When Bradley LeCroy left Clemson six years ago, his end-game was basic: Get back. However he could.
LeCroy grew up in Walhalla. Played at Clemson from 1997-2000, including a College World Series trip as a senior. And after two years as an Anderson College assistant, he spent three years as a Clemson volunteer assistant.
So coming back to Clemson to coach under Jack Leggett? It was a natural.
“My goal was, where ever it took me… my goal was to get back here as a full-time assistant,” LeCroy said last week.
Now, he’s reaping the benefits of hard work. After five years as an assistant at Western Carolina and Tennessee, LeCroy was hired last summer as the Tigers’ hitting and outfield coach, as well as recruiting coordinator. He replaced Tom Riginos, who was hired as Winthrop’s head coach.
Following five years under the tutelage of Todd Raleigh, another member of Leggett’s extensive coaching tree, LeCroy is back at the tree’s base, and he’s delighted to be here.
“It was crazy how it worked out,” LeCroy said. “How I left here and went to Western Carolina, where coach (Leggett) had coached before, a connection with Todd Raleigh as the head coach and going with him to Tennessee.
“It comes full-circle for me to come back here. A lot of guys out there owe a lot of success to coach Leggett, and I’m one of them.”
LeCroy has built a solid reputation while away from the Upstate. In 2007, Western Carolina was among the nation’s top 11 in runs, home runs and doubles per game as well as slugging percentage and batting average.
At Tennessee, the Volunteers hit 67 home runs in 56 games in 2008 (fifth-best in school history), and slugged 87 in 55 games in 2009 (second-best in school history).
He is a solid recruiter, too. The Vols’ 2008 signing class ranked 28th according to Baseball America, and the 2009 class 14th.
Leggett says he is a natural addition.
“Bradley is a guy we’ve always had an eye on,” he said. “He was a good player for us, a very good teammate, an assistant coach before he went on.
“…(When Riginos left) it was another opportunity to get another assistant, and Bradley’s name popped up into the forefront. He has a great personality, the kids love him, he’s a hard worker, a great recruiter and doing a real good job with our hitters. He has good knowledge of everything happening on the field.”
LeCroy’s transition should be smooth. Although MLB draft picks Kyle Parker, Mike Freeman and John Nester have departed (starting center fielder Wilson Boyd also graduated), Clemson has a wealth of experience ready to replace them. Chris Epps, Addison Johnson and Will Lamb, all of whom have starting experience, will battle over Parker and Boyd’s spots.
Sophomore Spencer Kieboom had already supplanted Nester during last season’s College World Series run. And senior Jason Stolz has been a part-time starter at third and shortstop, and is expected to slide into Freeman’s spot at second.
In addition, Clemson returns four starting hitters, highlighted by three preseason All-Americans – shortstop Brad Miller, left fielder Jeff Schaus and third baseman John Hinson.
“It’s a great time to come in, with all the returners coming back from last year,” LeCroy said. “With all those guys back it’s a very easy transition as a hitting coach to come back to a veteran lineup and not have to tweak too much.
“It’s not like we have eight new starters in the lineup and have to really get after it with them. Those guys had success last year; I’m trying to maintain their swings and see what happens.”
A tweak here and a tweak there, he figures, should be sufficient.
“I’m not a big guy in trying to put my stamp on anything,” he said. “I want guys to have success, and I’ll throw my two cents in when I need to with guys doing things that I see. But I’m not trying to re-do Jeff Schaus’ swing. He’s pretty successful at what he does. I’m trying to maintain. Take them a notch above last year, but we’re always trying to get better, never staying the same.”
The only thing that’s the same, it seems, is his address.
“It’s been awesome, honestly,” Miller said of LeCroy’s addition. “You can tell he’s very passionate about Clemson baseball, playing here, growing up here, and just from a team chemistry standpoint, it’s been a great addition.”