Head Coach: Rice University
There are some fairly common factors that measure coaching success in college baseball. The familiar criteria include a coach's wins and win-percentage, NCAA Regional bids, trips to the College World Series, winning a national championship, conference championships, All-America honorees and molding young players into major league draft picks.
It's common criteria. Rice Owls head coach Wayne Graham has had uncommon success.
After 24 full seasons at the helm of the Rice baseball program, and 35 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Graham has been one of the top coaches in the country who has built a sky-scraper of a program at Rice.
It was no surprise that in 2012 coach Graham was tabbed for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. It was even less surprising, and in fact applauded, that (at then age of 76) he was rewarded by Rice with a five-year extension on his current contract. Clearly, the University administration realizes its Hall of Fame head coach is both a national and baseball treasure.
Assistant Coach: Rice University
Former Rice baseball letterman Patrick Hallmark is in his tenth year of coaching at his alma mater.
Hallmark is in his third season as the Owls' pitching coach after previously working with the program in a host of different roles. Credit head coach Wayne Graham who made the innovative choice in 2013 of having Hallmark, a longtime catcher by trade, as the Owls' "rookie" pitching coach. The move may have seemed unconventional, but was in fact simplistically brilliant. Hallmark the catcher had already worked with a host of different types of professional pitchers at the minor league level for the better part of a decade.
It's only been two years for Hallmark in the role, but it's hard to describe the move as anything other than a resounding success. Last season the Rice pitching staff finished 13th in the NCAA with a new school record for ERA (2.56). The Owls were also 20th in the nation in both fewest hits allowed per game (7.7) and WHIP (1.19). Hallmark's hurlers registered the fifth-highest single-season saves total in school history (18) while also finishing with the program's lowest number of walks since the mid 1980s (192 walks in 573.1 inn., 3.0 per game).
Clay Van Hook
Assistant Coach: Rice University
Clay Van Hook is in his fourth year with the Owls' coaching staff.
Van Hook served as Rice's volunteer assistant coach during his first year with the program in 2012. He was promoted by Wayne Graham to a full-time position prior to the start of the 2013 season and has since added recruiting and coaching at third base on game days to his growing list of duties.
One thing that has not changed is that Van Hook will continue to work with the Owls as hitters, fielders and base-runners. Last season Rice led Conference USA and was among 13th in the nation in hits, averaging 10.2 per game. His daily work helping the hitters sharpen their overall skills was a reason the Owls were able to lead the conference and finish 17th in the nation in sacrifice bunts.
Sure, Rice had the league's most hits, RBI, and a composite .293 batting average, but a high 212 walks with the fifth-lowest strikeout total reveals 1) Rice hitters are coached well, and 2) grow to trust their own improved discipline at the plate. On the defensive side, Van Hook's fielders finished 14th in the nation in fielding percentage (.977) while turning 48 double-plays on the year.
Volunteer Assistant Coach
Scott Shepperd is in his third season with the coaching staff after joining the program as a volunteer in 2013. In addition to a host of on-field coaching duties, he serves as the administrator of the Owls' popular Youth Baseball Camps.
A native of Austin, Texas, Shepperd works with the hitters and outfielders, and he assists with the Owl catchers. On game day he coaches at first base.
Shepperd previously served five seasons as a coach at his alma mater, Concordia University in Austin, where he was a four-year baseball letterman. At Concordia his main responsibility was as the team's hitting coach.
Director of Baseball Operations
Daniel Watson (Will Rice 2010) enters his third full season back at his alma mater in the fall of 2014. After originally joining the Rice Athletics Department in the Development Office, he has served as the Director of Baseball Operations since the spring of 2013.
As the director of operations for one of the nation's winningest Division I baseball programs under head coach Wayne Graham, Watson administers the team's yearly operating budget. He organizes the Owls' travel and meals during the season, as well as all recruiting-related travel. His experience in Athletics Development has proved to be an asset in his work with the baseball program's designated SIG, The RBI Club, where he has assisted with that group's fund-raising and special events such as the Longball Classic and annual RBI Banquet.
Watson serves as the baseball program's liaison to the Athletics Department and the University administration. A former Rice student who majored in History while serving as the Owls' equipment manager, Watson is a unique (if not ideal) representative to both the campus and off-campus communities. In his four seasons as the student equipment manager, Rice twice reached the College World Series (2007 and 2008). Watson still has the same affinity and work-ethic for the Rice baseball program, he has simply taken the next logical step from uniform and equipment needs to a myriad of duties ranging from budgets to compliance and travel - anything so that the program can continue to enjoy its national elite status.
Dan and his wife, the former Hannah Dremann (a graduate of The Shepherd School, Will Rice 2011), were married in the summer of 2013. The couple reside in Houston.