Four to Enter NJCAA Baseball Coaches Assoc. Hall of Fame for 2014February 3, 2014
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The NJCAA Baseball Coaches Association has announced its 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class.
This year’s inductees include current head coaches Eric Brown of Suffolk County (N.Y.), Steve Ruzich of South Suburban (Ill.) and Tim Wallace of Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.). The 2014 class also includes previous NJCAA Division II World Series assistant tournament director Thomas Rogers of Millington, Tenn.
The four inductees will be honored at the pre-tournament banquet of the 2014 NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series on May 23rd in Grand Junction, Colo.
Suffolk head coach Eric Brown is the longest tenured coach of any athletic program at the New York community college. He has led the Sharks for 25 years and has amassed an overall record of 540-286-4. He has led Suffolk to five appearances in the NJCAA Division III World Series (1998, 99, 2000, 06, 11) and is a five-time recipient of the Region 15 / District F Coach of the Year award.
A multi-sport star, Brown lettered in three sports – including baseball – as a student-athlete at Suffolk. He was hired to the lead the program in 1987 and was inducted into the Suffolk County Community College Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
In addition to his program’s success on the field, the NJCAA Region 15 Umpires Association has awarded his program its annual sportsmanship award four times.
Brown is currently the president of the NJCAA Region 15 Baseball Coaches Association, a post he has held since 2000.
Entering his 28th season as head coach at South Suburban College, Steve Ruzich is 22 wins away from 1,000 for his career, with a 978-565 record (.634) and currently ranks 13th among active NJCAA head coaches in career victories.
Ruzich was named SSC head coach in 1987 and has led the Bulldogs to 10 NJCAA Region 4 Championships and two District titles in 1991 (Great Lakes) and 2006 (Northern), which advanced his teams to the NJCAA Division I World Series.
He has garnered many awards during his tenure, earning 10 Region 4 Coach of the Year honors, two College Coach of the Year Awards from the Pitch Hit Club of Chicago and two NJCAA District Coach of the Year awards.
Ruzich has coached 12 NJCAA All-Americans and has seen 22 of his players selected in the MLB Draft – five have advanced to the majors, including pitcher Tony Cingrani, who had a breakout season for the Cincinnati Reds in 2013. In addition, 251 players coached by Ruzich have continued their careers at four-year colleges and universities and his program has a graduation rate of over 80 percent (80%).
A former NJCAA baseball player himself, Ruzich was an All-Region performer as a catcher at South Suburban (then known as Thornton Community College) where he also excelled on the basketball court. He then earned NAIA All-America honors at the College of Saint Francis and was drafted in 1985 by the Chicago White Sox.
Heading into his 23rd season in 2014, Tim Wallace of Spartanburg Methodist ranks 12th in the NJCAA among active coaches with 984 wins. Among coaches with at least 900 wins, he has the lowest number of defeats with 307.
After playing five years in the MLB with the Montreal Expos and St. Louis Cardinals in the mid-1980’s, Wallace took over as head coach of the Pioneers in 1991 and has led the program to 11 NJCAA Region 10 Championships. Under Wallace’s direction, Spartanburg Methodist has been a regular participant at the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., advancing to the event six times since 2001. After his 2007 squad finished third in the nation, his 2009 Pioneers settled for fifth at the World Series and achieved 55 wins, setting a new school record.
He is a six-time recipient of both the Region 10 Coach of the Year and the Eastern District Coach of the Year awards. He has also received the Louisville Slugger Coaches Award four times and the Diamond ABCA Regional Coach of the Year seven times.
In addition to having many successful teams, Wallace has helped players discover their full potential. Three Pioneers have participated on NJCAA All-Star national teams that have faced international competition. Spartanburg Methodist has had 16 players earn NJCAA All-America honors during his tenure and 68 have signed professional contracts.
Wallace had his first player reach the majors in 2002 when 1998 graduate Orlando Hudson was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays. Hudson was a three-time Gold Glove winner and four time All-Star.
Wallace was inducted into the Spartanburg Methodist Athletic Hall of Honor in 2012 and is currently in his second stint as the SMC Director of Athletics. Wallace is an active member in Region 10, having served as the chair of the region’s baseball committee from 1993-98 and secretary-treasurer from 1992-95.
A successful player during his day, Wallace posted impressive numbers at Wofford College, setting program records for career batting average (.456) and longest consecutive game hitting streak (37). He also led NAIA District 6 and the state of South Carolina in hitting as a sophomore with a .472 average. For his efforts, Wallace was inducted into Wofford’s Hall of Fame in 2000.
Baseball has been a passion for Thomas Rogers throughout his adult life, and the NJCAA was one of many benefactors of his efforts. In 1993, the NJCAA Division II World Series found a home at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn. Rodgers was a key leader in the coordination of the tournament and assisted teams in all phases while they were in Millington. He worked tirelessly to make sure the needs of all teams were met.
In addition, Rogers, along with NJCAA Hall of Famer John Daigle – Director of USA Stadium, volunteered his talents to the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Association. The duo provided assistance to NJCAA All-Star teams, supplying them a training site at USA Stadium in addition to other services like transportation, housing, meals, etc.In 2004, Rogers was invited by the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Association to assist with its All-Star team that traveled to and competed in Beijing, China.
Despite the Division II World Series moving to Enid, Okla., in 2007, he has continued to lend his support and assistance to the coaches association in scheduling international competition and all-star events.