COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State baseball head coach Greg Beals announced the promotion of pitching coach Mike Stafford to associate head coach on Wednesday. Stafford is entering his eighth season with the Buckeye baseball program.
“I am very excited to announce Coach Stafford’s new title of associate head coach,” Beals said. “Mike and I have been together for a long time and he has earned this promotion. Our entire staff is looking forward to collectively working towards another championship run in 2018.”
“I feel very honored and fortunate to have been named the associated head coach for the Ohio State baseball program,” Stafford said. “I want to thank Gene Smith, Shaun Richard and Coach Beals for their continued support. I also want to thank my wife, Chelsea, who has been with me throughout the ups and downs of the coaching process. This isn’t about me. It’s about all the guys from the past to the present that has made Ohio State what it is today. I’m honored to go to work every day at my alma mater.”
Stafford, who is the longest tenured pitching coach in the Big Ten, is set to begin his 15th season as Beals’ pitching coach. During his time as a Division I coach, Stafford has been known for developing his pitchers as 17 have gone on to play professional baseball.
In 2016, Stafford's squad broke the school record for strikeouts in a season (495) during the team’s run to the Big Ten Tournament title. Tanner Tully was named a first team All-Big Ten selection. Both Tully and Michael Horejsei inked professional contracts with MLB organizations. The group led the Big Ten with a 2.63 ERA in conference play and ranked sixth in the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.07) and walks allowed per nine innings (2.47).
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Stafford led the boys in the singing of the fight song after the Buckeyes won the 2016 Big Ten Tournament title in Omaha in 2016.
In his first season at Ohio State, Stafford's staff lowered its team earned-run average from 5.24 in 2010 to 4.94 in 2011. In addition, Josh Dezse earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, senior right-hander Drew Rucinski garnered second team All-Big Ten laurels and freshman right-hander Greg Greve was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. After his strong 2011 campaign, Rucinski signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Indians in June 2011.
In 2012, Stafford helped the Buckeyes lower their team ERA down to 4.25 and guided sophomore Jaron Long to first team All-Big Ten honors. In addition, junior right-hander John Kuchno was selected in the 18th round of the MLB Draft.
In 2013, Stafford's pitching staff finished fourth in the Big Ten with a 3.24 ERA and ranked second in the conference with 393 strikeouts. Under his tutelage, closer Trace Dempsey garnered All-America honors from the NCBWA, Louisville Slugger and ABCA/Rawlings. In addition, Brad Goldberg was selected in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox and Brett McKinney was taken in the 19th round. Two months later, right-hander Jaron Long was signed by the New York Yankees after recording a 3.34 ERA in a pair of seasons with the Buckeyes.
In 2014, Stafford's staff finished with a 3.61 team ERA highlighted by Big Ten Freshman of the Year Tanner Tully. Senior right hander Greg Greve, a third team All-Big Ten selection, was selected in the 29th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins.
In 2015, Stafford’s staff finished with a 3.53 team ERA guided by third team All-Big Ten selection Ryan Riga and All-Freshmen team honoree Adam Niemeyer. Riga set the program record for scoreless innings streak (30.2 IP), while Trace Dempsey also broke the OSU career saves record (33).
Stafford, from Canton, Mich., and Plymouth Canton High School, was a part of Ohio State teams from 1994-98 that won two Big Ten championships, three Big Ten tournament crowns and went to three NCAA tournaments. The 1997 team was also the first to play in Bill Davis Stadium.
Stafford starred for the Buckeyes out of the bullpen his final two seasons. He led the team in earned run average in both 1997 (2.27) and 1998 (2.54), posting a combined 9-4 record in the process. He appeared in 52 games and he was a second-team all-Big Ten selection in 1998.
Stafford spent four seasons in professional baseball after graduating from Ohio State. He was drafted in the 41st round of the 1998 MLB draft by Toronto and played for two years with the organization. He moved to the New York Yankees and pitched for the Tampa Bay Yankees in 1999 and 2000. He then spent parts of 2000 and 2001 playing in the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system. Mike Stafford's first coaching opportunity came with the Columbus Clippers. He spent the 2001-02 seasons working as bullpen coach, warming up relievers during games, throwing batting practice and catching bullpens.
One day in the fall of 2003, Stafford received a phone call from Beals, who had received glowing recommendations about Stafford. The two spoke for about an hour on the phone. A week later Stafford interviewed for an opening on Beals' staff. The two have been together since. He resides in Sunbury, Ohio, with his wife Chelsea and her daughter, Abella and son, Mason.
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