Draft weekend is an uneasy time for any college baseball coach, and Illinois’ Dan Hartleb is no exception.
Will his talented juniors return for a final season? How many of his seven incoming recruits will be lost to minor league baseball?
Sports editor JIM ROSSOW caught up with the 246-win coach, who is coming off his eighth season, for his take on a variety of topics:
Your latest three-year contract expired after the 2013 season. What’s next for you?
(Athletic director) Mike Thomas and I have sat down and discussed my contract and we hope to have something in place in the next couple of weeks. I’m very happy here. I’ve enjoyed the community and the people I work with. I am very driven to continue to push this program forward. My goals for this program are for when I leave I want it to be healthy and thriving forever.
Facilities are a big part of that?
We’re in the midst of a feasibility study that will add some curb appeal, give us hitting and training facilities on par with other programs. We’ve fallen behind in that most programs have already done that. There’s a master plan that Mike Thomas has been very supportive of. (Batting) cages in an indoor area would give our guys the opportunity to hit even if it’s for an hour at 10 at night.
Your team played Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech close in last weekend’s NCAA tournament. What’s the next step?
We’ve been in the NCAAs two out of the last three years, and that’s not always easy to do. We need to get to the point where the tournament is an expectation and not a goal. Then, you need to win in the tournament. This year gave the kids a taste of what can be done ... and should help us recruiting. People understand that our program is solid and we have good athletes and play a good brand of baseball.
Does the draft take a toll on a coach?
You want your players to have the opportunity to move on and play professionally. But you hope your underclassmen who get drafted make quality decisions, decisions that will be good lifetime decisions. There’s a mixed feeling in that you want all your juniors back but at the same time you want them to see what opportunities are out there.
What does it do to recruiting?
It’s frustrating for two reasons. One, you put in the time to get commitments and sign them and you count on them being in the program. But the most frustrating thing is the way rules are set up across the country. It’s not an even playing field, nor do I think college baseball coaches are a very ethical group. Some sign 25 or 30 per class and after the draft shakes out they run some off, send some to junior colleges. All I can say is we do things the right way, we treat families the right way.
Is this the year the Big Ten gets back to the College World Series for the first time since 1984?
I think Indiana has an excellent chance. They remind me of our ‘98 team when we lost in extra innings to go to Omaha. This is far and away the best the Big Ten has been. I thought there were six teams that could have gone to regionals and been successful. The Big Ten has started putting money into facilities and with that programs start to grow. I like what I’ve seen.