Q&A: Mike Bell looks to bring improvement to Pitt Baseball


Alan Saunders / Pittsburgh Sports Now

Head coach Mike Bell (right) with Athletic Director Heather Lyke.

By Tyler Moran , Staff Writer

Mike Bell is not the type of coach to worry about where his team finishes at the end of the season. He’s more focused on his players improving every day — and not just on the field. He seeks constant development from his players in the classroom, with their attitudes and in their contributions to the community.

According to Bell, he doesn’t just want his players to be better ball players, he wants them to be better men.

Bell was named Pitt baseball head coach July 10, 2018, replacing former head coach Joe Jordano, who retired after a 21-year stint in the position. Jordano left the team after finishing the 2017-18 season with a career-best 29-26 record, allowing Bell to become the fifth head coach in Pitt baseball history.

Bell is no foreigner to the ACC. Before coming to Pitt, he served as the pitching coach for the Florida State Seminoles for seven years. Prior to joining the Seminoles, Bell was the pitching coach for other collegiate programs such as Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Bell also has a few success stories from his time as a pitching coach. He coached former Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 MLB draft.

The 2018-19 season will be Bell’s first time ever holding a head coaching position at the collegiate level. The Pitt News sat down with Bell a few weeks before the Panthers’ opening game to learn more about who he is and find out where he sees this program going in the near future.

TPN: How prepared are you for your first game as the head coach of Pitt baseball?

Bell: We prepared all fall and we’ve had a great preseason. The good thing about it is that we’ve got three weeks here before our first pitch. We’re excited to get out here on our first day of actual team practice, but the work has been done. The fall preparation, integrating our system of what we want to put in here as new coaches, but more importantly the time and effort these guys have put in.

The offseason training, what they did over the Christmas break and what they’ve done in our first two and a half weeks of preseason has been phenomenal. Now it’s about tying things together with what we can do within the great facilities that we have here. It’s about getting better each and every day as we prepare for opening day.

TPN: What is the culture that you are creating for the team?

Bell: I think from day one, we’ve been about how it’s a player-first program. We’re going to do things first-class — on the field, off the field, in the classroom as well as the community. There is going to be toughness, we’re going to have a blue-collar, chip-on-our-shoulder mentality. But also, there is a lot of team concept involved. It’s not about one individual, it’s about 33 guys going in the same direction with the same goals, and that’s to compete for championships and dog-pile at the end of the year.

TPN: What is a typical day for Pitt baseball?

Bell: Well, there’s not a lot of sleep the night before because you’re always preparing — not only for the next day, but the next week and the next month. It’s a daily grind of internal operations with the support staff that we have and we’re very fortunate to have. David Stark, our director of baseball operations, Drew Linder, our director of player development, but then you have your Taylor Gossman, your strength and conditioning coordinators.

These guys are going through not only classwork with our academic advisor but weight training stuff, with skill stuff with our coaching staff with coach [Ty] MeGahee, coach [Jerry] Oakes, coach [Dan] Ninemire. It’s a day-in, day-out process and time management becomes a big issue. We make sure to make the time for them and put them in the right places so they’re ready to be successful.

TPN: Do you have any superstitions?

Bell: Don’t like to step on a lot of lines, I’ll say that. And it’s probably more about when things are going good to make sure you continue to do the same things. When things aren’t going as well, you’re probably more of a “fix-it”-type problem. So you’re constantly looking for solutions and things to change. But nothing to do with any black caps or anything like that, just your typical baseball superstitions.

TPN: Where do you see this Panther team, come the end of the season?

Bell: You know, I look at it as we are going to be better each and every day. Where we start and where we finish, the season is going to detail that. We’re not here to make bold predictions or anything like that. We know where we’re starting from. We feel like we’re already better than where we were back in August and September. That’s all we’re going to ask these guys, is each and every day, can we get 1 percent better?

TPN: Is there anything that you want the fans to know?

Bell: I think when they see the effort and the attitude these guys put out on the field … they’re going to come to really enjoy watching play the game of baseball. They’re going to do things the right way, they’re going to represent the program, the athletic department, the University — the right way. We really, really are excited for the direction of the program.