New Baseball Coach Has Big Plans for Program

April 26, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff
Photo by Ruth Nsubuga

A little guy who made the big leagues has been chosen to lead a little program with big ambitions.

Andy Stankiewicz, 46, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound utility infielder for four teams in a seven-year career in Major League Baseball, became the fourth head baseball coach in GCU history on Monday and met briefly with the current Antelope squad that afternoon.

“Many times a team takes on the personality of its coach,” Stankiewicz said Monday evening at a reception for GCU’s spring sports teams at the Phoenix home of the University’s chief executive officer, Brian Mueller.

“I hope we’re aggressive and that we play with a passion for the game. There’s a right way to play, and I think people will appreciate the way we approach the game.”

As a player, the Stankiewicz approach was to keep plugging away. A graduate of Pepperdine University, he made the New York Yankees as a 27-year-old rookie in 1992, hitting .268 in 116 games. He went on to play for the Houston Astros, the Montreal Expos and the inaugural Arizona Diamondbacks team in 1998.

Most recently, he worked in the Seattle Mariners organization. In three years as an assistant coach at Arizona State University (2007-09), he worked with 29 players who went on to be drafted.

“We’ll try to recruit Phoenix as best as we can,” said Stankiewicz, a native of southern California. “ASU and the U of A can’t get everybody. The level of play here has gotten better, and we have some high school and community college coaches who are good teachers of the game. There are players here who can make an impact.”

Stankiewicz said his leadership style will fall somewhere between that of Buck Showalter and Felipe Alou, managers for whom he played in the majors. He played for Showalter with the Yankees and again with the Diamondbacks.

“From Buck, I learned about detail and how everyone has a purpose,” Stankiewicz said. “Felipe was more hands-off. There’s a fine line between the two. You want to free up your players to perform well. Hopefully, I’ll draw from both of them.”

The GCU program isn’t far from turning the corner, he said, and he welcomes the challenge of establishing a winning tradition right away. The Antelopes were an NAIA powerhouse years ago under Gil Stafford, competing successfully against NCAA Division I programs in the West.

“The University’s leadership is not afraid to be bold,” Stankiewicz said. “GCU doesn’t have the enrollment of the state schools, but why can’t we compete with them? We want to win, and that commitment excites me.

“I’m humbled that they think I’m the right guy to do what they want done.”

Stankiewicz said he will focus on naming a coaching staff and also on individual meetings with the Antelope players. He said he will encourage a number of the players to participate in collegiate summer leagues. The team, seeking to finish above .500, wraps up its season this weekend with three home games against California State University at East Bay.

“Our design is to bring in players who can complement those who’ve done well,” Stankiewicz said. “We want local players to recognize this is a serious program and a great place to go to school, and also a place to develop for a chance at playing professionally.”

Although Monday’s reception honored all 10 spring sports teams, only lacrosse, men’s volleyball and men’s tennis are definitely finished for the season.

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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