Candidates Emerge For SLU Baseball

It appears Saint Louis University is getting closer toward finding a new baseball coach following the resignation of Bob Hughes in early June after 19 seasons on the job. has learned of a few of the candidates to become the Billikens' next boss.

Hughes resigned after 19 years as the Billikens coach due to health reasons. He was SLU's longest tenured coach and racked up 361 victories. In 2006, the Billikens won a school-record 32 games, won the Atlantic 10 tournament championship and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 40 years.

Phone interviews were conducted late last week, with the finalists expected to visit the Saint Louis University campus this week for another round of interviews.

Though there have been other names flying around as potential candidates, we've learned Vianney High School coach Steve Bieser, University of Missouri assistant coach Tony Vitello, Central Missouri State coach Darin Hendrickson and Southwestern Illinois College coach Neal Fiala are in the running.

The following are bios for those four candidates:

Steve Bieser – Vianney High School coach

"The potential is great" at SLU, Bieser told a few weeks ago. "If we can keep some of those quality kids in the area and get them to buy into it… That's a challenge I'd really like to have."

Bieser, 39, grew up in Ste. Genevieve and played professionally for 13 years and six different organizations as a catcher after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989 out of Southeast Missouri State. He was with the New York Mets in 1997 and with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1998.

Following his playing career, Bieser took his first teaching job at Vianney in 2001. He served as Vianney's "B Team" coach for two years before taking over the varsity squad.

The coach led the Griffins to state championships in 2004 and 2006 as well as Metro Catholic Conference titles in 2005 and 2006.

Tony Vitello – University of Missouri assistant coach

"I've got an extreme interest in seeing SLU baseball do well, for a lot of reasons," Vitello told

Vitello is a St. Louis native. The son of long-time DeSmet High School coach Greg Vitello, Tony was a four-year letterwinner for the Spartans and was a three-year letterwinner at Missouri. He earned Academic All-Big 12 Conference honors as a senior before graduating in 2002.

Vitello joined the Tigers' coaching staff in 2003 as he finished his work on a master's degree in business and was promoted to a full-time assistant the following year. He recently completed his fifth season on the Tigers' coaching staff.

"I'd like to be a head coach at some point," Vitello said.

Darin Hendrickson – Central Missouri State coach

A Granite City (Ill.) native, Hendrickson has been the head coach at Division II Central Missouri State for the past four seasons and compiled a record of 209-46 in Warrensburg.

Hendrickson, 38, was a pitcher at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and earned bachelor's (1992) and master's (1995) degrees at the Metro East school. He was an assistant coach at SIUE for three seasons before spending four years as the head coach at Division III Fontbonne College and then four years at Forest Park Community College.

Neal Fiala – Southwestern Illinois College coach

Fiala has built an impressive resume in his many years in baseball, including playing at Meramec Community College, Southern Illinois-Carbondale and in the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds organizations.

Fiala served as an assistant coach at Vianney High School and Meramec Community College before spending three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Illinois.

He took over as the coach at Southwestern Illinois College in the early 90s and has won more than 500 games at the school.

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