LAWRENCEVILLE — The powerhouse Georgia Gwinnett College baseball program unveiled its new leader Friday afternoon.
Jeremy Sheetinger, who spent nearly four years with the American Baseball Coaches Association, was announced to a crowd at the Grizzly Athletic Complex as the replacement for Brad Stromdahl, hired last month as Georgia State’s head baseball coach. Sheetinger has been ABCA’s assistant executive director, coaching development and outreach since 2015, in addition to his duties as an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves during that span.
Athletic director Darin Wilson led a hiring committee of GGC staffers that pared a large list of candidates down to Sheetinger. He takes over a program that went 328-104 and reached the NAIA World Series three times since its inception under Stromdahl. The Grizzlies reached the World Series for the second straight year in 2019, finishing with a 48-13 record and a No. 4 national ranking.
“I think people have known that this is one of the premier small college jobs in the U.S,” Wilson said. “With that, we had a lot of interest in this position as you can imagine. The committee did a great job of being extremely exhaustive, going through a large number of candidates, and candidates that were extremely qualified for this position. Ultimately, we were looking for someone who could come in and run our program the way we like things to be run, on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the community with the community service aspect.
“Thankfully, we had one candidate that rose to the top. We came out of that room with a unanimous choice.”
For the past four years, Sheetinger — “Sheets” to those close to him — has served as the college division liaison for the ABCA. He was responsible for organization communications and relationship building within coaches and administrators at the NCAA Division II and III, NAIA and junior college levels. He helped facilitate a 200 percent growth rate in ABCA membership and attendance records for three of the organization’s annual conventions.
Sheetinger’s recent outreach efforts were as creator and executive producer of the ABCA’s “The Road Show” and “Extra Innings” video features, where he interviewed coaches about a variety of subjects about the game, game-day operations and program management. He is well connected nationally with baseball, Wilson said, and he boasts nearly 13,000 followers on Twitter.
He coached at all divisions of college baseball from 2004 to 2012, and is excited to get back into an on-field role.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Sheetinger said. “I feel this is the best small school job in the country. I assure you with Team No. 8 this year, I’ll give you my life for this program. I won’t let you down. This is an exciting opportunity and I’m extremely proud to be the leader of this group. … (My wife Chelsea and I) really wanted to get back to a place where we could grow our family up on a college campus. We could have that environment. We could have a built-in friend network. We could have babysitters. We’re looking for babysitters (laughs).
"(Our son) Coop can hang out in the dugout. He can learn the lessons he can find out quickly from 35 dudes. But it’s going to grow him up. (Our daughter) C.J.’s going to eat warning track material for the first year or so, but she’ll be a softball camp regular and we’re excited about that.
“For me to be given a second chance to get back in the dugout is really special. We’re excited about that on a lot of different fronts. The biggest of all is that in Jan. 2018 my father passed away. My father was a single dad. He took care of me. He was my advice giver. He was my loan shark, and my best friend. I can assure you if he was still here, he would be right here on the front row. He’d probably try to ease his chair over here beside me so he could get in. He’d want media time, do an interview with the dad. It’s pretty neat this whole process fell the way it did. Today would have been his 70th birthday. It’s pretty neat. It’s definitely hit home on a lot of fronts because I know he would be here with us.”
The Kentucky native, a former player at Kentucky Wesleyan, began his coaching career at the NAIA level in his home state with one season each at Georgetown College and Brescia University. He was director of baseball operations and camp coordinator at the University of Kentucky from 2007 through 2010, when he became assistant head baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at St. Joseph’s College (Ind.).
Sheetinger then spent three seasons as head coach at Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., posting an 86-43 record, including a school-record 33 victories at the NCAA Division III level in the 2013 season. He left in 2015 for the ABCA position.
“I knew at some point (the right coaching position) would open up,” Sheetinger said. “The move to ABCA out of coaching, at the time it was a family decision, but I think I needed that personally. I think I was consumed in wins and losses. I was consumed with my ego. I certainly wasn’t coaching players to be grown men. I was coaching to win the next championship so I could boost my resumé. I needed ABCA to get out of that. I needed to get perspective one-on-one and I found it. It’s been refreshing. I needed to serve people instead of trying to serve myself. I think that was a God move. He put that in place so that I could get away from it and really watch successful coaches and learn on my own so that I would have this opportunity to come back and be different, be special.”
The position with ABCA, and its popular podcast, made those coaching connections stronger. One of his close friends is GGC’s outgoing coach, Stromdahl.
“We ran a nationally broadcast podcast with over 140 episodes, 180 coaches on there, I think there were 170 something national championships or state championships (between them), so I’ve tried to spend my time around the best of the best, the cream of the crop,” Sheetinger said. “And pick their brains, not just on air, but off the air and friendships. Pull as many ideas as I can. How they run practice. How they deal with their team. How they handle situations or issues. Every conversation I’ve had with a coach usually comes back to, hey I need some advice on this, what would you do?”
Sheetinger is back to making those decisions on his own with a program that has posted a winning record in all seven seasons of its existence. His goals are higher than that, though.
The Grizzlies’ first national championship in baseball is the mission.
“I know this is going to sound harsh, but it’s the way I think,” Sheetinger said. “I think excuses are the language of losers. Winners find solutions. Winners speak in solutions. I really feel like at GGC that’s what made the decision so easy. We don’t have any excuses here. There’s nothing I’m going to walk into Darin’s office and go, 'I’m really worried about this.' We’re going to figure it out. We’re going to get past it. We’re going to move past it. Our team will move past it. This is the flagship athletic department for the NAIA. I firmly believe that. That’s why it made the job so easy.
“I’m humbled to work for what I think and by all accounts is the best athletic director in small college athletics. That was a big deciding factor in coming here. We have the best playing surface and facility in NAIA baseball, hands down. No questions asked. We’ve got a pro weight room, probably the best strength coach I’ve ever had a conversation with. I’m still jazzed up from this morning. We have a locker room in place. We have a support system in place. This will be the landing place for the best players in the country. If they’re interested in a top-flight degree, to compete for championships and to find out the boundaries of their God-given talent, this is exactly where they’re supposed to be. Those are the guys we are going to hunt down to get here.”
GGC’s roster returns a considerable level of talent, and a top recruiting class will join soon. Sheetinger said there could be another addition or two to the current roster, but spoke highly of the players he has inherited.
He also laid out his recruiting strategy going forward.
“If you look at the talent that’s getting into professional baseball, Georgia ranks No. 3,” Sheetinger said. “So the hotbed for baseball is right here within our boundaries. Certainly within Gwinnett County and certainly within the extended cities, we can make a killing here. We can make a living really doing a great job of keeping those kids local. Then we get an opportunity to really sprinkle in some outside kids. We certainly want to have some different touch points around the country. But we are Georgia Gwinnett. I’d like to make sure we have a real solid Georgia presence on our roster.”