Four months into his tenure as University of New Mexico baseball coach, the shelves in Tod Brown’s office remain nearly bare.
He’s had other things to think about.
Since relocating from North Dakota State, Brown has been piecing together a coaching staff and roster for his baseball program while also trying to find a place for his family to live. Understandably, decorating the office has had to wait.
The Lobos are two weeks into fall team workouts, which will conclude with the program’s annual Cherry-Silver Series in early November. It’s an important session for UNM, which is in transition after 14-year coach Ray Birmingham retired at the end of last season.
Brown feels good about the progress he’s made thus far. He hired former Howard Community College head coach Michael Lopez as pitching coach and retained assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Jon Coyne along with director of operations John Bentley from Birmingham’s staff.
Staff in place, Brown turned toward filling out his roster, another tricky assignment in an age of seemingly endless player transfers.
“We basically re-recruited the current players,” Brown said. “We sold them on the new staff, our vision and our plan for the program and it’s gone well. We’re returning a lot of guys, most of the recruits who’d committed and we’ve added eight new players. Now we’re trying to put all the pieces in place, which is what fall ball’s about.”
UNM lost some key pieces from last season to the professional ranks. Shortstop Mack Chambers and ace picher Justin Armbruester were selected in the Major League draft, and outfielder Kyler Castillo and catcher Jarrett Gonzalez later signed free-agent contracts.
But a number of everyday players and key pitchers opted to stay with the program, including infielders Kyle Landers, Lance Russell, Willie Cano, catcher Shane Podsednik, outfielders Adam Schneider and Cole Posey, and pitchers Will Armbruester and Riley Egloff.
“The returning leaders have responded well to the changes,” Brown said, “which is really important. We have a good core and we’ve added some pieces and we’re still moving some guys around to figure out where we are position by position. By the end of fall ball we’ll know.”
Brown also is adjusting to new surroundings after spending 14 years at North Dakota State. UNM’s recently upgraded facilities and considerably warmer weather are providing options Brown did not have at North Dakota State.
“My former school is already done with fall ball,” he said. “Here, we’ve been able to slow things down. We spent September focusing on individual workouts and a lot of fundamentals and didn’t really start fall ball until Oct. 1. It’s nice being able to do that.”
Perhaps more challenging was finding a new home in Albuquerque’s current housing market. Brown’s wife, Janet, remained in North Dakota over the summer to sell the family’s previous home while Brown tried to find a replacement in New Mexico.
“Between hirings, recruiting and relocating, it’s been a lot to handle,” Brown said. “Fortunately, the same day I finally bought a house here we sold our other house, so that was a relief.
“I also have to say that a lot of people in this community have been offering to help,” he added. “It’s not really a surprise, but it’s encouraging to see how much people care about UNM and the baseball program. Their support is appreciated.”