The journey to 500 career wins is never an easy one in college baseball.
Texas Wesleyan head coach Mike Jeffcoat reached that 500-win milestone in the Rams 12-4 win over Bacone College earlier in March, a milestone he’ll never forget.
“It’s a great sense of accomplishment,” said Jeffcoat. It says a lot about our program. It’s a sentiment to the quality of players we’ve been able to get in here over the last 16 years and the coaching staff that we’ve been able to put together here at Texas Wesleyan.”
Before taking over the Rams program, the 10-year major league veteran pitched for the Rangers from 1987-1992 before retiring in 1994. He became the head coach at Texas Wesleyan in 2002 and the Rams have since become one of the premier baseball programs in NAIA under his watch.
“When I was playing, I was always interested in doing some kind of coaching when my playing days were over so I tried to ask a lot of questions among the managers I played for and the coaching staff I played for,” said Jeffcoat. “I believe a lot in the philosophy of Bear Bryant who said ‘before you can win, you’ve got to prevent yourself from getting beat’ and I try to apply that in our games daily.”
However, it is a challenge getting the type of players to continue to be successful. College baseball programs are limited in the amount of scholarships they can offer, from NCAA to NAIA.
“It's tough in baseball,” said Jeffcoat. “A lot of the college sports, even in Division I, are allowed a limited amount of scholarship money. You learn to spread it out and do the best you can. Some kids come in on academic money, financial aid money and sometimes you can help them out with a little bit of athletic money.”
But Texas Wesleyan has been able to land the talent necessary to building and maintaining its success thanks to the combination of facilities and experience. The Rams currently play at Sycamore Park right next to the campus and have a coaching staff with possibly the most major league experience in the nation. Along with Jeffcoat, Texas Wesleyan also has assistant head coach and former major league catcher Kelly Shoppach, a Fort Worth Brewer alum who played nine seasons in the show.
“For ten years, we played at LaGrave Field,” added Jeffcoat. “Then we went to Quick Trip Park in Grand Prairie and played there. We still have a nice facility here at Texas Wesleyan with the current field we are playing on and we have a great coaching staff.”
As for this season, Texas Wesleyan is currently ranked No. 15 in the latest NAIA poll with a 24-7 overall record. The Rams are 7-2 in the Sooner Athletic Conference and are riding an 11-game winning streak after the weekend sweep of Arlington Baptist. They’ve outscored their opponents 114-28 during that span. The Rams are quickly serving notice that they are more than capable of making a run in the NAIA Tournament in May.
It won’t be an easy road to the tournament as Texas Wesleyan still faces a tough schedule down the stretch. The Rams travel to Abilene on Wednesday to play McMurry University before facing Wayland Baptist for a weekend series in Plainview. After that, a trip across the metroplex to Richardson for a showdown with UT Dallas.
However, with the way the Rams have been playing ball lately, you can expect plenty of more wins to be added on to Jeffcoat’s career total before the smoke clears at the end of season.