Mavericks’ role model Hanks one win from Mesa record

Chris Hanks closing in on Mesa's all-time wins record

From behind a protective cage, Chris Hanks pitches Wednesday to his players during batting practice at Bergman Field. Hanks is one win from becoming the Mavericks’ all-time wins leader.



CMU vs. Nebraska-Kearney

Game 1: 3:30 p.m. Thursday; Games 2-3: 1 p.m. (DH) Friday; Game 4: noon Saturday, Canyon View Park

Notes: The Mavericks (21-9, 15-5) dropped out of the top 25 this week, but remain tied for first place in the Mountain Division with CSU-Pueblo (18-12, 15-5). Mesa leads the RMAC in pitching (4.75 ERA) and defense (.971 fielding percentage). Kearney (10-18, 9-11) is second in the RMAC in hitting (.333). New Mexico Highlands is first (.334). “I think this team has a lot left in the tank,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “I told them I think they’re operating at 70 to 80 percent capacity. There’s 20 percent more in there they haven’t shown anybody. From a coaching standpoint, I know it’s there. I’m hoping we’ll find it soon. I’m banking on we find it at the right time as well.”

Colton Little thought he had a pretty good idea what the Colorado Mesa University baseball program was like.

He watched his older brother Justin play for Chris Hanks and now he’s finding out for himself.

“I don’t think there could be a better head coach than Chris Hanks,” the junior infielder said. “He coaches to win. He’s a good motivator. He motivates us in ways that I’ve never seen before. He loves the game.

“He’s a team coach. He wants his team to do good.”

Assistant coach Steve Woytek recruited Little, but Little realized Mesa was truly interested when he heard from Hanks.

“When I figured out I was looking to come here, (Hanks) gets on the phone and calls me personally,” Little said. “I had a couple other calls and looks, but it was always the assistant coach, even when it was getting serious.

“When Skip called, it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. The head coach is calling me right now.’ When I came out on my visit, he and Woytek took me around, took me out to dinner. He gets really personal with you. I think he learns what kind of person you are when he talks to you.”

Little and the Mavericks can give something back to Hanks this weekend. Mesa (21-9, 15-5 RMAC) hosts defending RMAC champion Nebraska-Kearney (10-18, 9-11 RMAC) in a four-game series beginning at 3:30 p.m. today at Canyon View Park.

Hanks is one victory away from moving into first place on the all-time career wins list at Mesa. The 14th-year coach (537-265) is currently tied with Byron Wiehe (537-347 in 18 years).

Assistant coach Sean McKinney, who shares an office with Hanks, said he hasn’t heard a word about it from him.

“He doesn’t put too much emphasis on that,” McKinney said. “The way he goes about his business every day is amazing. He really focuses on the kids. He’s not screwing around, he’s working with guys. What makes him special is his focus and dedication that he has every day we come out here.”

McKinney played for Hanks from 2004-06, then returned as an assistant coach in 2009.

Pitching coach Jeff Rodgers has coached with Hanks at Mesa since the fall of 1992, when they were assistants for Wiehe.

“The main thing is getting the talent here, then developing the talent, which he is really good at,” Rodgers said. “Then you take that talent and you get it to the point where you take it up a notch. He’s very good at getting the most out of every person here.

“He’s very good at keeping them motivated.”

Little can attest to that.

“He’s the most competitive person in the world,” he said. “When we do poorly, it’s usually him getting down on himself because he thinks he didn’t get us prepared, but really it’s our fault. He shouldn’t be mad at all. He takes it personally when we do bad, because he wants the best for us.”

Hanks has led the Mavericks to the NCAA Division II national tournament nine times, including the school’s first World Series berth in 2009. Mesa has won seven RMAC titles, including five in a row, and have posted the five highest win totals in school history under Hanks.

Hanks is a four-time RMAC Coach of the Year and was the American Baseball Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year in 2009.

“I’m a little biased, but I think he’s a great person,” McKinney said. “The way he can mesh having fun, but staying focused through practice and games is pretty incredible. How he can stay light-hearted with certain things, but stay focused.

“I feel lucky to be a part of it because of what he tries to accomplish. I try to mirror that because he’s a role model for all of us.”


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