Coach built UAH baseball program from the ground up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

Sports Editor

118 applications for the position of head baseball coach came across Troy State Athletic Director Johnny William’s desk.

And thanks to something he started seven years ago, Bobby Pierce had already proven he was the right man for the job when Williams and the search committee came calling.

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In 1995, Pierce left his job as a top assistant coach at the University of Alabama and moved to Huntsville.

His task?

Start a baseball program at UAH.

Pierce recalled looking at the situation as if it were do-or-die.

"I knew when I made that change, when I went to Alabama-Huntsville, I knew that I either was going to bury my career or make my career," he said. "So obviously, I was motivated to get that program going as quickly as possible."

He did just that. As the first and only head coach of the Chargers’, Pierce posted a 276-108 record in seven seasons. His teams made four NCAA regional tournament appearances and won the Gulf South Conference Title in 2001.

"That program right now is in as good a shape as it’s ever been" Pierce said. "And we’re looking forward to bringing that type of success here to Troy State."

But starting the program from scratch wasn’t easy. Pierce, at first, wanted to sell Chargers’ baseball to area high school and junior college athletes.

"Our plan was to go out and bring the Huntsville kids that were off in junior college back to Huntsville," he said. "We had two good tools; a quality of education that was tremendous, an engineering school that was great, and we were playing all of our games at Joe Davis Stadium which is the Double AA park for the Huntsville Stars. Two good selling points and I thought if we really got out and beat the bushes then we could bring in some quality players."

Wrong answer.

"Plan A was a bust," Pierce said. "Plan B was to go into the panhandle of Florida where I had spent time at Chipola (Junior College), where there were many people still in place that I knew and competed against."

Returning to his old stomping ground was the best thing Pierce could have done. He inked 13 players that season out of the Panhandle Conference, 11 of which that were draftees from the previous year. In 1996, the baseball program’s inaugural year, the Chargers finished 37-16 and advanced to the GSC tournament championship game, falling to top-ranked Delta State, 13-12.

"We were able to work hard, get a little lucky, make your own luck, whatever you want to call it…and it started happening, it started clicking," Pierce said. "All of a sudden we were playing for the conference tournament in year one. We got beat by Delta State on their field and we had a three-run lead going into the ninth inning."

Pierce said UAH’s sudden success in Division II caught everyone’s attention.

"That (first year) really catapulted that program into people saying, ‘hey, this guy’s for real, his program’s for real, he’s proven it in year one’ and things continued from there," said Pierce.

Pierce said the move to UAH was one he "wouldn’t care to do again," but that it was a "great move" at the time.

"It was a tremendous challenge and, looking back, something that worked out very well for us," he said. "It was an opportunity for me to show people like Johnny Williams that I have some qualifications they should be interested in."