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Baseball lifer’s coaching philosophy took shape at Northeastern

Tim Scannell had known that he wanted to become a coach back in the mid-1980s, when he was playing varsity sports at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Massachusetts. But it wasn’t until he joined Northeastern’s baseball team and began playing for legendary skipper Neil McPhee that he started to develop a coaching philosophy, one that would eventually guide him to unprecedented success at college baseball’s Division III level.

“Coach McPhee was incredibly tough and competitive,” recalls Scannell, a career .345 hitter who played shortstop for the Huskies from 1988 to 1991, the latter two years for which he served as team captain. “I learned that if you really stuck your chin out and competed, then oftentimes you didn’t have to be the best team on the field in order to win.”

Scannell, AS’94, carried this attitude with him to San Antonio, where he took over the DIII Trinity Tigers in 1999 and quickly turned them into perennial contenders in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. Over the past 18 years, he’s amassed a 602-229 record while leading the team to seven consecutive NCAA regional appearances. In May, he got a well-deserved Powerade shower from his players after the scrappy group defeated Keystone College to win the DIII World Series for the first time in program history. “In a lot of ways I took coach McPhee’s philosophy and applied it at Trinity,” he says. “If you challenge players to step forward and hold everybody accountable to their performance, then winning will become a byproduct of that effort.”

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Scannell received a Powerade shower after his team won the 2016 Division III College World Series.

Despite his program’s success, Scannell is self-effacing, choosing to extoll the virtues of his players while downplaying his own accomplishments. But as the nine-time SCAC Coach of the Year, his many awards speak for themselves. After finishing the 2016 season with a 44-7 record, he was named the DIII coach of the year by HERO Sports and D3 baseball.com. He also became the first DIII skipper to receive the National College Baseball Hall of Fame’s Skip Bertman National Coach of the Year Award, which honors the nation’s top coach from any level of college baseball. “Baseball comes down to how well your players play,” he says, minimizing his impressive achievements after a historic season. “From a coaching standpoint, these awards validate how we recruit and the type of player development we put forth.”

Scannell has coached more than two-dozen players who have gone on to sign pro contracts, including three stars of the championship team. One player, an outfielder whom Scannell described as “the prototypical line-drive hitter” with “tremendous bat speed,” was selected by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the MLB draft in June and is currently playing in the Appalachian Rookie League. Another player was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 15th round of the 2012 draft and is currently pitching in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. That a score of his players have had the opportunity to pursue their dreams of reaching the big leagues, says Scannell, “validates the fact that we’re doing things right at Trinity.”

Many of his former teammates at Northeastern followed Trinity’s success this season, texting him messages of encouragement as the Tigers made their championship run. Scannell, for his part, has remained committed to following Northeastern’s baseball team, which finished the 2016 season with a 31-27 record. “I’m so thankful for everything that program gave me,” he says, “and there’s no way to express how proud I am of what type of program it is now.”