Huber welcomes challenge

The best job out of college for current Head Baseball Coach Tim Huber was ironically in a factory, working 12–hour shifts running a machine press. All the guys there told him he needed to get out immediately. 

The answer was volunteer coaching at Macalester College in Saint Paul. A year after, he landed a graduate assistant position at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). 

“Then I was hooked. I loved it,” he said.

Huber knew that coaching was meant for him.

“He’s going to be hard on you,” senior left-handed pitcher Jed Schmidt said. “He’s not a guy that’s going to accept failure, so you have to be self confident to be able to play under him, and he expects that out of you. He expects greatness out of you.”

Unlike most graduates, he got a head coaching job right away in the twin cities at Dakota County Technical in Rosemount. It was the second year of their program, but they were 5–30. 

“I mean, they were awful,” Huber said. “I came in, and we did really well, really fast.”

Huber led the team to 31–16 after four years. Shortly after, he was approached by a fellow alumni from SMSU. Huber was eligible for a head coaching position again, but this time at a private university. 

“I was what they were looking for at that time,” Huber said. “They needed a coach to turn the program back around.

He was the one chosen among the two final candidates for the position at Augustana. 

“There was a lot of work to do when myself and our staff got here, and it’s come a long way,” Huber said.

The first thing Huber and his staff focused on was recruiting.

“The recruiting process is interesting as well because good coaches are only as good as their players,” Huber said.

Huber said he was surprised by the talent they already had that first year, though. Some of the seniors from 2009, the first year he coached, stay in contact with Huber to this day.

His second year was when the real work started.

“We went to work recruiting and we had a big, big first class,” Huber said. 

Coach Huber demonstrates batting form to his players. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

The recruiting process didn’t come without its challenges. This was Huber’s first time coaching at a private institution. 

“[The players] care about school,” Huber said. Sometimes we’ve got to get that edge into them a little bit.”

Huber said he struggled to find academic students with the same determination for baseball.

“More than anything what I’ve realized is that Augie has its challenges,” Huber said. 

Huber said it’s hard to find a baseball player that has a strong academic background.

“It makes it harder because you’ve got to find the right person,” Huber said. “What I’ve found is that when you do find the right fit, they’re maybe more intrigued to come here over bigger schools because they have different priorities.”

That fit also has to be socially adept to the team. 

“He does a good job of recruiting guys that will come into our program and work well with others,” senior infielder JT Mix said.

They brought in 21 new players in 2010, out of which came a couple major league draft picks and All-American players. 

“We had a great first recruiting class, and that just changed everything,” Huber said. “Recruiting has gotten easier and easier as we’ve gotten better, of course.”

Nearly 13 years later, Huber has secured three NSIC tournament championship wins and sent almost 20 men to pro baseball. 

“He’s a competitor,” Schmidt said. “He wants to win. That’s what I love about him, coming here to play under him.” 

Schmidt went on an informal recruiting visit to Augustana before his senior year of high school gameplay. Huber explained the program to him in a casual way. Huber telling Schmidt about the culture at Augustana, and how he runs his team. 

“Things I remember him saying in that meeting have held true,” Schmidt said.

Huber said that all players will play regardless of grade level. And for both Schmidt and Mix, they know that to be accurate.

“He’s going to put the best field on the team to win, and he’s done that every year I’ve been here,” Schmidt said. “I know if there’s a freshman better than me, that kid is going to play before me.”

Schmidt said Huber has an intensity that made him more consistent in his gameplay. 

“He’s going to be hard,” Schmidt said. “There’s no place on his team for mental mistakes. He expects the best out of you mentally. He doesn’t understand baseball as a game of failure and I think that’s what’s made him so successful at the college level because his teams are never going to show up and not be mentally prepared.”

Coach Tim Huber stops to instruct his players on the mental and physical aspects of hitting. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

Mix was also recruited by Huber to play for Augie. He had a contact at a recruiting website that played for Augie in the past that gave Mix’s info to Huber. Huber called Mix, and they had a brief conversation. A month later, Mix came up for a visit with his dad. 

“I saw that he was offering something different than other programs I had come in contact with,” Mix said.

Mix watched some games with Huber, got dinner with him, and spoke more about the program and Augustana as a whole.

“I remember leaving Sioux Falls and heading back home with my dad from the visit, and we both said there was just something different about this place,” Mix said. 

Mix was a freshman in 2018 when the team won the NCAA Division II championship.

“I remember after the national title game, going up to him and thanking him for bringing me up to South Dakota,” Mix said.

Mix said it was sort of a joke, but he actually was surprised at the level of success they were able to accomplish under Huber.

“He’s definitely one of the better minds. Even though we’re at the Division II level, I think he’s one of the better baseball minds in college baseball, at all levels,” Mix said.

Huber said the success was an indicator of the amount of time he spent building the program.

“That year, we just got to a point where our players understood what it took, and they knew how to go about their business,” Huber said. “That’s a culmination of the hard work you put in as a coaching staff, and it truly is building a program.”

Suspicions about going to Division I started circulating around the team shortly after the win. Initially, Huber said he was worried that they built up to all of that success, just to get knocked back down to the bottom of the ranking in DI. 

“It’s easy to be good and continue down that path, but for me, I like new challenges,” Huber said. “[DI is] a whole new challenge, which I love. I love challenges.”

Coach Huber FaceTimes with a player in quarantine to explain the drill while the player is isolated. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

This spring, Huber and his wife were presented with a whole new set of challenges altogether. 

“You try not to get pregnant, and then as you get older in life you realize how hard it actually is to get pregnant,” Huber said. “At some point you’ve spent enough money, and it’s not working.”

After trying to grow their family, Huber’s wife decided adoption was their last chance at being parents. 

They were quickly matched with a birth mother in Florida. The entire process Huber said was “awful,” as they had challenges with the mother. A few weeks before their son was due, she refused going in for medical care.

Huber and his wife were in Florida for two weeks before the baby was born. Upon delivery, Wrigley had some medical issues that tested his ability to survive. But he fought through and was finally ready to come home. And just a week after the Hubers got back to Sioux Falls, COVID-19 hit.

“We had nothing to do baseball wise, so all I could do was hang out with him, which was pretty cool,” Huber said.

Huber was able to stay home with Wrigley that spring and summer when the season was cancelled. Even now, he’s home with Wrigley most days when his wife is teaching kindergarten. 

“I’m kinda daycare guy,” Huber said. “That’s where the balance is starting and I don’t know what that will lead into.”

Huber said he sometimes takes advantage of how understanding his wife is with his career. Before the baby, so much of his time was filled with baseball that they usually got one trip in a year but even that was centered around seeing different stadiums and watching games. So much of their life revolves around the sport.

“Where it certainly changed was with Wrigley, and we knew it was going to change,” Huber said. “I’m 43 years old, and it’s the first time I’ve had a kid around.”

While Huber is open to whatever Wrigley wants to be, he thinks Wrigley will take on the same familial love for the sport as he grows up around the field. 

“He’s kind of our little miracle baby and now he’s healthy, growing, and just a great, beautiful kid,” Huber said. 

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