July 26, 2017
Cotuit – Jayce Vancena (Michigan) crept around the team while trying to shrink his 6’5 frame. The kettleers formed a semi-circle around Cotuit assistant coach Nick Calhoun, all listening to his closing words with the team. Just as he began to close his speech, Vancena popped up from behind, dumping a cooler of ice water over his head. The team jumped and yelled, with Calhoun in the center of a Kettleers’ mosh-pit.
Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) shielded himself from the rest of the team, making sure that he was the first player in line to meet Calhoun with a closing hug. Jenista pulled him in tightly and patted him on the back twice. “Good luck,” he said.
“It’s bittersweet when you see a coach leave like that,” Jenista said. “He’s in a better place. He’s going to go be a head coach. He’s a great guy and all you can ask for as a player.”
Calhoun didn’t change his presence along the first-base line during Cotuit’s (18-17-1) 4-0 shutout win against Wareham (16-19-1). In his last game with Cotuit this season, the Kettleers pitching staff dominated, combining to throw their second shutout against Wareham. In five games against Wareham, four have ended in shutouts, and the two sides have split those contests, 2-2.
This Wednesday night at Lowell Park, Calhoun remained calm and collected. His thick beard masking a shy grin. After the game, though, in the cooler celebration, the grin broke into a full smile.
“The Cape is somewhere I never thought I’d be,” Calhoun said. “I thought it was basically Mars. But I love it here. There’s no place better.”
In his second season with Cotuit, Calhoun heads out with the Kettleers one game over .500 and with two more wins than the team had in his first season.
The first-base coach is leaving early to begin his career as the new head coach for the University of South Carolina – Lancaster.
“It’s exciting,” Calhoun said. “It’s overwhelming. It’s something I’ve never done before and a lot of unknowns. But I’ve learned a lot here from the players and the coaches here. I’m well prepared.”
At the beginning of the month, Calhoun had five interviews in a 10-day period. Four phone interviews and one face-to-face. USC Lancaster was the one face-to-face interview. Calhoun flew to Lancaster on Sunday, July 9 for an interview the following morning. Calhoun then flew back on July 10 to be back in time for Cotuit’s game against Hyannis.
The hiring staff at USC Lancaster informed him that they would give him a decision by Friday, July 14. But when Calhoun’s phone rang on Tuesday morning, he arrived at Cotuit’s batting practice that afternoon as USC Lancaster’s new head coach.
“It made me feel pretty good that it didn’t take too much time,” Calhoun said. “I was extremely surprised at how quick it was.”
Calhoun rode the gator car around the infield with pitching coach Jonathan King riding shotgun as they sifted the infield dirt and discussed the new coaching gig. Calhoun had just one spot to fill to complete his coaching staff for the upcoming season.
“I had tons of questions for him,” King said. “I was just like, ‘so do you have to hire anyone,’ and he said, ‘I just have to hire one guy……I need a pitching coach.’ I said, ‘do you have anyone in mind,’ and I just figured he knew someone.”
“I said ‘ya,’” Calhoun said, “‘do, you want to be it.’ And I totally took him by surprise.”
Now, this spring at USC Lancaster, Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts’ coaching tree will extend to another school and two more coaches as the pair head to South Carolina.
“We have two guys off this staff going to the same school to pick up a really good program,” Roberts said. “Now I can drive down from Chapel Hill and see these guys.”
King will remain with Cotuit for the remainder of the season, so as not to leave the team too short-handed, as he will be back with the team tomorrow on the road against Hyannis (13-21-3).