Baseball team adjusts to innovative coaching decision

Oakland is the first Division I baseball team to have two head coaches

Co-head+Coaches+Colin+Kaline+%28left%29+and+Jacke+Healey+%28right%29+will+lead+Oakland%27s+baseball+team+this+season.
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Baseball team adjusts to innovative coaching decision

Co-head Coaches Colin Kaline (left) and Jacke Healey (right) will lead Oakland's baseball team this season.

Co-head Coaches Colin Kaline (left) and Jacke Healey (right) will lead Oakland's baseball team this season.

Mary Mitchell

Co-head Coaches Colin Kaline (left) and Jacke Healey (right) will lead Oakland's baseball team this season.

Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell

Co-head Coaches Colin Kaline (left) and Jacke Healey (right) will lead Oakland's baseball team this season.

AuJenee Hirsch, Staff Reporter

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Oakland University Director of Athletics Jeff Konya announced this past June that Athletics decided to not renew former baseball Head Coach John Musachio’s contract.

Musachio had coached the Golden Grizzlies’ baseball team for nine years and compiled a 169-294 (.365) record.

With this announcement, the national search for a new head coach began. Instead of finding one head coach, the athletics department found two. One is a familiar face to the OU community, and the other’s last name is tantamount to baseball in Michigan.

In July 2016, it was announced that Jacke Healey, former Oakland assistant coach, and Colin Kaline, former Florida Southern College assistant coach, would be the two co-head coaches of the baseball team. This marked the first time in history that a Division I baseball team had two head coaches.

“Oakland University Athletics has been leading the way in innovative thinking, and this is another example of that,” Kaline said via email. “I was very excited to learn that we would be the first Division I program to have co-head coaches, and while naturally there was a little anxiety not knowing exactly how it would go, I had the utmost confidence in the athletic staff that Jacke and I would be a great fit together.”

Healey also agreed that he and Kaline are a “great fit.”

“I was excited to continue working here with someone like Colin’s background,” Healey said via email. “I was also excited about the opportunity to learn from him and the rest of our coaching staff. I know Colin and I would do everything in our power to develop these young men, provide a great student-athlete experience and continue to elevate this program.”

Both Healey and Kaline have extensive résumés and unique skills that Oakland Athletics felt would be beneficial to this year’s team.

Co-head Coach Jacke Healey

Healey played baseball at Youngstown State University, where he established himself as one of the program’s all-time great infielders. He earned first team all-conference recognition at shortstop twice, becoming the first player in program history to accomplish that feat. He currently holds the Penguins’ single-season records for home runs (12), RBI (59) and runs scored (63).

He was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 27th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. Before coming to Oakland, Healey also spent a year as the infield coach at University of Pittsburgh, where he also worked with offense. In 2013, he helped the Pittsburgh Panthers win a school-record 42 games.

Healey joined the Oakland baseball staff in fall 2013 as assistant coach after Ty Rogers left. He works primarily with the hitters and infielders. In his first season at OU, Healey helped raise the offense’s batting average over 30 points.

Co-head Coach Colin Kaline

Kaline is the grandson of Major League Baseball and Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

The Detroit Tigers drafted Kaline in the 25th round out of Birmingham Groves High School, where he batted .535 with just three strikeouts in 187 at-bats as a senior. At Florida Southern College, he led the team in walks his last three seasons, batting .287 his senior year. 

Coming out of FSC in 2011, Kaline was drafted by the Tigers again in the 26th round. 

He spent three seasons as the assistant coach at FSC prior to coming to Oakland. He coached the hitters and infielders, helping the team make a Regional Final appearance in 2014 and reach a rank of No. 7 in the country in 2016. In his last two seasons at FSC, the team finished with an over .300 batting average and scored over eight runs per game.

The players’ reactions to the coaching change

The transition from one head coach to two has been interesting, but smooth, according to senior right-hand pitcher Tyler Palm.

At first it is different having a new coach, but we were fortunate enough to have our assistant from last year, Jacke Healey,” Palm said. “Colin is a great guy as well, and both have helped make us feel comfortable. They are easygoing, but push us to be better. All-in-all [it has been a] very smooth transition.”

Kaline and Healy have both earned the trust and respect of the team in a short amount of time.

“They are laid-back people, but they expect 100 percent all of the time, which we understand,” Palm said. “If we are struggling, they don’t yell. They simply let us know the right way we should do it. It is simple with them. Listen and do things the right way, and there will be success. We all respect them because we trust what their plans and goals are for us.”

Kaline and Healey are enjoying their time as co-head coaches, as well.

It has been great . . . him and I work very well and kind of feed off each other,” Healey said. “I think we have developed not only a working relationship, but also a personal relationship. We have become pretty good friends, which I think is extremely important for the success of our student-athletes.”

Kaline says communication is an important part of making this partnership work..

As it pertains to working together, things have been running as smooth as they could be,” Kaline added. “Open communication is key, and being able to bounce ideas off of one another has made the transition a lot easier.”

The coaches’ abilities to work together will be tested as the Golden Grizzlies start their upcoming 2017 season. Oakland opens up the year at Lipscomb University Bison on Feb. 17.