Date: April 4, 2019
By: Eric Leary
As the Associate Head Coach at North Carolina State University, Chris Hart is a part of one of the best programs in the country. He will be our guest today on Under the Gun.
First off, thanks for taking a few questions to let us learn more about you and what’s like to coach the game at the D1 level. This is your 15th year with the Wolfpack. Tell us how this job has evolved for you. And what have been some special moments in that span of time?
I spend my first two seasons as the Director of Baseball Operations here at NC State to get my foot in the door and my third season I actually asked to become the Volunteer assistant so I could get on the field more. I feel very fortunate that Coach Avent believed in me after that season and hired me as a full time assistant coach and I have tried my best to work as hard as I can to not let him down. We have had so many special moments on the field it is very difficult to pinpoint just one but obviously the 2013 run to Omaha was very special and hopefully we will be back soon. I feel like we have a very good family type atmosphere here and without question the most special moments in this profession are watching and helping young men grow as people, get their degrees, get married, have children, at the end of the day that is what this is all about!
You were also a player in the ACC on some really good teams, even reaching the CWS twice. How did those experiences impact your abilities to then become a coach in the game at the same level?
I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to play in this league but more importantly, getting to play for 11(Mike Martin). Having the chance to play for 11 really prepared me to not only play this game but coach this game. I have been in this league for 20 years or so now and the difference of being an average team and a very good team is a very thin margin that comes down to all the little things. We are always learning in this game, that really never stops whether you are a player or a coach.
Your bio says you work with the hitters, infielders and catchers at NC State. Share with us your philosophy for coaching and development for at least one of those areas.
There is so much that goes into developing baseball players that it is very difficult to break that down in a few sentences. We are trying to help these young men develop physically, mentally, socially, maturity, and obviously with their baseball skills. When a player gets onto our campus for summer school before his freshman fall the development process begins in the classroom and weight room. They get about 5 weeks to learn how we lift and condition and take two classes to get off to a good start academically. Once the fall starts we will take our time to truly evaluate our players baseball skills before we begin to make adjustments. We recruited them because we believed they were good baseball players and we think it is very important to give them time to play on our field before we change anything. During this time we focus hard on teaching approaches at the plate and plate discipline. There is a big difference between a guy that has a good swing and guy who can HIT! We want our hitters to understand that difference and practice what makes a good hitter, rhythm, timing, and having a plan or approach. Obviously mechanics of the swing are very important as well so once we have seen them for about half of our fall season we will begin to layout individual plans and drills for each guy to work on what he needs to make his swing as efficient as possible.
Coaching in the ACC must be a challenging task as so many teams are regularly in the hunt for not only a conference crown, but also the NCAA each year. What allows NCSU to be a contender for both year in, year out?
We have all heard the saying “players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” and there is a lot of truth to that. I have been here with Coach Avent for 15 years and there is not a head coach in the country that cares about his players more than Coach Avent. That family type atmosphere that he has built allows us to coach and teach these young men not only about baseball but about being a good person and doing your best on and off the field. There is obviously a lot that goes into being a consistently good program from recruiting to development, to work ethic and the list goes on and on but being a true TEAM and caring about each other and pulling for one another is something that Coach Avent is very good at getting everyone to buy into. That true team first mentality is a huge reason why we have had the success that we have had.
What message would you like to give to youth baseball today in regards to balancing the development of players to achieve high performance standards, while also allowing kids to have fun playing the game?
I love this game and love to see young kids enjoying this game but I feel pretty strong that young kids need to be well rounded. They need to play other sports or have other activities that they like to do. They need to have a social life with friends from school or whatever. I have recruits ask me all the time if they should quit football or basketball or whatever sport they play and my answer is always quick and the same, NO! We like well rounded athletes and you need to enjoy your youth.
We are so appreciative here at Dirtbags Baseball for you taking some time out of your busy schedule to share with us. Wishing all the best to your and the Pack as you continue the 2019 campaign!