It’s rare for a top-five college baseball team to move a starting pitcher to the bullpen with two weeks remaining in the regular season, but if anyone could make the move work, it would be University of Miami coach Jim Morris.
How did Morris break the news to senior hurler Thomas Woodrey?
“J.D. actually talked to him initially,” Morris said. “He’s always with the pitchers, so he gave [Woodrey] the message first, then I met with him the next day.”
J.D. is former Hurricane pitcher and longtime UM pitching coach J.D. Arteaga, and he said Morris often gives him space to have important conversations with players like the one he had with Woodrey earlier this season.
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“He made it very clear from day one that I was the pitching coach,” Arteaga said of Morris. “That’s the way he treated me as a player. He lets his players play. … I believe he lets his coaches coach and do their job.”
Whether it’s Morris’ leadership style, the Hurricanes’ success or local ties, something has kept Arteaga and associate head coach Gino DiMare as constants on Morris’ Hurricane coaching staff. At least one of the two has served under Morris during every season since 1997, and while the victories go on Morris’ personal record, the longtime assistants are a big reason why the wins continue to pile up.
“We feel very fortunate because there are not a lot of programs that have the stability that we’ve had for such a long period of time,” said DiMare, who has already been named to succeed Morris as head coach after the 2018 season.
In an era when coaching changes are a regular occurrence and high-profile assistants such as Arteaga and DiMare often move on to other jobs, Morris has managed to keep his staff together, and the Hurricanes continue to reap the benefits.
“He knows how to go to Omaha and play in Omaha,” Morris said of Arteaga, who owns the most pitching victories in Hurricane history and made four appearances at the College World Series in four years as a player.
As for DiMare, who reached two College World Series as a player under Hall of Fame coach Ron Fraser, Morris said, “he came in here and learned the system. … We had a good system when he came in here … he made it better.”
“System.” “Better.” “Omaha.” These are buzzwords around the Hurricane baseball program, and nobody knows this better than the current coach staff.
“We all understand the importance and the magnitude of the program to the community,” DiMare said.
With that understanding comes a deep knowledge of the role DiMare is preparing to step into in two years.
“This has been a long time waiting, in terms of knowing you’re going to have that responsibility for years to come,” DiMare said of his impending promotion. “I have a good idea and understanding of the program and how it works.”
DiMare has developed that understanding during his lengthy tenure on the Hurricanes bench, although at one point he thought his best chance to land a head coaching gig would be to leave Coral Gables behind.
“There was a period of time where I had thought about, ‘If I’m going to be a head coach, I need to probably look at some other avenues,’ ” DiMare said. “My heart has always been, certainly, with the University of Miami.”
That deep personal connection, formed by years as Hurricane fans, players and now coaches, helps explain why jobs other assistants might see as more lucrative have not caught the attention of DiMare and Arteaga.
“Coaches don’t use Miami as a stepping stone to bigger and better jobs,” Arteaga said. “This is, in our eyes, the best place to be.”
▪ The Hurricanes announced Wednesday that they will start left-handed junior Danny Garcia (9-3, 3.62 ERA), the usual Sunday afternoon starter during the regular season, against Stetson on Friday in their regional opener.
Stetson will start right-handed junior ace Mitchell Jordan (6-5, 4.07), who starred last summer in the Cape Cod League, posting an 8-1 record and a 0.20 ERA as the Cape Cod Pitcher of the Year. He played together with UM outfielder Willie Abreu for the Orleans Firebirds.
Miami Herald sportswriter Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.