McKeesport, Pa. - The Penn State Greater Allegheny baseball team becomes anxious as the 2014-15 regular season is vastly approaching under new leadership.
"I am really excited to be here," explained newly appointed head coach of the Penn State Greater Allegheny baseball team, Mark Jackson. "Coaches don't usually have the luxury of coming in and taking over an already successful program."
Jackson takes over this season after a long-standing tenure with former head coach, Jim Chester. Under Chester, the Penn State Greater Allegheny baseball team noted appearances in the Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) playoffs four times alongside appearances in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) five times. Chester finished his GA tenure with an overall record of 207-107-1, 119-28 PSUAC, completing last season with a perfect 20-0 Penn State University Athletic Conference record and an overall record of 32-12.
"We have limited time to work since I joined the Penn State Greater Allegheny Athletic Department in January, so the men have to come together and contribute," said Jackson. "The team has a number of returning starters that know what it takes to be successful and they will be counted on to provide leadership and direction in helping the team to reach the goals it has set for the 2015 season."
Achieving goals has been a trademark of the programs Coach Jackson has coached during his career. No stranger to college baseball in Pittsburgh, Jackson spent twelve years directing the program at Point Park University and seven years as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He feels fortunate to have coached talented players at both universities that were committed to excellence as evidenced by the Point Park team making five appearances in the NAIA World Series and Pitt winning two Big East titles during his tenure.
"I plan to continue the tradition of excellence that has been established with the baseball program," said Jackson. "My ultimate goal is to help each player to reach their potential as a student, as an athlete, and as a person."
Joining Coach Jackson on the staff for the upcoming season will be Jeffrey Wilds. Coach Wilds, a former player at Penn State McKeesport, has an extensive and accomplished background in baseball that includes starting and directing a successful program at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg . "We are fortunate to have Coach Wilds on the staff and I know he will contribute a great deal in many ways to the continued success of the program."
"The season is coming soon and we are getting ready," said Jackson. The 2014-2015 season is set to get underway in Vero Beach, Florida after a few cancelations due to weather in Pittsburgh. On March 8th, Greater Allegheny is set to square up with Briarcliffe (NY) at Holman Stadium in Historic Dodgertown for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
"We are very excited to start off in Florida as we see some great USCAA and PSUAC competition. This is a great start and a good challenge to see our competition now so we better know what to expect with our goal to be a contender in the USCAA World Series. Jackson's assessment of the 2015 team is that it should be strong offensively with everyone in the order capable of hitting over .300. The pitching has the potential to be extremely good and the team should play solid defense. "It will come down to whether we can reach certain numbers statistically but in the end the key will be staying positive and playing hard pitch by pitch within the system."
After the eight game run down in Florida, Greater Allegheny comes back to go on the road against Point Park, Jackson's previous institution. "Greater Allegheny will not be doing anything different than what we did at the bigger institutions, like Point Park or Pitt. It has an always will be the player's team and it really comes down to their commitment and effort."