The University of Miami club baseball coach, Mike North, has instilled in his players a ritual he views as absolutely necessary to both the success and the morale of his team.
And it couldn’t have less to do with baseball.
“He demands to go to Hooters on every road trip in the name of tradition,” former club president Robbie Shiver remembers. “No matter how inconvenient it was, and how little everyone else wanted to go, we always ended up there.”
“We celebrated in Melbourne at Hooters after sweeping Florida Tech,” North recalls wryly. “But it was more commiseration in Tallahassee after dropping some close, hard-fought games to Florida State.”
However, between the lines, North is far from a reflection of his favorite road-trip watering hole. The former Penn State pitcher and UM grad carries much more experience than a typical club sport coach. His club coaching days began only after he had served as the director of baseball operations at Daytona State College, where he says he “earned his master’s in baseball.”
It was that opportunity that allowed him to lead a UM club team that he remembers “had not won a total of 10 games in three years” to 11 wins in his first year calling the shots.
This season the team sits at 10-6 with series against the University of Florida and Florida International University remaining. North is still hopeful about a playoff berth.
“We need to win all our upcoming games and probably get a little help from other teams, but we are definitely still alive,” he said.
UM has swept the season series against Florida Tech, has won three out of four games against FIU and has even beaten the University of Central Florida, which figures to be ranked in the top 25 by year’s end. North’s influence on the winning season has not been lost on the team.
Ryan Solow, the club’s current president, worked closely with North all year after convincing him to return to coaching after a one-year hiatus.
“He knows how to communicate baseball to a group of college kids who all have their own ideas about how to play the game,” he said. “He perfectly straddles that line between coach, friend and mentor.”
Solow credits North for the progress of the pitching staff in particular.
“Our pitchers have won a number of Conference Pitcher of the Week awards, and our staff is up there with the nation’s leaders in innings pitched,” he said.
Solow and Shiver agree that if not for their coach’s steady leadership and fairness in observation of the game, the club’s vast improvement would not be reflected in the win column.
“I really like coaching this team because they want to be great so badly,” North said. “Everyone hates losing more than they like winning. That’s why Sunday losses to FSU are so tough; nobody likes driving eight hours home in a baseball uniform after a loss.”
As for the future of the club, North plans to be ambitious in trying to schedule the best competition available.
UM is part of the National Club Baseball Association, which includes teams from more than 100 colleges and universities across the country.
The competition level of the NCBA is comparable to that of Division II and III college programs.
UM is in the NCBA’s South Atlantic Conference – South with state rivals Florida Tech, University of Central Florida, UF and FSU.
North says he has begun talks with various varsity junior college and Division II schools for games in the fall.
“If you want to beat the best, do what they do,” North said.