Kansas baseball has a different look this year. The addition of a new head coach, 18 transfers, and possibly the start of a new culture has Kansas talking about baseball.
The Jayhawk's remodeling started over the summer when former head coach Rich Price announced his retirement. Kansas hired Dan Fitzgerald, an assistant head coach at LSU in 2022, as his replacement back in June.
Fitzgerald, grateful for the opportunity, got to work on trying to rebuild the Jayhawks program that went just 20-35 in 2022, which included a 4-20 Big 12 Conference record. Kansas has also only had one top-5 conference finish since 2015.
“I’ve always thought of Kansas as a sleeping giant,” said Fitzgerald, “This university has the opportunity to win at a high level and win for a long time.”
Place in Conference
*Season shortened due to COVID-19
Data from KU Athletics
Fitzgerald put emphasis on hiring coaches with deep recruitment and player development backgrounds when building his staff. He hired Jon Coyne, a highly touted recruiting coach from the University of New Mexico, to lead recruiting efforts. Fitzgerald and Coyne worked together to draw in 18 new transfers to the roster.
“We are excited about the roster we built,” said Coyne, “Many of them had impressive seasons last year, and we are all just excited to get on the field together.”
Players such as RHP Thaniel Trumper, an NAIA All-American in 2022, infielder Jackson Cobb, and outfielder Sam Hunt highlight the incoming transfer group. Two players from LSU, infielders Collier Cranford and Luke Leto, changed from Louisiana to Kansas with Fitzgerald, showing their trust and belief in his coaching.
Fitzgerald’s first step in building his program was simple– to ensure his team was “aligned” and on the same page each day.
“We might not have control over some things, but we do have control over being the most unified team in college baseball and being committed to being a great teammate,” said Fitzgerald, “99% of my day is making sure the coaching staff and players are in alignment with each other and our program goals.”
Dan Fitzgerald was an assistant coach and a recruiting coordinator at Dallas Baptist University from 2012-2021 before packing up and taking a job in the same position at LSU in 2022. Fitzgerald also seemed confident in his team's ability to be ready to compete this season, noting that his team is already looking a lot better since their first meeting over a month ago.
“I feel like our wheels are all spinning in the same direction now, said Fitzgerald, “If you would’ve asked me a month ago, I would’ve just said all of our wheels are spinning.”
He also knows that only his team’s success will lead to fan support from Kansas students. Using Kansas football this year as an example, he said he told his team they have to show they can compete and win before expecting a big crowd at the games, though he doesn’t think that’ll take long.
“We have to show the Jayhawk nation that we can compete, '' said Fitzgerald, “Leipold and the football team did it, and we can too.”
Kansas will get its first live-action against Nebraska in a Fall exhibition game at Hoglund Park in Lawrence, Kansas, on Oct. 15 before traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma to play Dallas Baptist on Oct. 22.