Trojan baseball coach Bobby Pierce addressed the media on Wednesday, Aug. 13, and expressed his intent to retire after the 2015 baseball season, which would be his 13th season as head coach.
On Tuesday night, Pierce informed the baseball team of his reasons for retiring at this time. The Trojans’ coach had been considering this retirement for the past year and half to two years.
“I am convinced that it is the right decision, at the right time for me and my family,” Pierce said. “I have put everything I have into playing and coaching for 51 years of my life. When you invest that much for that long, your tank runs a little low.”
Pierce’s only request to Athletic Director John Hartwell was for him to find somebody who treated the student-athletes fairly and coach them with character and integrity.
Assistant coach Mark Smartt, who has served with Pierce for all 12 years, has already been named the future head coach.
“There is no other guy, who has earned or deserves the opportunity like Mark Smartt,” Pierce said. “I feel so good about that and I feel so great that we had the opportunity to share the last 12 years together.”
Bobby Pierce was hired in July 2002 and the 2014-2015 academic year will mark his 33rd year in college baseball.
After his arrival, the Troy baseball program experienced exceptional growth such as scoring four conference titles, attending four NCAA Regionals and producing 27 players who have gone on to play professional baseball.
Over the past nine years, the Trojans have rewritten the record books in 10 offensive and 10 pitching categories. Not only did the players improve on the field at Pierce’s arrival but also with GPAs. The team posted GPAs higher than 3.0 during most semesters.
“It’s how selfless he is,” Hartwell said. “Nothing is about coach Bobby Pierce. Everything is about student-athletes that played for him. I think it’s no secret that that’s why those young men played so hard and so passionately for him.”
Pierce originally enrolled at Troy University as a freshman in 1977 before transferring to South Florida Community College the following year. Several years later he signed with the University of Alabama and set multiple records as an All-SEC outfielder.
At 23 years old he became the youngest head coach in Florida junior college history. He served five years at his alma mater as an assistant coach before becoming the first head coach of the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
Pierce has accumulated 420 wins at Troy and 955 wins overall. He is only 15 games short of passing previous coach Chase Riddle for the most in university history.
“Indeed, today is bittersweet,” Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. said. “It’s bitter on the one hand because you hate to lose great talent but on the other, he has worked in the vineyards and there is no one is more appropriate to succeed Bobby Pierce, in my estimation, than Mark Smartt.”
His successor, Mark Smartt, was very choked up during the press conference.
“I am extremely proud of the fact I will eventually be the head coach of my alma mater and follow in the footsteps of two men I admire and respect so much,” Smartt said.
Smartt has known Pierce for over 25 years but has enjoyed working side by side with him for the past 12 years.
“He has the unique ability to bring out the best in everyone,” Smartt said. “He is held in high regard by anyone he comes in contact with.”
Smartt had the pleasure of playing for Troy under the legendary Chase Riddle as a second baseman during the 1986 and 1987 NCAA Division II national championships. He also served two years as an assistant coach under Riddle.
Troy University is not the first place that Smartt has been head coach at. He has spent 5 seasons as head coach at the University of West Alabama. He has accumulated 894 wins in 27 as a player and a coach.
Riddle-Pace Field has changed greatly since Smartt’s time as student-athlete and more renovations are expected.
“This place has changed aesthetically; it has not changed internally,” Smartt said.