Hendrickson Named SLU Baseball Coach

Darin Hendrickson was ready for a new challenge. He knew he could stay and continue coaching at Central Missouri State, win a lot of baseball games and have a chance to make a run at the Division II national championship almost every season.

"Central Missouri is a great place," Hendrickson said. "I could have stayed here and had a lot of success. We probably would have had a lot of success. It's impossible not to win here. It's a great place. But I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to coach a different kind of a kid. I was looking for a perfect situation to do that and that's what I saw Saint Louis U. as."

The 38-year-old Hendrickson was named as the Billikens new baseball coach on Monday, less than a month after Bob Hughes resigned following 19 seasons on the job.

"We are delighted to have Darin join our coaching staff," outgoing athletics director Cheryl Levick said in a press release. "He brings over 10 years of experience to the position and a vast knowledge of the game. As a St. Louis native, he has an extensive recruiting network already in place in this area. We believe he can develop our baseball program into one that is annually in contention for an Atlantic 10 title."

A Granite City, Ill., native, Hendrickson was a successful pitcher at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, where he had an 18-5 career record for the Cougars. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1992 and a master's in sociology in 1995. He served as an assistant coach at SIUE for three years.

Hendrickson returns to St. Louis after four seasons at Central Missouri State, where he went 209-46 and twice advanced to the Division II national championship semifinals. CMSU went 51-13 this season.

Before heading to Warrensburg, Mo., Hendrickson spent four years at Division III Fontbonne College, where he started the program in 1995, and then four years at Forest Park Community College, where his teams went 155-74 and went to four NJCAA Super Regional championship games.

Hendrickson knows one of the keys to having success at SLU will be to keep St. Louis area kids at home, playing for the only Division I program in town.

"Baseball is a sport that is so popular in St. Louis at the high schools and I tried to convey that to the administration that we have to win them back," Hendrickson said. "A lot of kids want to leave St. Louis because they think the grass is greener. They are showcased around the country at these places in the summer and they see these facilities and all these bells and whistles and they forget that you still have to play baseball and play the games. …

"You have to give kids the idea that Saint Louis U. is a viable option for Division I baseball. It's not the last resort. I think the attitude about Saint Louis U. baseball as a mindset has to change at the beginning. That's one of the keys. This is a viable option to compete at a high level and obtain a great degree."

Hendrickson knows his new position is the biggest challenge he's ever had and that building the program won't happen overnight. He spent his first few days on the job working on closing out his time at CMSU and beginning the next phase of his career at SLU. He was working on filling out his coaching staff with the Billikens and working on recruiting Class of 2008 players for his first incoming class at SLU, which will be crucial.

But the new coach has a vision for the future of the Billikens and will remained focused on making that vision a reality.

"You have to shoot for bringing good kids in and having a chance at the end to have it at your fate," Hendrickson said. "Playing for something at the end is why I get up in the morning. Honestly, that's the drive that I have and that the kids need to have behind me. When you get to playoff baseball — I've been in it every year I've coached; I've never not made the playoffs — those are things, when you get to it at the end, at least you can walk out with your head high and say we had a chance, it was in our fate.

"If you go through enough years in college baseball, you're going to have your ups and downs, and you've got to get the program to a level that says we can do A, B and C realistically. With the administration's help, we've got to be able to look and see what the goals are. When I was interviewed, they told me their goals and I told them mine. I think that's where we came to a common ground."

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