DBU’s Dan Heefner and the power of positive coaching

Dan Heefer talks to 2015 13th round MLB draft pick Daniel Salters (Cleveland Indians) (photo courtesy Dallas Baptist University)

Dan Heefer talks to 2015 13th round MLB draft pick Daniel Salters (Cleveland Indians) (photo courtesy Dallas Baptist University)

The Heefner file

• 2015 marks his eleventh season as head coach at DBU
• Recognized by Baseball America in 2013 as one of the Top 10 Coaches in College Baseball under the age of 40
• His teams have reached four NCAA Regionals and produced eight All-Americans, seven Freshman All-Americans and two Academic All-Americans
• 49 players he has coached have advanced to professional baseball
• Teams have been on mission trips to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, served in San Gabriel Orphanage and volunteered for North Texas Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics
• Prior coaching experience as an assistant at DBU (2005-2007), Creighton (2002-2003) and Northern Iowa (2004)
• Two-time All-American as a player at Olivet Nazarene University
• He and wife Liz have five sons: Luke, David, Zachariah, Titus and Jacob

IP: Your team finished the 2015 regular season with the no. 1-ranked RPI in the country. Other than winning baseball games, what are some factors you look into to keep your RPI strong?

DH: “That’s one of our goals as a program, to have a high RPI, to get an at-large bid. The next step for us is to host a regional, so that is something that we take into consideration with scheduling. We don’t have a magic formula or anything; just like everybody else, we try to play quality opponents on a year-in, year-out basis. A lot of it also has to do with the area we’re in and the teams we’re surrounded by; it’s almost impossible not to schedule well.”

“Maybe the one difference is that we’ve always gone on the road a lot as a program. At first it was out of necessity; when we first became a Division I program, nobody would come to our place. We’re able to get other teams to come to our place now, but we’re still pretty well split between home and away. I think that’s a good thing for your program as well, to get your team on the road and play quality opponents. That’s what it’s going to take to be successful in the conference and in the postseason too.”

What is your philosophy on recruiting?

“The vast majority of our team is from Texas and most of those guys are from the Metroplex. We want to know those guys really well, we’ve got great relationships with coaches in the area and we want to get to know guys ‘in our backyard,’ so to say.

“For us it’s all about fit, it’s not just finding the most talented players we can. We feel like DBU is a unique place and that our baseball program is pretty unique too, not just what we’re doing baseball-wise but from a character and faith standpoint. When we hear about those guys from other places, we go after them pretty hard. We’ve gotten a couple from elsewhere that have a faith background and when you look into them as players, you find out that they’re really good, so they were a fit for us.”

photo courtesy Dallas Baptist University

photo courtesy Dallas Baptist University

What was your impression of Dallas Baptist University before you were there? How would you describe DBU to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

“I was familiar with the program prior to becoming an assistant [in 2005] because I had a brother-in-law that played here. People outside the baseball circles may not be familiar with us because we’re a Division II athletic department; baseball is our only Division I sport.

“It’s a small Christian school and it’s just a great environment for development. We really try to develop our guys on the field but off the field as well with character and faith. It’s just about finding kids that are a good fit. I think that’s one of the best things we’ve done for our program, finding guys that fit [our culture], and then they love it- they love showing up to the park every day and they buy into the philosophy of development by being around other people. Kind of the idea that ‘iron sharpens iron,’ on the field and off.”

What’s your advice to players and coaches?

“On the player’s side, it’s about development, it’s about not getting too caught up in the results. Obviously results are important, but they just show you what you are and aren’t doing well, what you need to continue doing and what need to work on.

“Have a ‘growth mindset’ that every day is an opportunity to get better. If you keep stacking day after day of getting a little bit better, then you look up at the end of it and you’re probably going to be pretty close to accomplishing your goal. Keep your focus on a day in and day out basis.

“For a coach, it’s almost the exact same thing; it’s about READ THE REST