Andrade returns to baseball roots

Gavilan Athletic Director Ron Hannon wasted little time in
finding a new coach for the baseball team after Mike McCormick
surprisingly turned in his letter of resignation earlier this week
to accept a full-time assistant job at Chico State.
Neal Andrade, who has coached the San Benito High School
baseball team for the past three years and a Live Oak graduate, was
named the new Gavilan head coach Thursday.
Gavilan Athletic Director Ron Hannon wasted little time in finding a new coach for the baseball team after Mike McCormick surprisingly turned in his letter of resignation earlier this week to accept a full-time assistant job at Chico State.

Neal Andrade, who has coached the San Benito High School baseball team for the past three years and a Live Oak graduate, was named the new Gavilan head coach Thursday.

Because Andrade is well respected by area baseball players, Hannon said Andrade would make the perfect coach to help Gavilan continue to rebuild its program.

“It was very import for us to hire a local coach, someone who understands the community and understands the appreciation our community has for baseball,” Hannon said. “Neal has grown up here. He was successful as a player and was a good coach.”

Andrade was an assistant coach at Gavilan from 1997 to 2000 before he accepted the head coaching job in Hollister.

“He’s familiar with the community college ranks and with this conference,” Hannon said. “His connection, especially in Hollister, which right now is producing some really good baseball, is important. I think he will be able to continue the success that Mike McCormick has brought to the program in the last two years.”

McCormick inherited a 1-41 team when he arrived at Gavilan College and immediately made an impact – winning five games his first season without much time to recruit and then upped the win total to 14 in his sophomore campaign. He returns to Chico State where he was an assistant on the college’s national championship squad a few years ago.

“We wish Mike all the success in his efforts to move on to the next level at a four-year school,” Hannon said.

Freshman John Kirkish, an outfielder and pitcher out of Gilroy High, went to his first day of school on Tuesday at Gavilan College only to be told by a friend in class that the man who recruited him was gone.

“I was really shocked,” Kirkish said. “He’s awesome, too. He’s an excellent coach. I just feel like he was building something and he doesn’t get to finish what he started. He was building a really good program.”

Kirkish remained positive about the surprising news, though, even if it means he has to prove himself all over again to a new coach.

“I know what I can do. I’m not worried about it if I play like I know I can,” Kirkish said. “It just makes me want to prove myself more.”

Several names were tossed around for the head coach spot, including Gavilan assistant coach Kent Cote, but Hannon felt Andrade would be the best fit after being recommended for the position by several people.

“I am really excited about this,” Hannon said. “I think our returning players will be excited. There was a bunch of names that kind of got thrown out there. Neal’s name was one name that was thrown out there several times. I felt Neal could come in and pick up the pieces. I couldn’t find a bad thing about Neal.”

During his three years at San Benito High, Andrade led his team to a 62-24-1, including two league co-titles and a Central Coast Section semifinal appearance in 2002. Andrade said he had mixed emotions about leaving Hollister where he has enjoyed so much success as a coach.

“I have nothing but positive things to say about my time at San Benito High School,” Andrade said. “I am excited about working with kids I know from Hollister and kids I was competing against at other high schools.”

Andrade said he hasn’t mapped out his battle plan for the offseason and won’t know exactly what needs to be done for recruiting or setting up games until he talks with Hannon a little more.

“I want to continue to get the program back to its winning ways like is was when I was a player and coach there,” Andrade said. “I was up there kind snooping around the field when I heard McCormick had resigned. It was kind of an eerie feeling. It looks a little different from when I was there. But it felt like a place I belonged, and it kind of felt like home.”

For Andrade, having more time to plan for the season was a plus to accepting the job.

“The only thing that was tough to get used to going from college to high school was the lack of time you have to put into your program,” Andrade said. “Here, not as many of the kids play multiple sports. Most of the kids spend nine to 10 months preparing to play collegiate ball, which it does take to have a successful season.

“I am excited to have six or seven months to plan for a season, whereas in high school, you didn’t even have six or seven weeks,” Andrade added. “Every level you step up, the level of commitment has got to step up as well, otherwise you are not going to succeed as an individual, coach or as a team.”

Andrade said he couldn’t pick out just one favorite memory from coaching at San Benito but said he enjoyed “seeing the kids go through the program and grow as individuals and seeing them get excited about playing at the next level.”

Ever since Andrade became a head coach, he has been a big proponent of encouraging his players to play ball collegially. Now he may have the chance to be a recipient of his philosophy.

“It will be a learning process for me in the next few weeks starting off especially this late,” Andrade said. “But I am excited about it.”

Andrade is being introduced to some of the potential players during the Fall Ball Fundamentals class on Monday. The season officially begins on Jan. 15.

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