Thursday, May 31, 2018

Men's Baseball: Ramirez earns national honor

Chris Ramirez had the perfect situation as head baseball coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The Islanders had it all — a beautiful campus, state-of-the-art facilities, a winning tradition and one of the biggest, and best, recruiting bases in the country in the state of Texas. But Ramirez wasn’t looking to put his career on cruise control. He wants to be challenged. He wants to push himself to the limit.

He wants to build a program from scratch and do it the way he wants it done. So five years ago, the 2001 Fort Madison High School graduate packed his bags, loaded his wife, Lindsey, and their children in the car and headed to the University of Illinois Springfield to become head baseball coach for a fledgling program which was in its third season, had no home field and played its “home” games at city parks and high school diamonds they could find.

Ramirez has done things his way, leading the Prairie Stars to a 47-9 record this season, including a 29-game winning streak and a top-five NCAA Division II national ranking.

Ramirez recently was rewarded for his hard work, earning National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division II Coach of the Year honors. For Ramirez, it was a byproduct of all the hard work he, his assistant coaches, the players and administration have put into building the program the right way.

“Honestly, (the award) never really crossed my mind. I got a text message from our (Sports Information Director) saying we had two players earn All-America honors. Then I saw I was tagged on Twitter and there was a picture of me and the release about the award,” Ramirez said. “It’s surprising, but this award is a testament to our team winning a lot of games, having a lot of very good players and assistant coaches who did a great job this year. It’s a cool honor, but it’s never something we set as a goal. There are so many great teams and good coaches out there. It’s a cool honor to get.” 

Ramirez has been able to oversee major upgrades, not only in the program, but the facilities.

“In my first year we build dugouts,” Ramirez said. “The next year we got a scoreboard and we played games here. Then we added a backstop and this past summer we got a turf field. Everything is really coming together.”

This year, UIS hosted an NCAA Division II regional and captured its first Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division title, going 23-1 in conference play.

"With UIS being in the very beginning stages of the program, that really motivated me. There aren’t many new programs anywhere. We have a lot of support in the community and we are starting to see success on the field. Our goal next year is to get to the World Series. That is the next step," said Ramirez.

This story appeared in The Hawk Eye on May 30, 2018.

Read the entire article online.