Those worried about the future of the Kent State baseball program following the departure of coach Scott Stricklin for the University of Georgia may have breathed easier Thursday.
Mike Birkbeck, KSU’s associate head coach and pitching coach, declined an offer to join Stricklin at the Southeastern Conference school, Kent State announced.
Birkbeck had been a candidate to take over for Stricklin, but elected to remain in his current role. A former major leaguer in the second year of a six-year contract, Birkbeck will begin his 18th season as KSU pitching coach in the fall.
“I am thrilled to be continuing on in my position as associate head coach/pitching coach here at Kent State University,” Birkbeck said in a statement, “and I am looking forward to working with the new head coach as we continue to move our baseball program to even greater heights. Kent State University is a very special place to me and with the talented core group of returning players and an exceptional group of student-athletes in our incoming freshman class, I am very excited about the future of this program.”
Kent State reached its first College World Series in 2012. During Birkbeck’s tenure, the Golden Flashes have claimed seven Mid-American Conference regular season titles, eight MAC Tournament championships and made eight NCAA appearances.
“Retaining Mike Birkbeck was a priority,” Kent State director of athletics Joel Nielsen said in a statement. “He’s known in college baseball as one of the best pitching coaches in the country, and someone who both attracts and retains high performing student-athletes. Mike has played a significant role in the baseball program’s success, both on and off the field, and I know our past, current and future Golden Flashes will applaud Mike’s decision.”
Forty players coached by Birkbeck at KSU have been drafted or signed into professional baseball. That list includes Andrew Chafin, a first-round pick in 2011, and Tyler Skulina and Taylor Williams, taken in the fourth round earlier this month.
Birkbeck’s son John will be a junior pitcher for KSU in 2013-14.
In November, 2012, Birkbeck was honored as by Baseball America as the American Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year. A 1985 graduate of the University of Akron, Birkbeck is a member of the Orrville Sports Hall of Fame, UA Sports Hall of Fame, Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame, Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame, Summit County Sports Hall of Fame, the Richmond Braves 10th Anniversary All-Diamond Team and Richmond’s All-Century Team.