Brian Shoop’s first favorite sports memory isn’t an event he attended. It’s of sitting in his Ohio home as a young boy after school, waiting for his father to walk through the door.
|First-year UAB Baseball Coach Brian Shoop talks to his squad during a recent practice. Shoop came to UAB from Birmingham-Southern College this past summer. Shoop compiled an impressive 692-307-1 record in his 17 years there. “I really hope the UAB family will be pleased and proud of our program,” Shoops says. |
“I couldn’t wait for him to get home every day,” Shoop recalls. “We would play catch or he would take me to games. It was just great.”
Shoop, who is beginning his first season as UAB’s baseball coach, is quick to point out his father has had a great influence on his life. And it’s that kind of relationship Shoop hopes to try to establish with his players.
Let there be no doubt – Shoop is a fierce competitor. He comes to UAB after a celebrated 17-year run at Birmingham-Southern College, where he compiled a 692-307-1 record and won 32 or more games in 16 of those years.
But ask him what kind of year he expects the Blazers to have in 2007 and he refers to something he read in the book Seasons of Life, saying he won’t know for 20 years.
“I know some people kind of laugh when I say that, but it’s true,” Shoop says. “In 20 years we’ll know if these guys are great husbands, great fathers. What’s their life going to be like at that point? If things are going good for them then, that means we had a pretty good year in 2007.”
Faith, family and friends all are very important to Shoop, and he tries to demonstrate that to his players.
In fact, when Shoop was coaching at Birmingham-Southern, he lived on campus. His best friends lived on campus, too. Shoop and his wife Brenda home-schooled their children, and students on campus would come to their house to aid them in tutoring and teaching. Add that to a winning a baseball program, and Shoop and his family couldn’t have imagined having anything better.
“We were really plugged into the campus, and we really had it rolling,” he says.
Then, last year, Birmingham-Southern decided to drop from Division I athletics to Division III, and Shoop and his family had to re-evaluate their options. Fortunately for Shoop and UAB, another great opportunity was available just a few miles down the road.
“When we called other head coaches to get input on prospective candidates, almost every person said, ‘You’ve got the best person right in Birmingham in Brian Shoop,’” then-interim Director of Athletics Richard Margison said at the time of Shoop’s hiring last June. “He graduates players, he coaches a very competitive, winning program, and he’s involved in the community. We are very excited about the future of our baseball program under his leadership.”
Shoop says he’s extremely grateful to be here. “It really helped to stay in Birmingham and stay in our church. And we love the players — that’s the best part. We’re really rooting hard for these guys to experience some success.”
Shoop and his staff of Doug Kovash, Perry Roth and Jared Walker (all of whom came with him from Birmingham-Southern) are well aware of the hard times the players endured last season, when UAB struggled to a 19-38 record last year; as a result, they are making an extra effort to create a positive atmosphere as the 2007 season is getting under way.
“When you go through a stretch like these guys did last year, that beats down the human psyche,” Shoop says. “Ultimately you then wind up not believing in yourself and not playing to your ability. We want these guys to have fun and enjoy the game. We want to be the best we can be, and we also want to improve mentally.
“I really don’t know how the year on the field will go – it could go either way,” he notes. “But I do hope that there will be successes for the kids because I really want the seniors to experience some success. I want them to leave and say, ‘I took this program forward and did it with a group of guys I was proud to be a part of, and I’m more prepared for life because of it.’ ”
UAB’s next home game is Saturday, March 3 at 3 p.m. against Central Arkansas at Young Memorial Field.
All patrons attending UAB’s 1 p.m. basketball game against Tulane that day at Bartow Arena will receive free admission to the baseball game by showing their basketball ticket stub. To see UAB’s 2007 baseball schedule, visit www.uabsports.com .