Rich Maloney gets win No. 600 against Lipscomb
The Daily News
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday night, Lipscomb hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, where it was fielded and fired to first, giving Ball State their third win of the season.
For Ball State coach Rich Maloney, it was much more than just another digit in the win column.
Saturday’s win was No. 600 in Maloney’s coaching career. He spent 1996-2002 coaching Ball State before leaving to spend 10 seasons with Michigan.
Now returning the university where he got his start, Maloney was glad the landmark win occurred here.
“If I wasn’t at Ball State, I never would have had my 10 years at Michigan,” Maloney said. “To do something like that is because of the help from a lot of people.”
He amassed four MAC West titles and coached 51 draft picks, including five first-round selections.
Maloney said although he enjoyed his years at Michigan and learned a lot, it means more to him that he reached the milestone while wearing the Ball State uniform.
“To be back here at Ball State for it, man does it feel special. Really, really special,” Maloney said.
Maloney stressed that the key to achieving consistent victory is in keeping the game simple. Instead of focusing on the opponent, players need to focus on themselves and executing the fundamentals.
While studying at Western Michigan, Maloney read a book called “In Search of Excellence” and said the end of the book shaped his baseball philosophy.
The end emphasized keeping things simple and not becoming overwhelmed.
“When I coach, I have always tried to keep that in mind,” Maloney said. “If you throw strikes to both halves of the plate, you don’t walk many people, you make the routine play routinely, you get a timely hit, you know how to advance runners and you play aggressive, you’ll have a chance to win most of the games you play in.”
Maloney believes that over the course of a 56 games, roughly 40 of them will be close. In those close games, the winner will usually be the team who executes the small things better.
Eight of those 56 games will be blowouts in favor of the other team, and the other eight will be in favor the opposite way.
Ball State has already engaged in six of those close games, said Maloney. They’ve come out of those games 3-3.
In all three of the wins, they registered walks, advanced runners around the bases and scored a critical run when they needed it the most.
“Those 40 are all the difference... those little things we’ve been able to do pretty efficiently,” Maloney said. “The guys have bought into the little things like the hit-and-run and moving the runners. It’s not rocket science.”
Coaches who rack up mountains of wins are usually surrounded by smart assistants and others who help along the way.
Maloney said that he’s no different and has been lucky to receive the support he’s gotten since 1996.
“You never have a number like that, you need help from a lot of people,” Maloney said. “Great players, outstanding assistants that I’ve been privileged with, and administrators that have been so supportive, you can’t reach 600 alone. It’s just not possible.”
Maloney’s early career at Ball State was impressive. In his first stint, he racked up 256 wins, and helped coach pitcher Bryan Bullington.
Bullington went on to become the first overall pick in 2002. Later in the first round, pitcher Luke Hagerty was selected, another alum coached by Maloney.
Coaching players like Bullington and Hagerty is what has kept Maloney engaged in the sport for so long.
“I received some nice texts and emails, which means a lot,” Maloney said. “It means that in some small way, you had some kind of impact on people, and that’s what I’ve always wanted when coaching. That’s why I’m out there every day.”
Maloney’s career stats at Ball State:
4 MAC West titles
2 MAC Regular Season titles
1998 and 2001 MAC Coach of the Year
51 players drafted, 5 first round.