Jay Uhlman has a head-start as Tulane’s new baseball coach

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NEW ORLEANS – Jay Uhlman is beginning his first season as Tulane’s head baseball coach.

But he has a head-start.

He was recruiting coordinator and hitting coach under former Green Wave coach Travis Jewett for the last four seasons and even served as acting head coach and led the Green Wave to the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament after Jewett was fired late last season.

“The main benefit is the familiarity with the players and the lay of the landscape,” Uhlman said Tuesday at the New Orleans Quarterback Club’s First Pitch luncheon at the Cannery.

This is the first head-coaching opportunity for Uhlman since he started his coaching career as the head coach at L.A. Harbor Junior College (his alma mater) in 2000 at the age of 25.

Tulane, which finished fifth in the American Athletic Conference last season, was picked to finish fourth in this season’s preseason poll.

“We’re a little bit of an underdog,” Uhlman said. “I keep telling our players just remember where they keep picking us in all the polls and try to use that juco mentality that I bring and use that chip on our shoulder to prove people wrong. That’s kind of the mission this year for us.

“I tell them that when I don’t speak highly of them, that we’ve got a lot of work to do and that we’re just happy to be here, that we’re not going to believe those things. Those are the things outwardly that we’re going to say, but on the inside we’re going to do everything to prove people wrong.”

The Green Wave have made just two of the last 13 NCAA Tournaments, but Uhlman, a native of Redondo Beach, Calif., is well aware of their storied history.

“We’ve had a long history of success,” Uhlman said. “It’s been a little bit dormant compared to the standard that it is.”

Uhlman is hoping his team can tap into the current wave of enthusiasm generated by the Cotton Bowl-winning football team and the improving men’s basketball team.

“I think our baseball program has always had that enthusiasm,” Uhlman said.

“I think football and basketball certainly have awakened the ghosts so to speak and that kind of excitement for the department is contagious. We need to do our part – be involved in the community, out-reach to alumni, get people excited and give them a good product on the field that they will want to come and watch.”

Uhlman called himself the “steward” of a “great traditional program” and named legendary predecessors Rick Jones, Joe Brockhoff and Milt Retif. He also mentioned Jones’ 2001 and 2005 College World Series teams. The 2005 team was the No. 1 national seed.

The new head coach acknowledged that trips to Omaha don’t happen overnight, but the Wave have a chance to be competitive in one of the better conferences in the country, led by preseason All-AAC pitcher Dylan Carmouche.

“I don’t think you start and say we’re going to win 40 games and we’re going to go to Omaha,” Uhlman said. “There’s a long process to that and you’ve got to train right, you’ve got to lift weights, you’ve got to stay healthy and get breaks.”

This opportunity is the career break that Uhlman awaited during assistant coaching stops at Nevada, Kansas and Oregon before winding up at Tulane.

He said that now that he has his “turn with the baton, leading the orchestra,” he’ll benefit from his lengthy development.

“You learn things from the ground floor all the way to the top and pay a price and stay patient and humble and you keep your head down in your work,” he said. “I’ve spent a life preparing for this. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. Sometimes you have to wait. It doesn’t always happen on your timeline. You’ve got to keep doing your job.”

Tulane opens the season Feb. 17 at UC Irvine to start a three-game series and four-game road trip in California. The home opener is Feb. 24 against St. John’s at Greer Field.r Field.

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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