Update 9/11/19 11:11 a.m.: This article has been updated. It originally contained two quotes that could not be confirmed. These quotes have been removed.
Following a 2019 season that culminated in the LMU baseball team's first NCAA tournament appearance since 2000, as well as the first WCC tournament victory in LMU history, the Lions welcomed Nathan Choate as their new head coach.
After 11 seasons at the helm of the LMU baseball program, previous head coach Jason Gill elected to accept a position as head coach at the University of Southern California, leading the Lions to select Choate as his successor.
According to LMU Athletics, Coach Choate joined the Lions during the summer of 2018 as an assistant coach, placing an emphasis on the pitching staff as well as recruiting new players. Choate’s dedication to the pitching staff led to breakout years for pitchers such as former Lions Codie Paiva and Nick Frasso, whose strong performances this past season aided the team’s success. Furthermore, under Choate’s influence, the 2019 Lion’s pitching staff saw its notable improvements, with the team lowering its collective ERA from 5.12 in 2018 to 3.50 in 2019.
Both Paiva and Frasso benefited from Coach Choate’s tutelage, Paiva being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2019 MLB draft by the Miami Marlins and Frasso being named to the USA Collegiate National Team. However, when mentioning the players, coach Choate’s team philosophy became evident. “Both players were great guys who were extremely team-oriented, and their team-oriented attitudes eventually paid off individually.”
While Choate has always specialized in pitching, his new role has placed him in a position where pitching, offense and defense are now all under his supervision. When asked about taking over the LMU program on the heels of a successful season, Choate seemed unsatisfied by the results of the previous season.
"This season, we’ve lost a few key guys, but we’ve also got a lot of guys [who were] instrumental to our team coming back, and we’re all hungry to get back out there and show everyone what we can do,” said Choate.
While coach Choate emphasized the importance of improvement, he also recognized the prestige of playing in an NCAA tournament. “That was pretty fun playing in that kind of playoff environment," said Choate. "It was also really cool to see all our fans behind our dugout supporting us. I just remember looking up above the dugout, and seeing a sea of kids wearing LMU gear.”
When asked about his style of coaching, Choate emphasized accountability. Choate certainly values leadership by example, regardless of player/coach differences. For players to buy into the program, they need to believe that the coaches are bought in too.
With the Lions losing only four graduating seniors, the team is in a strong position to compete and defend their WCC title. Coach Choate will need to find a way to make up for the loss of staff ace Codie Paiva and starting shortstop Nick Sogard, but the emergence of rising seniors Trevin Esquerra and Josh Agnew, as well as junior Nick Frasso, during the 2019 season provides the Lions with hope for sustainable success. The Lions' season begins in the spring of 2020, with the team’s eyes set on a return to the NCAA tournament.