BASEBALL: Marconi named new Ball State coach

Cardinals pleased with the hire

The baseball coaching job at Ball State University ultimately will stay in the family. Athletic director Tom Collins announced Tuesday assistant coach Alex Marconi would be promoted to head coach, ending a six-week search for Greg Beals' replacement.

Marconi has been an assistant with the Cardinals since 2005. Collins said the familiarity Marconi has with the entire program set him apart from the more experienced candidates.

"He knows Ball State," Collins said. "He had a hand in recruiting a lot of the players. I felt Alex was deserving of the opportunity."

The search to replace Beals, who became Ohio State's head coach June 17, culminated with three final interviews last week. Marconi, former Wake Forest coach Rick Rembielak and Birmingham-Southern coach Jan Weisberg were finalists for the job. Collins said Marconi had an excellent interview and came with the recommendation of Beals.

Marconi focused his pitch on an easy transition from Beals to himself in the interview.

"A big part of it was continuity with the program, the university and the Muncie community," he said. "I was just myself."

In addition to his time at Ball State, Marconi spent one year as a volunteer assistant at the University of North Carolina. He played at Kent State University, and then in the Tampa Bay Rays' system, rising to Class AAA in 2001.

Marconi was able to overcome his lack of experience as a head coach or top assistant, a hole neither Rembielak nor Weisberg have on their resumes. Rembielak's 16 years as a head coach is the most experience of the three finalists, but Collins chose the young, energetic coach he said he was looking for at the outset of the process.

"He's a high-energy, good -character guy," Collins said. "He's got a plan and he's going to work hard at it. He's very enthusiastic."

The move was praised by the Cardinals, who are relieved the process is finally complete. Starting pitcher Cal Bowling had grown antsy in the past few days, even making the short drive from Yorktown to campus to see associate athletic director Pat Quinn for an update Monday.

"I was trying to be as patient as I could be," Bowling said.

Quinn told him to expect something by Tuesday at the latest. True to his word, the players were notified in around 4 p.m.

Shortstop T.J. Baumet said the players, who are scattered across Ohio and Indiana playing summer ball, quickly started texting and calling each other.

"I talked to a lot of the guys once we found out," he said. "It's better for the team. Now it's time to go to work."

Bowling was concerned that Ball State might be falling behind on the recruiting trail as summer seasons are coming to a close. Marconi said he has continued to recruit throughout the search to keep the Cardinals in the game.

"When Beals and Stafford were still on staff, we were still recruiting as normal," he said. "As soon as they made the decision at Ohio State, it's been a one-man show with me. I did the best I could to keep us in the running."

Now the Cardinals are left to wonder how things might change with Marconi in charge. Bowling and Baumet both said they expect the intensity of practices to increase. Marconi said while that might happen, he expects to keep much of the process Beals installed intact.

During his time at Ball State, Marconi has worked primarily with the catchers and outfielders. Jeremy Hazelbaker, the Red Sox fourth-round draft pick in 2009, credited Marconi with helping him make a successful transition from second base to center field in his junior year. Bowling characterized him as a good teacher.

"He makes things simple," Bowling said. "He really explains what he wants from you."

Marconi's next step will be to hire two assistant coaches to complete his coaching staff, a process he said he didn't want to rush through, and talk to all the Cardinals in the coming days. While the Cardinals are all pleased Marconi is their new coach, Baumet said they were prepared to get behind whoever was hired.

"We're all a team no matter who the coach is," he said. "I feel like we're a family. We have each other's backs and look out for each other."