactics, offensive strategies and culture-building tools that helped him oversee a historic four-year run at New Mexico State.
The Cougars need Green to turn around a program that won 11 games last season under Marty Lees. Fortunately, he has some experience in that department. The Aggies went 11-38-1 during Green’s first season in Las Cruces. They followed with 34 wins in 2016, 35 in 2017, 40 in 2018 and 38 this season.
“I came from a school that’s pretty limited in resources, but not in heart, drive and passion,” Green said. “A big chip on our shoulder down in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and we found a way to be very successful without much.”
Green will have a few more toys and tools in Pullman, especially when WSU completes $10 million renovations to Bailey-Brayton Field, but he agrees there are more than a few parallels between his last job and his new one.
WSU lacks many of the built-in recruiting advantages many of its Pac-12 peers possess. Despite their rich history on the diamond, the Cougars haven’t been to the postseason since 2010 – the longest drought in the conference.
“It’s going to be really important in the recruiting process that you have home visit presentations lined up,” Green said, “and you just dominate your official visits and that you give the kids everything you have.”
Green and the Cougars negotiated a five-year contract, The Spokesman-Review learned earlier in the week. Chun confirmed Wednesday the contract would be worth $315,000 annually.
The WSU AD said he was struck by the level of detail Green went into when he articulated his plan for transforming the baseball program.
“When you study him, your first reaction is, how the heck is this guy putting up these types of numbers – with all due respect to New Mexico State – no matter what school he’s at,” Chun said. “To lead the country in those hitting categories, you have to ask, how is he doing this?”
NMSU owned the country’s top batting average this spring and Aggies infielder Joey Ortiz had more hits (106) and runs scored (85) than anyone in the country. Ortiz, a recent fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles, was one of Green’s top success stories in Las Cruces and perhaps the best example of his aptitude as a recruiter and talent developer.
“Joey Ortiz was the first player I ever called at New Mexico State,” Green said. “He was a 145-pound player … nobody was recruiting him and he could really, really hit without much power and he had really good hands. He committed to New Mexico State and at 160 pounds as a freshman, and then maybe 170 and then at 185 this year, led the country in hits.”
Green has yet to fill out his staff, but assured he’d handle duties as a hitting coach – a role he’s also held at NMSU, Kentucky and UCLA among other places.
“It’s a dream come true. He’s the exact guy you want to bring in,” WSU outfielder Brody Barnum said. “Just the things he’s got in the mix going, I think everyone on the team is going to be excited. Especially the pitching staff, getting some more runs.”
The Cougars ranked last in the Pac-12 in runs scored this season (247) and were eighth in team batting average (.263).
“Pitching, hard not to love the runs,” WSU junior righty Owen Leonard added. “I also had a buddy who played for (Green) at New Mexico State and he had nothing but good things to say about him. Trusted his hitting philosophy. He kind of slumped when I was playing for him at Everett Community College and he came out and he’s hitting the ball in the other gap. He’s putting the bat on the ball a lot more and I’m excited for all of our guys to be more well-rounded.”
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