Hall of Fame coach starts new job as Team USA’s head coach
Jack Leggett is once again coaching baseball.
The Hall of Fame head coach, who coached at Clemson for 22 years and led the Tigers to six College World Series appearances, will begin coaching Team USA’s 18-and-Under National Team starting on Monday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
Over the next two weeks, Leggett and his coaches will dwindle down a pool of 80 players from all over the country to 20 as Team USA gets set to play in the Pan America Championships Nov. 23-Dec. 2 in Panama City, Panama.
Leggett will be the head coach of the 18-and-under National Team for the next two seasons.
“I always wanted to do it, but Clemson was my first priority,” Leggett said. “I did not want to take away from any of my time with Clemson. I got asked to do it two or three different times while I was coaching at Clemson, but I turned it down because Clemson was always my first priority.
“I always wanted to wear that USA Baseball jersey and represent our country and USA Baseball.”
This year will mark Leggett’s first year as a National Team head coach and his second straight year working with USA Baseball after he served as a coach for the 17-and-Under National Team Development Program in 2017.
“They invited me to go and do that so I went, and I loved it,” Leggett said. “I was kind of emotional on the bench because I have been missing coaching baseball. I knew then this is what I wanted to do.”
Leggett admits the past three years not being in the dugout at Clemson have been really tough for him because he loved coaching and he loved coaching at Clemson. He went from doing something every day to all of sudden it was gone.
“Every day I thought about coaching, competing and being around kids and having those relationships,” he said. “I always represented the school in a first class manner and had great relationships with all the other coaches at Clemson so it was very difficult for me.
“It was a tough adjustment for me to be honest with you. I was like, ‘What do I do now?’”
After being let go at Clemson, where he coached the Tigers to 21 NCAA Tournaments in 22 years while winning 955 games there, Leggett admitted he had a couple of more opportunities to coach but he was not ready to coach somewhere else at that time.
“I guess, back in my own mind, I have just always thought of myself as the Clemson baseball coach and it was tough to think of coaching someone else,” he said. “So I turned those things down and walked away from a couple of good jobs, hoping the timing might be a little better of different down the road. Then this opportunity popped up in the meantime. When it did, and I had a chance to get back on the field, I took it.”
Being back on the baseball diamond has Leggett back in his comfort zone. He loves coaching baseball. That’s all he has ever wanted to do.
“When I got out there, the kids responded to me well,” he said. “It was fun. The kids have called me and texted me and told me they can’t wait to see me. It brought back those feelings I used to have here. I did miss that. I got a little bit of that back now and it is exciting to be able to see these kids and start working with them out on the field and teaching the things that you know are going to make them better players.”
When he is done selecting his 18-and-Under National Team in a couple of weeks, Leggett will then fly back to Chicago and begin working with the National 17-and-Under Developmental Program July 20-27.
“I really like that because there is a lot of teaching,” the former Clemson coach said. “You are taking forty of the best seventeen-year-olds in the country and targeting players for the next year while evaluating and teaching.”
Those teams will get the opportunity to play in Wrigley Field in Chicago as well as in Milwaukee, where the Brewers play.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m getting to coach again, and you know me, that’s what I love to do,” Leggett said.
—Photo courtesy of Team USA Baseball
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