Paul Evans is a baseball lifer who’s not quite ready to walk away from the game he loves. Scott Nasby saw the chance to add a wealth of knowledge to the Drury University coaching staff.
It’s a win-win for both as Evans, after 34 seasons as Missouri State’s pitching coach and 42 overall in college coaching, is making the short change of venue to the north side of Springfield.
“It’s a part-time gig,” Evans said on Thursday, a day after the announcement of his hiring by Nasby, a former Missouri State catcher who collected knowledge from Evans as a player for the Bears from 2002-05.
“It’s keeping my hand in the game,” Evans added. “I’ve always respected and liked Scott. He said, ‘I’ll respect the hell out of you, I’ll make your schedule as flexible and do-able as you want and I’m going to grossly under pay you.’ So far, he’s done all three.”
Evans not done with college baseball
The pay is secondary to Evans, who turns 64 in January. His final season at Missouri State was a tough one for the pitching staff and a change was made over the summer, with assistant Nick Petree promoted to pitching coach and Evans re-assigned to an administrative role.
Evans wound up retiring from Missouri State at the end of September. He knows the time is coming, sooner than later, that his days in uniform will end but prefers it be on his terms.
“It was going to be very difficult to walk away, cold-turkey,” Evans said. “I always had intentions for maybe this opportunity with Drury or maybe a summer collegiate league thing. This will be my 42nd year. It was going to be hard to say, ‘I’m done with college baseball.’”
Evans to fill various roles at Drury
Nasby said he’s thrilled to have Evans and anticipates using him in various roles, whether it’s helping young Drury pitching coach Gage Jacobs, evaluating talent or offering in-game strategy advice.
“He’s been in the dugout, almost longer than I’ve been alive,” Nasby said. “I’ve pretty much given him the reins to step in and help with any avenue in which he wants to help.”
Evans made it clear that he is not at Drury to oversee the pitching. He calls himself “an assistant to Gage. He does a great job. He’s an up-and-coming coach and does a great job.”
Not ‘much of a difference’ between Division I and II
Asked about the difference between Division I and II coaching, Evans said he doesn’t anticipate it being a big change. While pitchers might throw 85-89 miles-per-hour at Drury instead of 90-94 at Missouri State, he’s seen a willingness to learn in his short time observing the Panthers this fall.
“They have good athletes,” Evans said. “You know, Drury has 50 guys running around. They want that for enrollment reasons. There’s a lot more guys to deal with. There’s a lot more bullpens and more reps you have to spread around.
“The talent level is different, but they still are very coachable. They’re sharp kids, they want to learn and be the best they can be at the level they’re at. I don’t see much of a difference.”
A history of producing big leaguers
Nasby said Evans provides knowledge that few D-II coaching staffs have. During 34 seasons at Missouri State with head coach Keith Guttin, the program produced 67 professional pitchers, including 14 who advanced to the Major Leagues. Five of his pitchers (John Rheinecker, Brett Sinkbeil, Ross Detwiler, Pierce Johnson and Jon Harris) were first-round draftees.
Asked how he will remember his time at Missouri State, Evans admitted there’s a sting to the way it ended. Last year’s team had a 6.13 earned run average, a stark contrast to the many outstanding staffs he assembled.
Change came with Petree, a former Missouri State pitching All-American under Evans’ tutelage, promoted to work alongside former Bears infielder Joey Hawkins. The duo gives Guttin young assistants with a zest for recruiting and fresh ideas.
Legacy secure at Missouri State
Evans is gone, but his Missouri State legacy will never be forgotten.
“I’m happy with what I was able to bring to Missouri State for 34 years. I feel like I made some valuable contributions in many aspects,” Evans said. “It’s bittersweet the way it ended. That’s the best way I can put it.
“I wasn’t particularly happy with the way we threw the ball last spring. We were short in starting pitching and had guys banged up in spots throughout the season. That showed in our numbers, but to their credit the guys we had rallied in the conference tournament.
“We were fortunate to be around a bunch of fighters, guys who decided they wanted to do something that week at Hammons Field and we got it done. We were fortunate to get to another regional and get another win, but we all know it ended embarrassingly for us and for me.”