Staff Photo: Will Hammock Former Georgia State assistant Brad Stromdahl is starting up the Georgia Gwinnett College baseball program, which begins play in the spring of 2013.
Brad Stromdahl is the first head baseball at Georgia Gwinnett College, which begins intercollegiate athletics for the 2012-13 school year.
Stromdahl grew up in Napa, Calif., and moved to Wisconsin as a high-schooler. His college coaching career includes stops at Southwest Minnesota State, Marshall and Central Michigan, but he was most recently hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia State, where he coached for six years.
He and his wife Tessa have one son, Leo, who is 10 months old.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ... ", Stromdahl talks with sports editor Will Hammock about the new GGC program, his California roots and his favorite dinner guests.
WH: How's the job gone so far? Has it been fun?
BS: It's been fantastic. I get to come to work every day with a great group of people and I think the community we have here at GGC is unbelievable. With Dr. Wilson and the other coaches here on staff and as we continue to bring more people in, I think that's the highlight of what we have going on here and what our job is. We're all doing the same thing, building our programs and getting the student-athletes in here. We're all really looking forward to August and the fall. That's the best part about it and also the biggest challenge, just growing your program from the beginning, from the ground up. We have to get all the equipment, all the uniforms, all the materials. Then we have to set our game plan, we have to set our foundation, hire our coaches. I hired Christian Castori, the pitching coach at Middle Georgia College and played a couple of years of professional baseball before that. Mark Mortimer, who was with the Braves organization for a long time and was a bullpen catcher with the big-league club. He'll be on staff next year as well. It's been challenging, fun and exciting with hiring and recruiting.
WH: Was recruiting made easier because you were nearby at Georgia State and already had roots here?
BS: It's great to have the contacts in our community. I don't know if it's ever made easier, but I think the easiest sell is Georgia Gwinnett College and the facilities we're building, the program we're building. I think that will sell itself. But it's been good. The recruiting's good. It's always a challenge picking and choosing the right player, the right person to come into your program. We have to make some difficult decisions in Year 1. We really can't miss in Year 1. That's the whole goal. We're taking things slow. There are a lot of good kids in this community, in metro Atlanta, in the state of Georgia and the Southeast we have to choose from. We're being very selective and we want kids locally from this community, first and foremost. We want good people, good families, good baseball players and kids who are going to graduate from Georgia Gwinnett College with a degree. That's our goal.
WH: Do you think you'll have a core of Gwinnett players on your roster every year?
BS: I think it's a natural fit for us. We're right in the middle of Gwinnett County. There's no reason we can't have a core group of local kids every year whether they're transfer kids, junior college kids or freshmen.
WH: What's the first game going to be like?
BS: There are so many things to look forward to. The first day we get uniforms. The first day we get hats. The first day we're at practice. The first day we sit down and meet as a team. Everything you do this year is the first. It's never been done before, any of it. But I definitely think the culmination of everything we've been doing for the last six or seven months and leading up to the next eight or nine months, is that first home game. That is going to be the pinnacle of where we're at. From that point on, it's a matter of playing every single game, trying to make this team better and trying to put wins on the board right away. That's the goal of the coaches and the players who are coming in. Yeah, we're the first, but we want to win right away.
WH: You've lived several places. What do you like about Atlanta?
BS: Atlanta's fabulous. My wife works at The Carter Center for President Carter downtown. We've been here about seven years now and it's really felt like home. We were in a number of different places --Michigan, California, North Carolina --and this is really a place we'd love to make our home. And fortunately we've both been given the opportunity to be able to put down our roots here. We've got a great group of friends and great groups of co-workers. This is home.
WH: What was it like growing up in Napa?
BS: It was nice. It's a beautiful, beautiful area. I think you appreciate things more after you leave them. Growing up as a kid, I don't think you really understand you live in such a great, beautiful area that's well renowned for food, wine and culture. You don't understand it until you leave. My wife and I are planning a trip back there hopefully in the next year and a half, just to go back and see it. I haven't been back in 10 years or so. It's amazing. But I don't think it's any different from where anybody else grew up. It's all a matter of perspective. But it is a cool place.
WH: How was it to move from there to Wisconsin when you were in high school?
BS: For me, it was great. I got to see a new part of the country. I was going from a big, private Catholic high school in California to a very small, public high school in northern Wisconsin. It was a great experience. I got to play three different sports. I got to be involved in all sorts of other activities that I probably wouldn't have been able to do if I had stayed in Napa. I was able to really reach out and touch different parts of my life, athletically and socially, that I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to do. Plus I had never seen the snow before and it was cold that first year. And driving on the snow also was very interesting when I had never seen snow before.
WH: What did your classmates think of the California kid?
BS: Luckily I was able to play sports and I think being on a team builds camaraderie right away. I think you're always accepted in when you're part of a team. That's why it was an easy transition.
WH: Did you think the other kids talked funny?
BS: I didn't think they taught funny. They thought I talked funny. I had a West Coast accent for sure. I tried to very quickly move into the Midwest accent. I don't know if I ever succeeded or not, but I tried.
WH: How long did you play pro baseball?
BS: I spent about a year and a half bouncing around independent baseball. There was nothing ever solidified. I just hoped I'd make it the next day or the next week. I was fortunate enough to get a number of different tryouts and played with a number of different teams. It was something where I knew I wasn't ever good enough to play in the major leagues and I knew I needed to do something more with my life than just trying to bounce around and keep the dream alive. I was fortunate enough to be around very good coaches who guided me and mentored me to go back and get my master's degree. In doing that, I was able to parlay that into a couple of different summer coaching jobs and college jobs. So I was able to move right into a coaching position.WH: Do you have a favorite MLB team you follow?
BS: I just like good baseball. I like the Braves. I like the Giants. I like them probably the most because those are the teams I've been around the most. I really don't have a particular team that I love die-hard. But I just enjoy good baseball.
WH: What are your hobbies outside of baseball?
BS: I like to totally get outside of athletics and sports as much as we possibly can. My wife and I will go to museums and art galleries, to see something totally different from athletics. We try to break free and go on vacations, see a place we've never seen. We go to a lot of events, festivals, parades, neighborhoods in Atlanta. We just try to live our lives and experience as much as you can. That's the important part. That's what we're going to try to teach our kids. It's not only baseball. Baseball isn't the most important thing, getting your degree is. But also your community is important to your success and vice versa. The more you can broaden your horizons, the better person you'll be in your community.
WH: What kind of music are you into?
BS: I like everything. But probably I like what's at the Music Midtown Festival the best. I'm probably more of a rock, indie music person. That's probably the genre I tend to gravitate toward.
WH: What's the best concert you've seen?
BS: Probably Eels down at the Variety Playhouse. His real name is Mark Oliver Everett. That's probably the best concert I've been to because it's such a great venue to watch a concert and I was really into his music for awhile.
WH: If you could have dinner with any four people, dead or alive, who would you pick?
BS: The first person would probably be Alexander Hamilton because of his background. He founded a lot of the Constitutional things, the monetary system, a lot of different things that involve our states as we see it today. He had a fascinating upbringing. I think he'd be an interesting guy to have dinner with. I'd have my wife there. Michelangelo. I think Michelangelo would be fascinating. And another good one would be Nelson Mandela. So Nelson Mandela, Michelangelo, Alexander Hamilton and my wife. That would be an interesting dinner.
WH: What traditions are you looking forward to starting here?
BS: I think it's going to morph into what it is. I'm just going to let it develop itself. I have some ideas and some directions where I want it to go. But I'm also going to let it lead, because I think that Georgia Gwinnett College itself is on the cutting edge, the new model of education. I don't think we all know exactly where we're going to go, where we're going to be tomorrow. Who knew five years ago we'd be at 8,500 students? The vision here is completely bright and completely unknown, but it's going to be great. Our foundation is going to built upon academics, good people, good students and good baseball players. And we're going to win. Our tradition is going to be winning. That's what our tradition is. Everything kind of filters down from that. You're going to graduate from college here. You're going to win. You're going to win at the highest level and you're going to win championships. Those are the things you really embrace when you go to school. The environment here on campus is only going to foster that culture. We have a group of great people here already. Dr. Wilson has already hired great people and great coaches. That's the tradition we're trying to build. You have to build that winning tradition. You can say it, but you don't have it until you do it. We've got to get our first win, then our first winning season, then our first championship, our second championship. Over the course of time, you can say that's where our vision was on Day 1, winning championships. I don't think you can necessarily say this is exactly where we're going to be, what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. There might be a little more building in there or it might happen right away. Either way, it's going to be hard work getting us there. As long as we have good people helping us, which we do, we have the opportunity to win championships right away.