Prior to the 2016 season, the North Central College men’s baseball team was lucky enough to pick up a gem of a coach in Coach Tim Stoddard. Stoddard joined the staff as an assistant coach, spending a majority of the time working with the pitchers on the team.
This is not Stoddard’s first rodeo. His coaching resume is enough to impress anyone, and that’s not even including his career as an athlete. Along with his 22-year career as the pitching coach at Division I Northwestern University, he played in the major leagues for a total of 12 years for six different teams, including Chicago’s very own White Sox and Cubs.
After winning a World Series with the Baltimore Orioles, Coach Stoddard became the only person in history to win a championship ring in the NCAA Division I baseball championship and a World Series. With all of that experience under his belt, it’s hard to imagine how the small Division III baseball program of North Central College attracted his attention.
“Coach (Ed) Mathey and I just kind of became good friends from when he coached at Northern (Illinois University). We’d sat and talked a few times about what I was going to do after my last year at Northwestern and threw it together that maybe I would want to come down here and help him out,” said Coach Stoddard. “I said ‘sure’ and I’m glad I did it. It’s been a ton of fun.”
Transitioning from coaching at Northwestern to North Central, Coach Stoddard is dealing with a whole different type of athlete. With a lot less funding and scholarship availability he has seen a whole different attitude in his Cardinal players.
“It’s fun to see how much fun these guys are having just playing the game,” said Stoddard. “They’re not playing just because they got an athletic scholarship or whatnot…they’re playing because they love it.”
After sending 25 of his Northwestern players to the MLB, Coach Stoddard was surprised by how small the difference of skill ended up being between divisions.
“The biggest difference would be the speed of pitching. We had guys who threw just like these guys just at speeds up in the 90s,” said Stoddard. “That’s about the only difference. We have guys that work extremely hard and never complain and that’s truly a joy to coach.”
Coming in with all of that experience, head coach Ed Mathey knew there would be a lot to draw from Stoddard.
“I’m not really trying to change anybody. I know these pitchers had a pretty good year last year. I’m mainly just sharing my experience and the thought process out there on how to pitch,” Stoddard said. “Coach Mathey has always had a pretty good pitching plan himself. I just came in and kind of tweaked a few things here or there but it seems to be working.”
With a strong start of the season at 14-3 Stoddard has very high hopes for his team. Already making a big effect on the team’s pitchers’ success, the Cardinals have allowed only 83 runs compared to their 138 last year.
Through the first 17 games, Stoddard has helped the Cardinal pitchers to lower their ERA from last years 4.09 to a current 3.63.
“Our strikes are the biggest reason for success on the pitching mound, our walks are probably a lot lower than anybody’s right now,” said Stoddard. “I think that’s going to determine how our team’s going to fair so we need to keep that up.”
On track for great improvement from last year’s record of 26-16 the Cardinals have a big chunk of their schedule left to play.
“We have a nice team all the way around. We’re a team that’s going to score runs and we’re going to play pretty good defense as it goes. It’s a good combination,” said Coach Stoddard.