Skylar Meade was hired as South Carolina’s pitching coach nearly a month after the Gamecocks wrapped fall practices. The 2018 regular season begins in February.
It’s a unique situation that doesn’t come with a handbook, Meade admitted Tuesday afternoon at Founders Park. The 33-year-old is in midst of a crash course in getting to know his players before he positions them for real competition.
“You just got to roll with the punches and figure it out,” Meade told a crowd of reporters.
Meade officially became Jerry Meyers’ replacement last Monday. He’s beginning to settle in Columbia after three successful years at Michigan State.
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Meade’s résumé made him a solid choice. The former Louisville pitcher has been a pitching coach for a decade, climbing from Eastern Illinois to Middle Tennessee State to MSU.
In the release that announced Meade’s hire, first-year USC coach Mark Kingston noted his “proven track record of leading his staff to achieve at an elite level, including the third-best ERA in the NCAA in 2016.”
Pitching is a question mark for Carolina this spring. The Gamecocks lost two weekend starters and their top three relievers from a season ago.
Enter Meade, whose Spartans carded a 3.45 earned run average under his tutelage. Michigan State in 2016 set a school record with 466 strikeouts.
“I’m really big on presence and how you present yourself,” Meade said. “I think guys that carry themselves with the chest out and have the bravado, I think good things tend to happen to them, especially as pitchers.
“So we started talking about that as recently as yesterday in that meeting. So guys who are confident, that carry themselves a certain way, go about their business without screwing around, those are the kind of guys I certainly vibe with.
“That certainly doesn’t mean I’m not having a whole heck of a lot of fun. It’s a blast to be out there. All of the guys – not just the pitchers I’ve met – those guys carry themselves very, very well. They’re a humble group from what I can tell from phone conversations, meeting them in person, texting with different guys throughout the day.
“So I think they have the qualities needed to do the things we want to do here.”
Meade got his first taste of USC baseball last March when the Spartans dropped both games of a weekend series at Founders.
The park averaged a crowd of 6,838.
“To actually coach down here and see the atmosphere live and in person was outstanding,” Meade said. “So I felt like I had a real good impression and that was one of things that I think made things a little easier with our team at Michigan State, is them having played here.
“So those guys fully understood, when this opportunity arose, it’s something you couldn’t really pass up.”
Meyers spent 15 seasons with the Gamecocks – including the 2011 national championship run – before announcing an indefinite medical leave of absence earlier this month.
Meade said a meeting with his predecessor is in the works.
“You’re getting a lot of info from different guys, but nobody knows the staff better than Jerry,” Meade said. “So I’m excited to do that. I appreciate he’s willing to do that with me.”
It’s all part of Meade’s hurried getting-to-know-you process.
“To say I’m going to know who’s a real dude and who’s not just by playing catch, that’s not going to happen,” Meade said. “But we’re going to try and get real inventive.
“My communication is going to be constant with these guys throughout the break when they do their winter program, so that we can all be as dialed in as possible when we get back Jan. 16 and start preparing for the season.”