Irish Name Spitz as New Head Baseball Coach

Irish Name Spitz as New Head Baseball Coach

From a statistics standpoint, Courtney Spitz didn't have much to brag about during the 2009 and 2010 seasons on the diamond at Drury University.

But they might have been among the most important years in Spitz's baseball career.

"I would say those two years, where I didn't get ideal playing time, those two years probably shaped me into being part of the coach I am right now."

Spitz, a 2011 Drury graduate, was named the head baseball coach at Springfield Catholic on Saturday after spending two years as a graduate assistant at Drury and two seasons as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Hesston College in Kansas.

"(Spitz) certainly had a great baseball background as all of (the candidates) did," Catholic athletic director Sam Wutke said in a phone interview Monday. "When you're hiring, you ty to find the best fit for your program, and we just felt like Courtney was the right fit at the right time."

Spitz, a former catcher, knows he has big shoes to fill with the departure of Jason Daugherty, whose teams have won at least 20 games in five of the last six seasons, including a state championship in 2014.

Spitz, a 2007 Kickapoo graduate, has plenty of endorsement from former coaches and colleagues that he is capable of getting the job done.

"Catholic will be the beneficiary," former Drury head coach Mark Stratton said. "He's got big shoes to fill over there with Jason moving on. But (Spitz) is a hands-on guy. He'll be in there getting after it."

That "getting after it" mentality really hit home for Spitz after he transferred from Neosho Community College to Drury in the fall of 2008.

As a sophomore in 2009, Spitz hit .188 in 17 plate appearances. The following year he hit .278 in 18 at-bats.

Despite those numbers, he never stopped working to improve his game.

"I caught a lot of bullpens during games, and I was able to sit next to (former Drury pitching coach Byron Hagler) and listen to him coach pitching," Spitz said. "In games when I wasn't in the starting lineup, I would stand next to coach Stratton and (assistant coach Scott Nasby), as well, and listen to what we were doing on defense and offense."

Becoming a student of the game led to stellar senior season for Spitz. He started in 43 of 44 games, hit .353 with 26 RBIs and had a .983 fielding percentage behind the dish.

"The first year (at Drury), he didn't get much (playing) time," Stratton said. "The next year he got some, and by the time he was a senior, he was an integral part in everything we were doing. He had a great senior season."

Spitz graduated from Drury in 2011 with a degree in sports management. After that, he coached for the Midwest Nationals and was a substitute teacher for Springfield Public Schools.

He became a volunteer assistant coach for the Panthers in 2013 and served as the graduate assistant in 2014 and 2015. During that time, he earned a master's degree in secondary education. That's also when he knew he wanted to coach for a living.

"He's a great kid," Stratton said. "He's a guy you want your kids around. He knows how to work and is not afraid of working. He's always paid attention. He has always been a good player, but he's an even better person."

During the summer of 2015, Spitz served as an assistant coach for the Morehead City Marlins of the Coastal Plain League, one of the nation's premier summer collegiate baseball leagues.

"His tool box is pretty full having played at a very good Kickapoo program and being over at Drury and his experience over at (Hesston)," Stratton said.

In 2016 Spitz joined the staff at Hesston College, a NJCAA Division II program in Hesston, Kan. In his two seasons there, he was the third-base and hitting coach. He was also the recruiting coordinator for the program and continued to studying all aspects of the game on a daily basis.

"He has been the driving force behind much of our offenses success with what he instilled with the kids as far as work ethic and offensive approach," Hesston head coach Kyle Howell said. "He has been a great mentor and leader to kids in terms of guiding them through issues they face at the collegiate level – whether it's in the classroom or in a social environment. He's just been great to have around and be part of the program."

Speaking of work ethic, Spitz also served on the maintenance staff at a golf course throughout the year. Despite waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, Spitz's side job never affected his work on the diamond.

But it wasn't easy.

"It is challenging, just because of the days where you're up at 5 a.m. and you go into the golf course," Spitz said. "Hopefully you're out of there before lunch time and get to the office and get some recruiting done. Then it's practice time and you're not home until 6:30-7 o'clock.

"It was just challenging as far as time management. It makes coaching harder, but at the same time, I had to do it. I had no other options based on income."

Spitz currently maintains his job at the golf course and is also the head coach for the Park City Rangers, a premier collegiate league in Kansas.

But Spitz, along with his wife, Katie, and 10-month old daughter, Ellanore Grace, are looking forward to making the journey back to Springfield in a few weeks to lead the Irish on the ballfield.

"He's going to be very successful in getting kids to buy in to a great approach within a program, but also helping them achieve goals and dreams moving forward – whether that is to play baseball at the collegiate level, or just using baseball as an avenue in high school to get a degree and go on and pursue a degree at the next level, as well," Howell said.

Catholic finished the 2017 campaign at 20-7 after falling to Rogersville in the Class 4 District 11 semifinals.

Spitz and the Irish have high expectations for next year.

"Coming off a 20-win season, they're ready to get back to that district championship game and win it," Spitz said. "Obviously it's one game at a time. You don't want to look too far down the road. You don't want to put goals out there that make you overlook your opponent. You have to respect the game and play it the right way the whole year."