Photo by Kate Nuelle
Just four years ago, Andrew Waters drove in two runs in the ninth inning against Keystone (PA) College that helped the Tigers clinch their first-ever National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Baseball Championship.
Now, Waters is back with the Tigers as an assistant coach, serving as Trinity baseball’s recruiting coordinator and third base coach. Waters discussed how he made his way back to Trinity as a coach, what he cherishes most from the 2016 championship run and whether Opening Day should be a national holiday.
What is it like coaching a team you were playing for just four years ago?
I would say it was a little bit different last season because when I was a senior, the seniors last year were freshmen, so I actually played with them. That was a little bit weird because, you know, we started off as friends when we were in school together, and then there’s this dynamic of like still being relatively young and then coaching guys that are close to my age. I struggled with it a little bit at first, trying to balance that out. Obviously, as a coach, you can’t be friends in like the purest form of the word right, but I ended up just settling on the fact that I have to be myself regardless, so it was a little weird at first, but now I just feel like I’ve hit my stride and have a good sense of the balance between being young and their coach and all that stuff.
How do you feel your close proximity in age to the players has affected your ability to relate to the players and coach them?
I think it’s helped for the most part. My primary responsibilities are as a recruiting coordinator, and in this day and age, with texting being like the primary form of communication and social media and all that kind of stuff, it’s come naturally because that’s my normal life. I text my friends and all that kind of stuff, so in that regard, it’s helped, and then coaching, communication-wise, it’s helped. The way that we communicate to the team, I can kind of speak their language and all that, so I would say the communication aspect, relating to how they see the game, how they’ve come up in an age of social media being so important to them, I think it’s been beneficial so far to be young and doing this.
While you were playing at Trinity, did you see yourself coming back in a coaching capacity?
No, not at all honestly. I never considered it as a player. Heading into graduation as a senior, I never considered coaching. I went back to Houston after I graduated, which is where I’m from, worked in the corporate world for two years and during that time I got back into baseball just because it was kind of a 9-to-5 gig that I was working and I wanted something more active. My sister was teaching at a high school, so I ended up being the head baseball coach at the high school and figured out that I really liked doing that. I felt like I had a lot of experience, knowledge and everything, and that’s when I got my first taste. And then it was just really good timing as far as Coach [Tim Scannell] having an opening here. We were in talks because I was applying for the job at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, so he was helping me with that, and then this job opens up, and it just kind of came together.
What do you wish you knew as a player that now you do know as a coach?
I would say that nothing is personal. All decisions are hard because you have to leave behind when you make a decision to do something, and so as a player, it’s easy to see it as like, ‘Oh, they have a vendetta against me,’ or ‘They like that other person more,’ or whatever it is, but in reality, it’s just the purest form of love and respect that like Coach Scannell has, and Coach [Dave] Smith have for the players, and now me. At the end of the day, you gotta play 10 people. It’s always based on performance, and I wish I knew that from the very beginning: everything’s in my control at the end of the day. It’s not them like hiding behind closed doors and trying to write a lineup of guys that they like. It’s just really not, so I wish I knew that from the beginning, but that’s a young person’s journey, right, to kind of figure this stuff out.
What’s your favorite memory from the 2016 championship run?
I hit a two-RBI single in the top of the ninth that basically sealed the deal, and you know, you kind of black out in that moment. That feeling, and like knowing that it’s basically over, is incredible. Just the whole ride with my teammates. It was a long and arduous four years for us, and it’s just incredible. I would say that hit was the main moment, and then over the course of my career it was just spending time with those guys.
Now that you’re back and you see the championship banner in right field, you see the banners right behind home. How does that feel when you see that every day?
I think it’s awesome. I think it’s time to do it again, and I think we will do it again at some point, but it’s really cool to be able to say, ‘We were the first.’ I have friends that played like big-time Division I football and all that kind of stuff, and anybody who’s played competitive sports recognizes how hard it is to be the last man standing at any level, so it’s really cool to be able to say ‘National Champion.’ Ending your season on a win just doesn’t happen very often, and then doing it with the guys together like we did [is] incredibly special. [It’s] probably the best memory or accomplishment that I’ve had in my life so far.
You mentioned having a big recruiting role, but you also act as third base coach. What has been the biggest challenge as third base coach?
Last year I felt like I was way better at being objective, making reads on if we should send runners and all that kind of stuff. It’s funny because the recruiting stuff kind of ties into this in some ways because now that I have guys that I recruited on the team, and I’m a little bit more emotionally connected, it’s really hard not to be a fan coaching third base, like ‘Oh that’s gonna drop,’ and so you just go ahead and get excited and emotional and everything. It’s weird because last year I feel like I did a really good job of not doing that, and then this year it’s been slightly challenging already, so just making sure that you’re always having the perspective of a coach, objective, what is the right decision, as opposed to getting too wound up or excited.
Going back to your time as a player, would you rather have Aaron Judge’s power or Billy Hamilton’s speed?
Probably Judge’s power. I was already pretty fast, but if I could have a little more juice or whatever, that would be fun. That would be really fun.
If you could build your dream MLB franchise with a current MLB player, who would you choose and why?
Mike Trout. I don’t think there’s much of a debate — in my mind at least. Five tools, you just don’t see it very often, so Mike Trout.
Should Opening Day be a national holiday?
Probably not. I mean, I love baseball, but probably not. Maybe you could. It’s the ‘Pastime’ right like ‘America’s Pastime.’ I don’t know, you could argue with like Presidents Day or something like that, so maybe it should be; maybe I take that back.
If you were stranded on an island with one person, who would you choose to be with and why.
My mom. I feel safe with her. I feel like we both would be able to figure out a way to get out of that situation or just enjoy it.
What three people, past or present, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I would say, my dad, Coach Scannell and then I think I would pick up my other best friend Ryan Farney. I’m not much of a celebrity guy or anything. I would just want the three guys that we would have the best conversation.
What would you eat at this dinner?
For sure steak, some potatoes [and] asparagus.
What show, movie or artist do you publicly dislike but secretly love?
I think Justin Bieber. I think the guy is talented, and he gets kind of a lot of bad press right for whatever reason if he’s not doing the right thing and all that, but I just respect people who have grown up in an environment where the spotlight is on them and they still go down the road of trying to figure out what’s best for them, so kudos to him. I mean, that’s tough. Since 11 years old you have all eyes on you. How do you grow up like that?
If you could tell the world one thing about yourself, what would you say?
I would say that I’ve figured out that serving others is more rewarding than any individual accomplishment. I honestly believe that, so that’s probably why the coaching stuff is so important to me and why I’ve taken this job.