Merritt Becomes Baldwin Wallace's Baseball Diamond
By Tom Nader
BEREA, OHIO -- Bob Merritt always had a vision that he would one day coach college baseball.
In fact, he even had a tentative plan mapped out — with no timetable — to potentially join his son Brett in Florida, where he is an assistant coach at Sante Fe Junior College in Gainesville.
The father and son coaching duo may join forces some time in the future, but for now, the elder Merritt has landed back in his hometown of Berea.
Merritt grew up in the Cleveland suburb and graduated from Berea High School before going on to baseball success at Miami (Ohio) University that included a pair of Mid-American Conference championships.
He is known throughout Portage County for his 30 years of coaching at Crestwood High School, which resulted in 406 career baseball wins and an induction into the Northeast Ohio Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
His jump into college coaching at Baldwin Wallace was “the right job at the right time.”
For BW, Merritt is the right guy at the right time.
Merritt was hired last summer to become the program’s pitching coach under the guidance of first-year head coach Brian Harrison.
Entering the coaching rotation in the middle of the summer put the group in a difficult position, with the recruiting season all but over.
Not deterred, the new leaders entered with a plan in place to help revitalize a program that finished the 2010 season with a 12-28 record.
Like everyone else in Northeast Ohio, the Yellow Jackets’ 2011 season has been disrupted by rain, but have improved as a team and are currently 16-16 overall.
With an exciting group of recruits secured for next year, the rise of the Jackets is happening right now.
“Our vision is to gather talent so that we can challenge for a national championship in three to four years,” Merritt said. “We looked at the Mount Union football program as one of our templates for success and now it is up to us to execute it.”
Judging by the success that has followed Merritt throughout his baseball life — All-League high school player, two MAC titles in college and over 400 wins as a high school coach — the plan can easily be taken seriously.
Merritt’s contributions to Baldwin Wallace are to focus primarily on the team’s pitching staff.
Improvement has been instantly noticeable.
As a team, the Yellow Jackets posted a 7.70 earned-run average in 2010. This year, that number has dropped all the way down to 4.98.
Additionally, junior Josh Scott recently threw a no-hitter, which allowed national attention to shine on the hurler and university when he was named as the National Division III Player of the Week.
“I have just been excited with the amount of time available for me to coach,” Merritt said. “At the high school level, my time was split between the classroom and coaching. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, because I truly enjoyed that, but being able to dedicate all of my energy to the sport on a daily basis really makes a world of difference.”
Give Merritt additional time to tutor his players and there is literally no ceiling for success.
But while everything is on the up and up in Berea, Merritt can’t help but think about Portage County baseball. That was his life for 30 years, and he still has a deep respect and love for it.
“I miss it. I really do,” Merritt said. “Portage County baseball is a great brand of baseball. I see a lot of high school baseball now, and a lot of different leagues all over the state when scouting, and Portage County’s talent is just as good as anything I’ve seen.
“I developed great friendships throughout the league over the years, and I miss interacting with those people on a regular basis,” Merritt said.
Merritt is creating new relationships while at Baldwin Wallace, but he will never be far removed from Portage County baseball.
“My wife and I still live in Mantua, and I don’t see us ever leaving,” Merritt said. “It is such a great community with great people. We built our dream home down by the Cuyahoga River, and we absolutely love it here.”
Merritt is just enjoying life and enjoying his new coaching challenge at Baldwin Wallace.
“It’s just been awesome,” Merritt said. “I live and bleed baseball, and I never stop thinking about the game. I want kids to enjoy baseball as much as I do.”
Judging by early results, baseball has already gotten a whole lot more fun in Berea.
FOR MORE BW Sports Information, please contact Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple by telephone at 440-826-2327 and e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. or Assistant SID Jeff Miller by phone at 440-826-2780 and email at email@example.com Fans can access the latest BW athletics information at www.bw.edu/athletics and we invite you to join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bwyellowjackets and Twitter athttp://twitter.com/bwathletics