ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The secret has been out for over a week now, but USA Baseball made it official today as University of New Mexico head baseball coach Ray Birmingham was named the hitting coach for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team.
"This is a big honor," the Lobos' skipper said. "Not only am I humbled but I'm also excited to coach with two guys whom I deeply respect in Dave Van Horn and Rob Childress."
Van Horn is the head coach at Arkansas and will manage the team. Childress manages Texas A&M and will be the pitching coach for Team USA. Also on the staff is Pepperdines' Steve Rodriguez, who will serve as third base coach.
“We have compiled an impressive group of coaches to lead the Collegiate National Team in 2014,” said Eric Campbell, USA Baseball’s general manager of national teams. “These coaches know what it takes to be successful on the international stage.”
Birmingham said, "I've known Eric Campbell for 23 years, and he's as solid a baseball guy as they come. You can't find a more classy organization than USA Baseball."
Long considered one of the best hitting coaches in the nation, Birmingham' has produced teams bear that fact out. He is entering his seventh season at UNM, and the Lobos have twice led the nation in team batting: .334 in 2013 and a school-record .363 in 2009. Additionally, the 2012 Lobos finished fifth in the nation with a team average of .326, and the 2008 squad placed eighth at .346.
Birmingham also coached an individual national batting champion in Justin Howard, who hit .456 in 2010. Also, in 2013, he had three of the top 21 hitters in the nation with DJ Peterson (fourth, .408), Mitch Garver (14th, .390) and Luke Campbell (21st, .385). Peterson finished fifth in 2012 with a .419 average, and as a freshman in 2011 he set a freshman NCAA record with 32 doubles. He played on the 2012 U.S. Collegiate National Team.
Birmingham's teams have averaged a .326 batting average since he took over the Lobo program in 2008, and have amassed 140 doubles, 29 triples and 41 home runs per season. In 2013 the Lobos were the only team in the nation to reach those respective totals in all four categories.
His success began before he even got to Albuquerque, though, as he coached New Mexico Junior College for 18 years. Under Birmingham's leadership, the Thunderbirds became known for their hitting prowess with six former players leading the country in batting and six teams hitting over .400, including -- with a high of .416 in 2007. The 2005 national championship team hit .411 during the regular season and .400 in postseason play. In 2001, the Thunderbirds displayed one of the most impressive offensive machines in college baseball history, batting .438 as a team. In 1998 NMJC led the country with 122 home runs.
Players will be invited over the course of the 2014 college baseball season, and the final 24-man roster will be announced at the end of June. The roster will be comprised primarily of non-draft eligible players from across the country and will be announced in a rolling fashion throughout the college baseball season.
The Collegiate National Team begins camp on June 21 in Cary, N.C. before embarking on its Summer Collegiate League Tour. The team will then host Chinese Taipai for five games July 1-5 and will also face Japan and Cuba (in Havana), before heading to Haarlem, Netherlands, to compete in the Honkbal Baseball Week tournament, where Team USA is the defending bronze medalist.