This article will be updated to include developing information regarding the Michigan baseball team’s search for a new head coach. Updates will be added above the existing article alongside the time they are made.
Last week, the Michigan baseball team bid farewell to its head coach of 10 seasons in Eric Bakich.
Now that a week has passed, many names have been rumored to take over the Wolverines’ program coming off another NCAA Tournament season and a Big Ten Championship last month. Since taking over the program in 2013, Bakich won two Big Ten Tournament championships and made it to four NCAA Tournaments.
With that recent success, the replacement will arguably have big shoes to fill.
While there are a lot of names in the hat, a few have gained some traction into becoming a real possibility for the Wolverines and will have a big impact on the futures of current and future Michigan players.
The first name on the list was Chris Fetter, the Detroit Tigers pitching coach. He was arguably the favorite to take over until today when news broke that he appears comfortable in his current position.
This name might sound familiar, and it should be. Fetter has a long history with the Wolverines as he pitched for Michigan until he graduated in 2009. For the Wolverines, Fetter ranks first in Michigan baseball history with 332.1 career innings pitched, third with 28 career wins and third with 281 career strikeouts. After he spent four years in the minor leagues, he made the transition into coaching as a pitching coach for Ball State and the Los Angeles Dodgers before Bakich hired him in 2017 to be the pitching coach for the Wolverines.
But after another stint coaching in the big leagues, Fetter’s current gig was seemingly too good to pass up.
“He loves what he’s doing here,” Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch told The Michigan Insider on Tuesday. “He was very appreciative of (Michigan’s interest), but he let me know and let (Detroit General Manager) Al (Avila) know that he’s gonna stay right where he belongs.”
In addition to Fetter, Connecticut coach Jim Penders was also being considered for the head coaching position, but according to 247 Sports, he also dropped out today.
“I’m not thirty-one anymore, but I still owe UConn, and I renew my pledge today,” Penders said in a statement.
With Fetter and Penders out of the fold, the Wolverines and Athletic Director Warde Manuel could turn their eyes to Central Michigan head coach Jordan Bischel.
Bischel has almost nine years of experience as a head coach of a collegiate program, separating himself from most of the other candidates. Bischel’s resume speaks for itself as he got his start in 2013 as Midland’s head coach at the junior college level. For the Chaparrals, he posted a 74-45 record, winning the Great Plains Athletic Conference in his second year. He transitioned to Northwood in Division II from there and won 137 games in four years with conference titles in both 2017 and 2018 for the Timberwolves.
This success eventually led to Bischel being hired by Central Michigan where he has been for the past four years. For the Chippewas, he won the MAC title his first season as head coach and has a 138-54 overall record.
Bischel makes a lot of sense because this head coaching vacancy would be a step up from his current role. He is also highly regarded in the baseball community, drawing interest from Ohio State, Kansas and Florida State.
One last candidate turning heads in the baseball community is former Michigan standout and Chicago Cubs player Bobby Scales — confirmed by MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.
At Michigan, he posted a .335 batting average over the course of 190 games, as well as a .920 fielding percentage. After his time with the Wolverines, he was selected in the 14th round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. Once he retired as a player in 2012, Scales became the director of player development for the Los Angeles Angels from 2012-15, then spent one season as a special assistant to the general manager. From there, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as a minor league field coordinator for three seasons and spent one season as coordinator of strategic initiatives and player development.
Scales is being linked to Michigan because of his experience in player development at the major and minor league levels. With recruiting being altered recently due to name, image and likeness opportunities, the top collegiate programs are relying on development to get themselves to the College World Series.
“The best thing about player development is the day-in and day-out quest to help an individual get to the next dot in their career,” Scales told 247 Sports. “Whether it was a player, a coach, or a young intern in the office, doing whatever needed to help people advance their careers is something that I really enjoyed. Regardless of what people think, this game is about relationships. Building those relationships is essential to anything we are trying to do.”
Manuel has his work cut out for him, as two candidates dropped out of the process today and players have entered the transfer portal. If the Wolverines want to start preparing for next season, the head coaching vacancy will need to be filled sooner rather than later.
UPDATE June 24: Another name rumored to be a potential candidate for the vacant head coach position is San Diego Padres hitting coach Michael Brdar.
Brdar, a Michigan alum, played two years in the outfield for the Wolverines from 2016 to 2017. After spending one year in the minor leagues with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, Brdar came back to Michigan where he served as a program assistant in 2018 and as a volunteer assistant in 2019, the season that the Wolverines reached the College World Series.
After finding success at the collegiate level, he took his talents to the San Francisco Giants’ in 2020 where he served as their minor league assistant hitting instructor. And in that same season he was promoted to minor league hitting instructor the following season.
Currently, Brdar is the hitting coach for the San Diego Padres. It is unclear where Brdar stands in the process, but there has been a lot of traction. This move could make a lot of sense because of the time Brdar spent with the program. Not to mention, Brdar is well liked among the players, given he coached some of them in his time with the Wolverines.