As USC baseball coach Ray Tanner wanted to find a comfort level with his new pitching coach as he sorted through an “onslaught” of applicants.
In convincing Jerry Meyers to return to his former position, where the Old Dominion coach served from 1997-2004 alongside Tanner, it’s safe to say the USC coach looked comfortable as he sat next to Meyers Monday at Carolina Stadium.
“It’s always been important for me to have some type of relationship with the people I’m going to be around,” Tanner said. “Sometimes that may be a little unfair, but I’m not resume-driven. Resumes are important, but I want to be around people (that are like) a family. It really is a family. You’re together 24-7 and becoming great friends is probably as important as how much (pitching) mechanics Coach Meyers can deal with the pitchers.”
Meyers, 45, did not say yes initially to Tanner’s entreaties, but he did not say no either. As the search went on for three weeks, Tanner did not give up as he went through the interview process with other candidates. And as Meyers considered the possibility of leaving ODU after six seasons, he thought about other factors as well.
“A lot of it goes back to the eight best years, in a lot of ways, not just in my coaching career, but in our lives,” said Meyers, who went 167-158 with the Monarchs.
He cited his respect for Tanner, the program’s tradition and improved facilties, and his family’s affection for the Columbia area as reasons for considering the return to USC, which also gave him the title of assistant head coach.
“It’s all about timing, and it’s about a gut feeling and what’s in your heart,” Meyers said. “Family-wise and hopefully career-wise, this is the right move to make.”
It does not hurt that the Gamecocks are coming off their first national championship, led by a deep pitching staff. Even with the loss of ace Blake Cooper, Meyers realizes the returning arms have the potential to help get the team back to Omaha. As pitching coach for the USC teams that went to the CWS three consecutive seasons from 2002-04, he already has his sights set.
“Our goal is going to be to do everything we can to hit the ground running and try to do my part the best I can to get us back in that situation,” he said.
Meyers concedes it was difficult to leave ODU as he tried to build a winning program at the school.
“I’ve got 35 guys, too, and it’s real hard to make a move. You have to know that you feel 100 percent like it’s the right move to make,” he said. “I feel like I’m leaving the program in a better situation than I inherited. That makes me have some satisfaction in the whole situation.”
Ironically, Meyers replaces the man who replaced him — Mark Calvi, who took the South Alabama head-coach-in-waiting job after the Gamecocks won the CWS a month ago.
Over the course of the search, several names percolated, including Louisville pitching coach Roger Williams and North Carolina pitching coach Scott Forbes, as well as former Gamecock standouts Kip Bouknight and Brett Jodie. But Williams and Forbes stayed at their respective schools, and Tanner, who denied a published report in Louisville that had Williams saying he was offered the job, ultimately decided on a more experienced hand.
“In the end, it all worked out and we got Coach Meyers to come back and be a part of this program once again,” Tanner said.