Slippery Rock University head baseball coach Jeff Messer has been a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) for just as long as he has been head coach at SRU– 32 years. After 32 years of hard work, Messer has ascended the ladder to the highest elected position of president of the prestigious ABCA.
In 1945, a small group of baseball coaches from around the country gathered with the intent of organizing and improving amateur baseball; starting with 27 members, meetings with professional baseball were made to help standardize the rules and proceedings of baseball around the country. Seventy-two years later, the ABCA is a now a vastly wide-reaching association of over 10,000 amateur baseball coaches from every discipline of baseball imaginable and the leading organization worldwide for amateur baseball coaches. NCAA coaches make up a bulk of the coaches from all three divisions, but smaller collegiate associations, such as the NAIA, NCCAA and USCAA also have representation. High school coaches, travel-ball coaches, and retired professional players also make up membership sects, with the ABCA having members from all six inhabited continents and most countries on earth.
“The main purpose of the ABCA is the development of coaching in baseball,” Messer said. He then further spoke on what the ABCA does every year. “We have an annual convention each year with 30-35 speakers who give instructions to the thousands of coaches in attendance. We also work hand-in-hand with the MLB and NCAA, as well as help with establishing rule changes in baseball.” Messer also spoke of the importance of the ABCA in the grand scheme of the sport,”With all of the different sects and merits, anything to do with amateur baseball is governed by the ABCA.”
With around 20 executive positions, the process of becoming ABCA president is a long and formidable process, which Messer laid out.
“I used to be the chair of division-II, then I was elected as one of the vice-presidents and have now moved up to the presidency.”
Messer emphasized that it is not nearly that simple.
“When elected, you start as the fourth vice-president where you have duties in that role and then move up to third vice-president. The year as second vice-president is when you do all the work. You have to contact all the speakers and formulate the topics, as well as geographically making sure that you can cover the whole country. As the senior vice-president, duties were limited. All the terms are one year long, so I will hand the presidency over to Rich Maloney, the head coach at Ball State University, next year since he is the senior vice president.”
Even after the long process, a member’s job is never over. Messer said, “Once you run the cycle of vice-presidents and becoming the president, you become a member of the board of directors for life, so you will be responsible for going to the meetings and conventions.”
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Messer said when asked about being elected to the presidency of a prestigious organization of over 10,000 members. “It’s a position elected by your peers, so being looked upon that way is humbling.”
It’s not only peers that make the position special for Messer though.
“This is a high honor, because looking back at all the members of the ABCA , you’re looking at your idols.”
Messer also spoke about some of the benefits of his new position.
“As the president, it’s the culmination of all the work experience of the past four years being the vice-presidents. Some of the benefits are representing the ABCA at the MLB All-Star game in Miami, as well as attending the World Series. At our big convention, I’ll be the inaugural speaker, and I’ll run the Hall of Fame banquet.”
Messer also elaborated on how crucial 2017’s convention in Indianapolis is going to be.
“This year is going to be the biggest convention ever because we’ve never had one in Indianapolis. With it being in the middle of the country, that allows coaches from all over to make it, we are expecting to draw over 7,500 coaches.”
“When I played in college, hardly anybody had heard of it,” Messer said about the ABCA in the past, but emphasized how times have changed in the last few decades. “With better technology, everybody who plays or coaches baseball at any level knows about the ABCA.”
From never hearing of the organization to becoming its predominant leader, Messer spoke about his excitement for his upcoming term.
“I’m enjoying everything. I’m definitely looking forward to going to the World Series and the All-Star game with the director for the ABCA, Craig Keilitz. I’m just taking it all in.”
While Messer’s duties are limited during the winter months, his “next big step will be attending the board meetings in Omaha during the Collegiate World Series.”
Throughout his 32 years as head coach of baseball, Jeff Messer has had a huge hand in putting Slippery Rock on the map due to his prowess as both a coach and mentor to hundreds of students throughout the years. Now that role will be expanded even further, as he now runs one of the biggest baseball-oriented organizations in the world. Messer has already started his term, and will serve until next January, where he will pass on the torch at the ABCA national convention in Indianapolis.