In 1945, a group of college baseball coaches gathered in New York City to formulate ideas for the promotion and improvement of the collegiate game. Coach Eppy Barnes, Colgate University, and coach Joe Bedenk, Pennsylvania State University, originated the idea that college baseball needed organization and direction. Prior to 1945, a survey revealed that only one-third of the more than 600 colleges were playing baseball. More than 140 coaches responded to the survey approving the formation of a college baseball coaching organization.
The first meeting was held at the New York Athletic Club on June 29, 1945. Twenty-seven coaches were in attendance. Presentations were made urging college coaches to organize so they could better promote the game, help gather national statistics and cooperate with professional baseball. Former college coach and President of the Brooklyn Dodgers Branch Rickey was one of the speakers. It was determined that a constitution would be written. The name of the new organization was to be named the American Association of College Baseball Coaches (AACBC). It was voted that each member would pay dues, which were set at five dollars for active members and two dollars for allied members.
The first elected officers were: President - Eppy Barnes, Colgate University; First Vice President - Ray Fisher, University of Michigan; Second Vice President - Clint Evans, University of California; Third Vice President - Red Rolfe, Yale University; and Secretary/Treasurer - George "Lefty" James, Cornell University.
The founding fathers decided they would hold meetings (conventions) each year and they would be held with the NCAA meeting.
The officers elected at the July, 1945 meeting were selected to serve one more year. Eppy Barnes has been the only president of the organization to serve two terms.
In January, 1946 in the city of St. Louis, the second convention of the AACBC was held with approximately 60 members in attendance. Items of discussion included: All-America teams, a playoff system, promoting the game, creation of conferences and leagues, and problems with early signings by professional baseball.
Since those early years, the Association has grown to over 8,000 members with members from more than 20 different countries. By 1980, the AACBC's membership had broadened significantly to include coaches other than just college members. At the January, 1981 convention held in Miami, the membership voted to change the name of the Association to the present name of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).
During the 69-year history of the ABCA, almost all of the great amateur coaches have been active members in the ABCA. Many of them have served as President. Active coaches may be elected by the membership as the incoming fourth vice-president. They then work their way through the vice-president chairs and eventually become president.
Only its first president, Eppy Barnes, served as ABCA president for more than one year (he served two). Since then, the ABCA has elected a new president every year. Presidents have come from all divisions - NCAA I, II & III, NAIA, Junior College and High School. Those who have served as president have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and the highest dedication to the position and the coaching profession. It is because of the efforts of these men that the coaching profession is held in such high esteem.
The ABCA has had five full-time Executive Directors: Lee Eilbracht (1978-87), Jerry Miles (1987-91), Dick Bergquist (1991-94), Dave Keilitz (1994-2014) and Craig Keilitz (2014-present).
Board of Directors and the Executive Committee
Prior to 1983, the Association's governing body was known as the Executive Committee. In 1983, the ABCA Board of Directors was formed. The Board establishes general policy, directs the business and affairs of the Association, is responsible for Constitution/By-Law Amendments, and in general, governs the Association. The Board consists of all past presidents, the current president and first vice-president of the ABCA, and three members of the Executive Committee from among the Divisional Chairs. These three members are elected by the Executive Committee members.
John Winkin, of the University of Maine, was elected as the Board's first chairman and served from 1983-86. The ABCA has had six chairs since Winkin: Chuck Brayton, Washington State University (1986-89); Jack Stallings, Georgia Southern University (1989-92); Bud Daniel, University of Wyoming (1992-95); Bill Arce, Claremont-Mudd College (1995-98); Carroll Land, Point Loma Nazarene University (1998-2004); Glen Tuckett, Brigham Young University (2004-10); Jack Kaiser, St. John's University (2010-13) and Mark Johnson, Texas A&M/Sam Houston State (2013-present).
The Board holds two meetings at each national convention and also meets at the NCAA Division I College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. There are also several conference calls held each year with the seven-person Standing Committee, which is chaired by the Chairman of the Board.
The Executive Committee deals with issues that arise from each division (NCAA Division I, II and III, NAIA, Junior College, Pacific Association Division, High School and Youth). They also discuss issues that may come from ABCA committees or the general membership. Those items that involve policy, constitution or by-law changes, or those items that may involve considerable expense, are sent on to the Board of Directors with a recommendation from the Executive Committee.
The ABCA is the primary professional organization for baseball coaches at the amateur level. Its over 8,000 members represent all 50 states and 23 countries. Since 1945, Association membership has broadened to include eight divisions: NCAA Division I, II and III, NAIA, Junior College, Pacific Association Division, High School and Youth.
The Association is involved in numerous programs that promote the integrity of the profession and the development of the game of baseball. Mailings are sent to members annually, and include the "Covering All Bases" newsletter. The Coaching Digest and the ABCA Directory, among other things, are available electronically to the membership. Members serve on a variety of committees necessary to the function of the ABCA, and the governance system is through an elected Executive Committee and the Board of Directors.
Each January, the ABCA hosts the largest baseball convention in the world. Over 5,000 coaches attend the convention, which is held at various locations around the country. It is four days of non-stop baseball.
Normally, on the opening afternoon of the convention, all of the committees meet to discuss their issues. There are 20 such committees not counting the Board, Executive Committee or the Standing Committee. The evening of the first day of the convention is reserved for all the divisional business meetings. Actions taken at all these meetings are taken to the Executive Committee.
There are approximately 30 clinic speakers at each year's convention. These include some of the most knowledgeable and finest baseball coaches in the world. Each shares his expertise with all of the coaches in attendance.
Two highlights of each convention are the Honors Luncheon and the Hall of Fame/Coach of the Year Banquet. Both are held to present and honor individuals who have contributed significantly to the sport of baseball. Some of the individuals who have been recognized and honored at the Honors Luncheon have been President George H.W. Bush, Ray Kroc, John Grisham, Dick Enberg, Bobby Brown, John Moores, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda, Sandy Alderson, Michael Josephson, Bruce Brown, Cal Ripken, Jr, Nolan Ryan, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn and Mike Scioscia.
At the Hall of Fame/Coach of the Year Banquet, the induction of the ABCA newest class of Hall of Famers takes place. The annual Lefty Gomez Award is also presented to an individual who has contributed at the highest level to the sport of baseball. The Regional Coaches and National Coaches of the Year from each division are introduced.
Additionally, over 300 companies are on hand to display state-of-the-art baseball equipment and services. These exhibitors use over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space.
The Association was instrumental in the creation of the College World Series. The first AACBC College World Series was held in June of 1947 at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was a two-team series with the University of California defeating Yale University the first two games of a two-out-of-three series. The next year the AACBC requested $5,000 from the NCAA for the CWS, which was also held in Kalamazoo. In 1949, the AACBC expanded the tournament to four teams and the series moved to Wichita, Kansas. The CWS moved to Omaha in 1950, where it has been held ever since, and eight teams were involved. Today the CWS is conducted by the NCAA, but the Association was the group behind the start of this popular series and continues to assist in any way possible.
In 1950, the Association established its first All-America team. Since that time, ABCA All-America teams have been selected in each division of the ABCA. Each division has an All-America/Coach of the Year Committee. Regional chairs of each division's All-America Committee conduct regional votes for All-Region teams. Every coach has an opportunity to vote. The regional chairs of each division then meet at the site of their respective national championships and, from the regional teams, they select first, second and third team All-Americans. Each division also selects a National Player of the Year, as well as Region Coaches of the Year and National Coaches of the Year. Each year, over 1,700 All-Region players and 336 All-American Players are recognized by the ABCA for their outstanding performances.
The ABCA is committed to the success and growth of baseball through youth baseball. The Association is able and willing to assist in any way possible. In the past 12 years, thousands of young people have gone through ABCA sponsored youth clinics. Each year, several hundred young players attend ABCA clinics in Montgomery, Alabama, Lewiston, Idaho, and Grand Junction, Colorado. The ABCA is looking to expand such clinics to other cities.
There are many ways the ABCA honors and recognizes its coaching members. A few of these recognitions are the Coach of the Year Awards, Hall of Fame, Lefty Gomez Award, 25-Year Awards, Century Victory Awards, Lifetime Membership Awards, Field Maintenance Awards, Meritorious Service and Honor Awards, Conference Champion Awards and the Assistant Coach of the Year Awards.
One of the major roles of the ABCA has been its work with the governing bodies of the groups represented by the coaches – the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the National Junior College Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations. The ABCA also works closely with the Collegiate Commissioners Association, Major League Baseball, Youth Associations, USA Baseball and other baseball federations around the world.
It is the desire of the Association to have a relationship with all these groups, so coaches and student-athletes will have the best working and playing conditions possible to constantly improve our sport.
Commitment to Sportsmanship and Ethics
First and foremost, the ABCA strives for sportsmanship, ethics and integrity to the highest degree. At the first meeting in 1945, the coaches in attendance stated that coaching ethics was of utmost importance. That certainly continues to hold true today.
The ABCA Board of Directors unanimously passed a statement entitled "ABCA Statement on Sportsmanship, Values and Ideals" and a "Code of Ethics". An ABCA Ethics Committee has been established and is a focal point of each convention. At the 2004 and 2008 conventions, world renowned authority on sportsmanship and ethics, Michael Josephson, was a featured speaker. In 2005, 2006 and 2012, Dr. Bruce Brown, another outstanding authority on the subject, spoke to over 3,500 coaches.
In terms of coaching ethics, the ABCA is committed to making this issue its highest priority.
Through the long and proud 69-year history of the Association, the ABCA has always strived to make the great profession of coaching better and tried to create the best situation possible for the coaches, student-athletes and all baseball fans. This is the ABCA!