During the summer of 2017, Seton Hall’s baseball team was dealt a major blow when veteran pitching coach and program alumnus Phil Cundari left South Orange after 19 seasons to assume the same position with in-state rival Rutgers.
The departure of Cundari, the 2011 National Pitching Coach of the Year, left a big void on the Seton Hall coaching staff. Wisely, coach Rob Shepherd moved swiftly in finding a new pitching coach who is no stranger to the Big East.
After spending three seasons as the pitching coach at Fordham, Pat Pinkman now finds himself at the head of a talented Seton Hall pitching staff looking to take the next step in 2018.
“I felt like Seton Hall was a good opportunity to not only test myself, but an opportunity to compete at a little higher level,” Pinkman said. “The A-10 is very competitive, it’s a really good conference and I enjoyed my time at Fordham. The coaches are great and for the most part, I felt like this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up to test my chops at the next level.”
At Fordham, Pinkman oversaw a staff that ranked near the top of the A-10 in strikeouts in 2017 and featured ace Jimmy Murphy, who was an eighth-round MLB Draft pick in June by the Baltimore Orioles. Some of Seton Hall’s veteran arms remind Pinkman of his former ace, both in terms of talent and work ethic.
“Jimmy was one of the kids who was first to the ballpark every day and did everything that you asked of him before even asking it,” Pinkman said of his former ace. “He was one of the last guys to leave and he really worked his tail off – that showed up in his fifth year.
“We have a lot of talent here and Fordham had a very talented staff as well. Guys like Shane McCarthy are that exemplary player where before the words come out of your mouth, he’s already doing it. Cullen Dana is a very good example of that as well. They are very structured and they care a lot about the staff and the quality of the staff.”
A star at Virginia Tech from 1998-2002, Pinkman was a freshman All-American and set Virginia Tech freshman records in wins (7), innings pitched (89), strikeouts (81), pickoffs (10) and complete games (7). As a lefty, Pinkman excelled in picking runners off, and set the NCAA Division I record as a sophomore with 19 pickoffs.
“It wasn’t a God-given talent, it was something I knew I could do and I worked on it,” Pinkman said. “The biggest thing I implement with these guys is it’s a pretty simple model in terms of mechanics. It’s all about practicing, getting the repetitions and becoming comfortable with it. [Freshman] Tyler Burnham came in here with a pretty good move and we’ve worked on it. The other day against Saint Peter’s, he picked two runners off so he’s been working on it and has been receptive to the coaching. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable with it.”
For Pinkman, recruiting at Seton Hall compared to Fordham has been a different animal. Upgraded facilities, along with the right personnel in place to show recruits they can succeed in South Orange, make Pinkman’s job easier on many levels.
“Not even just the facilities, but the information we provide recruits with in order to help our athletes,” Pinkman said. “That’s a huge resource to me on the field because I don’t have to be designing workout programs and mobility programs and why these guys have aches and pains. When you combine facilities like that with the information we have, plus the people. You can have nice facilities, but if you don’t have the right people running the show, it’s not going to help you.”
Academics have also played a role in Pinkman’s ability to bring in certain players he might not have been able to land in his days at Fordham.
“I think the issue with the recruiting at Fordham was the academic profile being a little bit higher in terms of SAT scores and things of that nature,” Pinkman said of the challenges of recruiting at Fordham. “You could still get guys to Fordham, but it was much harder.
“Other than that, very talented players that we’re looking at, maybe a touch more talented here,” Pinkman said. We’re looking at players a year sooner than we would’ve at an A-10, but even then recruiting in the A-10 is beginning earlier and it’s very competitive. It’ll remain that way unless they change the rules, so we have to be on our toes in order to go out and identify the best talent that we can as early as we can.”
Before taking the job at Seton Hall, Pinkman had not been back to the Hall since losing to the Pirates in the 2001 Big East Championship game. Once a place that provided bad memories, Pinkman now looks forward to being part of the staff that brings Seton Hall back to the top of the Big East.
“I knew the history and I knew the caliber of player that they have here,” Pinkman said. “I knew of the success they’ve been having, so all of those things combined, I thought it was a tremendous fit in terms of working with the next level of player and trying to take Seton Hall back to a high level.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.