By Jeff Bussell, William Jessup (Calif.) Sports Information Director
ROCKLIN, Calif., - William Jessup University (Calif.), the Sacramento area's only residential four-year private university, announced today it would start an intercollegiate baseball program for the growing university, with former Major League Baseball manager and player Jerry Manuel assuming a key role in helping launch the program.
Jessup is recruiting players immediately, with training expected to begin in the fall of 2014, leading up to the first game slotted for spring 2015. The Warriors currently play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and will enter the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) for the 2014-15 season of play.
''I am very excited to play a key role in a baseball program that places a premium value on the traits of character and faith," Manuel said.
A Rancho Cordova native, Manuel was a No. 1 draft pick in the 1972 Major League Baseball draft and played in the major leagues for seven years. He later went on to be the Manager of the Chicago White Sox from 1998 to 2003 and from 2008 to 2010 the New York Mets. He was the American League Manager of the Year in 2000.
Manuel has also established The Jerry Manuel Foundation, a magnet charter school program located in Elverta, Calif., that combines the principles of baseball with rigorous academic standards both on and off the baseball field.
"We feel extremely fortunate to have a former Major League Baseball coach like Jerry Manuel heading up the effort to start our program," said Jessup's Athletic Director, Mitch Pleis. "Jerry is extremely knowledgeable in all facets of baseball and his deep faith makes him the ideal person to be interacting with our athletes."
Mike Hankins will coach the baseball team, bringing more than 25 years of coaching and teaching experience to the position. Hankins played professionally for six years in the New York Yankees and Oakland A's organizations minor leagues, reaching Triple A with the New York Yankees. He currently coaches Forest Lake Christian High School's baseball team. Hankins has previously served as head coach at Lincoln High School for five years, where he led the team to a league championship and two playoff appearances.
"I am excited and honored to work with student athletes at WJU to build their faith, to build up the community, and to build a first rate baseball program," Hankins said.
For recruiting information, visit www.jessupathletics.com.
"The addition of baseball will be exciting for WJU as Northern California and especially the Central Valley is known as a hotbed for baseball," Pleis added. "We look forward to fielding a quality program that represents our community, attracts new students and generates more interest in what we are doing here at Jessup. Adding baseball will bring our lineup of sports to a total of 12 varsity sports."
The Warriors will play at Whitney Ranch Community Park. Plans to upgrade and improve the current facility to better accommodate league play are expected to begin this spring.