When Alex Marconi looks across the diamond and into the home dugout this week at Akron, he will see a familiar face. Rick Rembielak, in his first season as the Zips coach, was, Marconi's coach at Kent State from 1997-2000.
Now, Marconi and Rembielak are leading teams of their own into the start of the Mid-American Conference season, beginning Friday.
This is Rembielak's first year coaching in the MAC since 2004, when he left Kent State to become coach at Wake Forest. He coached the Demon Deacons from 2005-2009, reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2007. After he was fired by Wake Forest, Rembielak was an assistant at Georgia Tech for two seasons. At Georgia Tech, Rembielak once again assisted Danny Hall, who first hired Rembielak as an assistant coach at Kent State in 1988.
When Rembielak was at Kent State, he played a key role in developing the last two Ball State coaches. In addition to coaching Marconi, Rembielak was an assistant coach when Greg Beals played at Kent State and then hired him as an assistant coach.
Though Marconi and Rembielak have a long history together, this will be the first time they meet as opposing head coaches. Rembielak remembers Marconi as a hard-working player who made himself into a great college baseball player.
"I have the highest level of respect for him as a player," Rembielak said. "I know he'll bring those characteristics as a head coach."
Rembielak said he thinks Marconi will be a successful head coach, though it may take a few years to see the results.
"It's a marathon," Rembielak said. "You have to instill your own culture and guys have got to get used to your system. He's got all the capabilities to do that."
For his part, Marconi said he remembers Rembielak as a knowledgeable and demanding coach, who wanted his players' full attention during practices.
Marconi said he has taken parts of his coaching philosophy from Rembielak, as he has from all the coaches and managers he's been around.
"Spending four years at Kent under him was a great experience for me," Marconi said. "I think I pull a lot of things from here that I learned as a player and I transfer them over as a coach now, as well."
Both Akron and Ball State have struggled early in the season. The Cardinals are 3-12 and enter the weekend on a five-game losing streak. The Zips have won three of their last five games, but are 6-13 overall. Both Marconi and Rembielak are looking for a little more consistency from their teams as they transition into conference play.
Ball State center fielder Wes Winkle said he thinks the Cardinals are well prepared for MAC play after a challenging nonconference schedule, that is ranked 41st in the country according to Boyd's World.
"I feel like we're ready," Winkle said. "I feel like we're going to be in good shape for this first series."
Marconi said he is confident and relaxed as the Cardinals enter MAC play.
"I really feel like they're going to excel in conference," Marconi said. "I think I see them with the experience they're starting to gain, maybe hitting their stride here in a couple of weeks."
Ball State at Akron
Game No. 16
First pitch: Friday 3 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Cal Bowling (2-1, 3.35 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Brown (2-3, 7.33)
Weather: 73 degrees, mostly cloudy, ENE 6 mph
Game No. 17
First pitch: Saturday 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP T.J. Weir (0-4, 9.74) vs. LHP Pat Dyer (1-1, 4.82)
Weather: 64 degrees, showers, west 5 mph
Game No. 18
First pitch: Sunday 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: TBA vs. RHP Alex Loftin (1-0, 2.95)
Weather: 56 degrees, few showers, north 10 mph