After declining to renew Tommy Harmon's contract, Texas announced on Friday that former volunteer assistant coach Tommy Nicholson has been hired as new hitting coach and recruiting coordinator.
A three-year letterwinner at UT, Nicholson had previously served as an assistant at Sacramento State.
"Tommy will be our recruiting coordinator and is a very bright guy," said head coach Augie Garrido, whose Longhorns failed t o make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. "He will build a network on a national level as well as the state."
Finding, and nabbing high-profile players wasn't a problem for Harmon, but high selections kept many of those players from actually getting to campus. To wit: Dylan Bundy (4th overall), Blake Swihart (26th) and Josh Bell (61), among others, spurned the Longhorns for professional riches in 2011, decimating what was previously ranked as the top recruiting class in the nation.
The 11.7 scholarships allotted to teams in college baseball means each team must capitalize on each scholarship offered. If a player -- Josh Bell, for instance -- informs Texas in August of the coming school year that he'll be playing pro ball instead, the team is left scrambling.
Reinforcements -- other options, in case a signee forgoes college -- are in place, but by that late period in time, most have already signed with another school.
"He and [pitching coach] Skip Johnson will be dynamic recruiters," Garrido said.
When Harmon was at his best, it wasn't because he was signing the top kids in the state -- the Texas brand can do that on its own. It was when he was unearthing diamonds-in-the-rough, then developing them. Texas' best hitter the last two years, Erich Weiss, wasn't drafted out of Brenham High School but will likely be a first- or second-round pick in next summer's MLB Draft. Credit Harmon for that find.
Sacramento State hit .298 as a team last year. The Longhorns hit 263. Improvement would be welcomed in that regard. But Texas is never, with the exception of 2010, going to be a heavy-hitting team. Offensive philosophy falls under Garrido's hands, anyways.
What Texas needs Nicholson to be, most of all, is an ace recruiter.
Here's the full press release, courtesy of the UT Athletics department:
AUSTIN, Texas – Tommy Nicholson, a three-year letterwinner and former volunteer assistant coach with the Longhorns, has been named assistant baseball coach at The University of Texas, head coach Augie Garrido announced today.
“I’m really excited to be able to put the Longhorn uniform on again,” said Nicholson. “I’m excited to come back to Austin, a city that I loved. I loved my time coaching and playing there and can’t wait to get back.”
Nicholson spent the last two seasons (2011-12) as an assistant coach at Sacramento State, serving as the team’s infield and hitting coach. In 2012, the Hornets batted .298 as a team with 30 home runs. Nicholson helped outfielder Rhys Hoskins earn freshman All-America honors this past season, as Hoskins hit .353 with 10 home runs, 44 runs scored and 53 RBI.
After compiling a 19-39 mark in 2011, Sacramento State improved its win total by 12 and registered a 31-28 record in 2012. Under Nicholson’s direction, the Hornets finished the 2012 season with a school single-season record .979 fielding percentage. Sacramento State committed just 47 errors in 59 games this past season. The 2011 squad finished with a .969 fielding mark, the third-best in school history.
“Tommy will be our recruiting coordinator and he is a very bright guy,” said Garrido. “He will quickly build a network on a national level as well as the state of Texas with (UT assistant coach) Skip (Johnson). The two of them will be dynamic recruiters. In addition to that, in one year at Sacramento State, he improved their batting average to .298 as the hitting coach. That was 50 points higher than the year before. Defensively, our fans should remember when he was here as the volunteer coach, our team in 2010 led the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. This year, his Sacramento State team finished tied for fifth nationally in fielding percentage. He has a magical touch everywhere he goes, and that’s been the case since his days in high school. He is a very unique person and one of the young coaching geniuses in this country.”
Prior to his stint at Sacramento State, Nicholson spent two seasons (2009-10) as a volunteer assistant coach at Texas where he worked with the infielders while serving as the first base coach for the Longhorns. The Longhorns posted a 50-16-1 mark and finished as runner-up at the College World Series in 2009, before registering a 50-13 record and advancing to NCAA Super Regional play in 2010. The Longhorns batted .286 in 2010 with 87 stolen bases and recorded a .980 fielding percentage, while the 2009 squad batted .288 as a team with 74 stolen bases and boasted a .976 fielding clip.
Nicholson was selected in the 11th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago White Sox. He reached the AAA level during his professional playing career from 2000-05 during his time with Chicago and the Colorado Rockies.
For his collegiate playing career, he missed only three starts as a second baseman during his three seasons (1998-2000) at Texas. Nicholson compiled a .327 career average at UT with 147 runs scored, 223 hits, 37 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 114 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He was named the team’s most valuable player in 1999 and 2000.
Nicholson was an integral part of UT’s College World Series squad as a junior in 2000. He hit a team-best .500 (4-for-8) during CWS play in Omaha. He was named to the NCAA Tempe Regional All-Tournament team and ranked as the top fielding (.974) and hitting (.367) second baseman in the Big 12 Conference. Nicholson earned All-Big 12 First Team honors after batting .367 with 60 runs scored, 99 hits, 18 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 43 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
In 1999, Nicholson hit .315 with 55 runs, 73 hits, 14 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 42 RBI and seven stolen bases while earning All-Big 12 Honorable Mention recognition. As a freshman in 1998, he batted .282 with 32 runs, 51 hits, five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 29 RBI.
The Tommy Nicholson File
Full Name Thomas Blair Nicholson
Date of Birth August 23, 1979
Hometown Anaheim, Calif.
High School Esperanza
College Texas 2006
NCAA Tournament Experience
2010 Volunteer Assistant Coach Texas NCAA Austin Super Regional
2009 Volunteer Assistant Coach Texas College World Series
Previous Coaching Experience
2011-12 Assistant Coach Sacramento State
2009-10 Volunteer Assistant Coach Texas
College Playing Experience