TCU’s Schlossnagle has mastered the art of baseball

Schlossnagle: 'I'm pretty proud' TCU a baseball school

The Horned Frogs coach, who has built a baseball power in Fort Worth, said he set out first
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The Horned Frogs coach, who has built a baseball power in Fort Worth, said he set out first

By now, TCU pitching coach Kirk Saarloos is not surprised by a very late text or an email time-stamped 4:30 a.m.

It’s the boss.

“I call him the CEO of TCU baseball,” Saarloos said. “I’ve never been around someone who has more of an idea of how to run a program. I’ve learned more in my four years here of how to be a head coach from him than I probably could have anywhere in 20 years.”

Jim Schlossnagle just wants answers. It’s why he sends those all-hours messages. And apparently, he’s found enough right answers in 13 seasons as head coach of the Horned Frogs that Sunday, he and the team will play in their fourth College World Series in seven years.

When things pop into his head, he needs to find the answer right away. Cause it’ll bug him otherwise. He’s got to get those questions answered.

TCU pitching coach Kirk Saarloos, on head coach Jim Schlossnagle

“When things pop into his head, he needs to find the answer right away. Cause it’ll bug him otherwise,” Saarloos said. “He’s got to get those questions answered. He doesn’t sleep. If you put him on a task and he doesn’t know the answer, he needs to find the answer right away.”

Schlossnagle, 45, a Hagerstown, Md., native who grew up watching the Earl Weaver-managed Baltimore Orioles, pitched for, got a degree from and coached at Elon University, a private school in North Carolina. He spent one year as a pitching coach at Clemson, eight as an assistant at Tulane, and two as head coach at UNLV. In that time, and since coming to Fort Worth, he has built a reputation for meticulous attention to detail.

It surprises even his boss.

“I walk in to talk to him, there are times I don’t feel prepared,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said.

He said Schlossnagle’s accumulation of baseball knowledge rivals that of Rice’s Wayne Graham, one of the legendary figures in college baseball, still coaching the Owls at age 80.

“Schloss has Wayne Graham’s mind in a 45-year-old body,” Del Conte said. “It’s like I’m looking at a younger version. They both have incredibly high baseball IQs. Whatever Wayne has that took him 80 years to get, Schloss has it in a 45-year-old man.”

Jim Schlossnagle is TCU’s winningest coach with a record of 563-252 in his 13th season at the school. He has never had a losing season at TCU or in two years at UNLV.

Last week, Del Conte and Chancellor Victor Boschini approached Schlossnagle with a contract extension. They agreed in principle.

It would be the second extension for Schlossnagle in four years, perhaps pushing his salary near $1 million. He is over $760,000, according to university tax filings.

But in a rising market for college baseball coaches, Schlossnagle’s success has proven well-timed. It has meant significant raises for him and his assistants and in improvements to Lupton Stadium. This season, the stadium debuted with a new locker room, player lounge, coaches offices, training room and classroom. Outfield seating and a new scoreboard were also added.

“What he wanted was a classroom,” Del Conte said. “I thought it was odd — he wanted a classroom? He said, ‘This is where I do my teaching.’ 

Everything he gives us, we use.

TCU third baseman Elliott Barzilli, on coach Jim Schlossnagle

Third baseman Elliott Barzilli said Schlossnagle’s approach changed his career.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t really know how to play baseball correctly,” he said.

And Schlossnagle’s many sayings — “It’s not about the best team, it’s about the team that plays the best,” ranking high among them — seem to sink in.

“I think they work,” Barzilli said. “It’s an inspiration to us, every little thing. Everything he gives us, we use. We keep saying the lines over and over in the locker room.”

Jim Schlossnagle coached USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2013 and was an assistant coach in 2006. He had three TCU players on the National Team: Brandon Finnegan, Preston Morrison and Riley Ferrell.

Schlossnagle is not going to Omaha unprepared, of course. He has three previous appearances to learn from.

But in 2010, the first year TCU qualified for the College World Series, Schlossnagle had been only once before — as an assistant at Tulane in 2001.

“Our first trip, I called Coach Bertman, I talked to Augie, I talked to guys that had been there a thousand times,” he said, referring to LSU’s retired Skip Bertman and former Fullerton State and Texas coach Augie Garrido. “I had been there as an assistant coach, but in terms of being the head coach and being responsible for those decisions, I sought counsel on that and still do.”

Phone calls and texts and emails. Again, Saarloos is not surprised.

“I call it psychotic,” he said with a smile. “He’s psychotic about TCU baseball, right? This is his big leagues. So there is not any stone left unturned in terms of how to make the team better or the program better. It kind of pulls everybody up; you need to be that way and always be thinking that way. If you’re going to run a successful program or company, those are the kind of traits to have.”

And a well-charged phone. That’s always on.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

College World Series

TCU vs. Texas Tech

2 p.m Sunday, ESPNU

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