PDT Sports Writer
The word home has a lot of definitions to a baseball player.
It could mean the place on the baseball diamond where they can have their success measured with batting averages, runs and wins. It could also be the place where their success is measured off the field with family and involvement with the community.
For Wheelersburg alum Josh Newman, he felt that it is time to leave his adoptive home — Columbus and The Ohio State University — for his natural home area of the Ohio Valley region. The former Buckeye player and coach as well as professional pitcher will be introduced July 1 as the newest member of the Marshall University baseball coaching staff.
“(Marshall) head coach (Jeff) Waggoner and I had been in discussion and he had offered me the position to come back to where I call home,” Newman said. “As special as Ohio State is to me, the tri-state area will always be my home.”
THE ROAD TO THE SHOW
It has been a long but adventurous trip for the former Pirate who graduated in 2000. During his high school playing career, he went on to become a two-time All-Ohioan as well as a USA Today High School All-American before an All-American career at Ohio State helped him eventually become a relief pitcher most notably for the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Royals.
Newman was drafted twice out of college. His first selection came in 2003 when the Cincinnati Reds selected the junior southpaw in the 31st round of the amateur draft. Newman declined the offer to finish his career with the Buckeyes and was selected the next year in the 19th round by the Rockies.
The road to the show was a lengthy one for Newman. After finishing 2004 with the then-Casper Rockies — Colorado’s rookie league team — Newman progressed through Modesto (High-A), Tulsa (Double-A) and Colorado Springs (Triple-A) before making his Major League debut Sept. 12, 2007 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“To see Josh out there in a Major League uniform and to run on the field in the ninth inning and get the Phillies out one-two-three in that first inning he pitched, you really can’t describe what a thrill that was as a coach and as a friend,” said Jack Branon, who was Newman’s coach at Wheelersburg and made the trip to Philadelphia to watch his debut.
It was at the right time for Newman to latch on with the team as the Rockies went on that season to win their first-ever National League pennant. He started the 2008 season with Colorado Springs and rejoined the big club but finished with the Royals after they claimed him in a trade.
“When I got sent from Colorado to Kansas City, my wife was two weeks away from giving birth,” Newman said. “We had everything set up in Denver. I got sent to Kansas City and it happened, there was no warning, my agent and I had no clue.”
Newman’s final stops came the following year when he pitched for Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate in Omaha and the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League (Independent). In 2010, Newman decided to hang up his cleats and go into coaching.
“I have a family,” Newman said. “This is a tough business to play, to be at that level and be back-and-forth with my family. It was just the right move to come back to the school where I played at a very high (level) and very fond memories of that place, it’s very special to me.”
In 2011, Newman returned to Columbus as an assistant coach for Ohio State.
“It was a no-brainer for me and my family,” Newman said. “I’m very fortunate to have three years under my belt with the head coach Greg Beals under the helm at Ohio State. I’ve met tremendous people through administration all the way down to the players and their parents.”
Among the people Newman made an impact on while as a coach for the Buckeyes was Trace Dempsey, a native of Huntington, West Virginia.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere I am right now without having him in the bullpen every day with me,” Dempsey said. “He was real big on mentality, strong on being ready to compete every day because your stuff is not always going to be the same but your mental approach can be.”
Presently, Dempsey is pitching in the Cape Cod League for the Bourne Braves. This season, the sophomore was 3-0 with a 1.02 earned run average and 17 saves as the OSU closer on his way to Third Team All-American honors this season.
Not only did having someone familiar to his surroundings as a coach make a major impact on Dempsey, having a coach with first-hand experience in the majors was also crucial.
“We know a lot of people and we’re very connected with a lot of people,” Dempsey said. “…It’s just crazy how many people we know and it’s great. Especially (since) I’m a small-town guy and he’s a small-town guy.”
During his three-year tenure, Newman coached six all-Big Ten pitchers and helped seven pitchers sign professional contracts. In the seven years prior to his arrival, the program had three pitchers sign contracts.
He said the main part of his pitching style is being ready.
“It’s a daily process, this is a difficult game,” Newman said. “Every day, we go about our business and we’re going to be prepared on game day.”
There is a formula, according to Newman, that goes along with being prepared.
“Preparation is going to lead to confidence and confidence is going to lead to good results,” Newman said. “I call it sweat equity and we’re going to put in a ton of it in preparation. We’re going to be confident on game day that we’re going to get some people out because of the work we’ve put in.”
Newman is also credited with the recruitment of recent Piketon graduate Zach Farmer to sign with the Buckeye baseball team. He said the major thing that stood out with Farmer was his ability to be a competitor along with athleticism.
WATCHING A STATE CHAMPION
With hundreds of Wheelersburg fans on hand earlier this month at Huntington Park to see if the Pirates could repeat as baseball state champions, one particular supporter was on edge.
Despite being a part of a team that made it to the 2007 World Series, Newman was so intense his wife, Sarah, noticed.
“My wife said I was celebrating more and biting my fingernails more for that game than I have ever in my life,” Newman said. “She’s probably right because I’ve either been in the dugout (as a player) or I would be coaching.”
Newman said he always had a soft spot for the place he and his wife grew up.
“I just have a passion and such a respect for what those guys have done,” Newman said. “The families, the blood, the sweat and the tears that program has endured. I couldn’t be more proud for the community, not just the players, for the whole tri-state area.”
The Pirates’ first state championship occurred in 1996 when Newman was in eighth grade. Now that his high school alma mater has claimed three state crowns in 13 years, he hopes the tradition continues.
“There’s so many guys that get overlooked and there’s so many people that get overlooked,” Newman said. “Hopefully (with) me coming back home can change a little bit of that.”
Newman said the team’s ace, Derek Moore, is a winner and would love to talk with him about his future. At the time of publication, The Daily Times had yet to learn of his college decision.
FROM SCARLET AND GRAY TO KELLY GREEN AND WHITE
On June 11, Newman made his next coaching move by accepting a position with the Thundering Herd.
“Conference USA is a very good baseball conference,” Newman said. “It’s a very prestigious baseball conference.”
This was not the first time Newman had an opportunity to find his next step. In 2012, he said three schools had offered to bring him onto their staffs but ultimately declined to make the switch.
But for Newman and his wife, a 1999 Wheelersburg graduate and who was recently employed with the Olentangy School District, the decision was pretty simple to go to Marshall.
“I’m just thrilled for Josh,” Branon said. “Josh is one of the finest individuals that I’ve ever met or ever coached.”
The ultimate goal for Newman is to be a head coach. He feels this move will be the in the right path towards that dream.
But before Newman can do any coaching, his family that involves Ayda, 4, and Kash, 2, are in the process of finding their next address.
“That is not the easiest thing to to,” Newman said.
As to where he wants to live, the searching range is from Huntington to Wheelersburg. He vows that Marshall will be active in the recruitment of players in the tri-state region.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.