Fall 2014 Magazine - page 16-17

TROY Magazine
TROY Magazine
From the first game of catch in the back yard, the dream of every little boy who puts on a glove and swings a bat is
to be a big leaguer. Former TROY student-athlete Chase Whitley saw that dream come true on May 15 when he got
the call to “The Show” as the starting pitcher for the New York Yankees.
“It was pretty surreal,” Whitley said. “It was kind of humbling and showed that I wasn’t in control of my career, but
the Lord was in control. It was a really defining moment of Him showing His plan in my life.”
Whitley, a career reliever in the minor leagues, was called upon to start for the Yankees after C.C. Sabathia and
Michael Pineda were both placed on the disabled list. In his debut against the New York Mets, Whitley did not allow
a run over 4.2 innings of work and even picked up a base hit in his first career at-bat.
Whitley was in the middle of his third season with the Yankees’ AAA affiliate in Scranton-Wilkes Barre when he got
the call.
“Once I got on the field it was a surreal moment because I never thought I would get there,” Whitley said, “There
were times where I thought to myself about why I am still playing. To be able to get up and have some success has
been pretty cool.”
Success is an understatement to the beginning of Whitley’s big league career as he won his first three decisions and
carried a 2.56 earned run average after his first eight starts.
Whitley led the Trojans with a 7-3 record, seven saves and a 3.68 ERA in his lone season at TROY (2010). The native
of Ranburne, Ala., made 32 appearances on the season, all out of the bullpen, and also led the Trojans with a .364
batting average to go along with 11 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs.
“TROY will always have a special place with me even though I was there for just one year,” Whitley said. “All the
support and encouragement from TROY have been extra special. Coach Pierce and Coach Smartt took a chance on
me to allow me to continue playing after junior college, and I owe them a lot and appreciate them.”
Coming from a small town in Alabama to the big lights of New York City and a clubhouse filled with players like
Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeria, Ichiro Suzuki and Carlos Beltran, Whitley still has to tell himself that it is real when he goes
to work every day.
“It’s pretty neat every day I go into the clubhouse,” Whitley said. “It was Derek Jeter Day the other day and I was
like ‘what am I doing here right now.’ I have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure this is all real.”
By Adam Prendergast
Chase Whitley
As head coach of the Troy University baseball team for the
past 12 seasons, Bobby Pierce has taken the program to
new heights at the Division I level. Four NCAA tournament
appearances, three Sun Belt Conference championships and
one Atlantic Sun Conference title speak only partially to the
level of success Pierce’s teams have enjoyed.
In the dugout, he is eerily subdued, speaking only when
necessary. It’s enough to drive an error prone infielder
to the brink of paranoia, but also draw the immediate
attention of those he addresses. On Wednesday, Aug. 13,
he was no different as he stood at a podium in front of an
auditorium full of television cameras, newspaper reporters,
administrative personnel, family, friends as well as current
and former players. Following a brief opening statement,
Pierce told the audience of his decision to retire as TROY’s
baseball coach following the 2015 season. He spoke with a
smile, no tears, but with full confidence.
“As bittersweet as this decision was for me to make due
to my genuine love for coaching and the wonderful place
in which I currently work, I am convinced that it is the right
decision at the right time for me and my family,” Pierce
said. “I wanted to get this announcement out of the way
so that the University, the athletic department and the
baseball program could start moving forward with minimal
distractions and continue to build on TROY baseball’s
tradition of success.”
There is little doubt that Pierce has plenty to smile about.
For 12 seasons, the 2010 Alabama Baseball Coaches
Association Hall of Fame inductee has done nothing more
than produce conference contenders year in and year out.
He will enter the 2015 season, his last, just 15 wins shy of
breaking Chase Riddle’s record of 434 career wins at TROY’s
head coach.
“Although I’ve known (Pierce) for 25 years, the opportunity
to work side-by-side with him for the last 12 years has been
extremely special to me. His record as a coach speaks for
itself, but it does not begin to tell his story,” Mark Smartt
said. “He has the unique ability to bring out the best in
everyone that is associated with him and he is held in high
regard with anyone that comes in contact with him.”
As Pierce’s assistant for the last 12 years, Smartt has served
as the more vocal member of the highly successful duo.
Smartt has cardinal, silver and black coursing through his
veins. As a player, he helped lead the Trojans to back-to-
back NCAA Division II national championships in 1986 and
1987. Smartt started his coaching career as a graduate
assistant at TROY. In 1990, he was hired as an assistant at
the University of West Alabama and five years later was
named the program’s head coach. In his time in Livingston,
Smartt’s teams broke or tied 38 school records, produced
two All-Americans, seven all-region and 10 All-Gulf South
Conference selections.
Smartt was called home in 2002 when Pierce was hired
at TROY and it is with the Trojans’ baseball program that
he belongs. Smartt was named TROY’s next head coach
at the same press conference that Pierce announced his
“I am extremely proud that I will eventually become the
head coach at my alma mater,” an emotional Smartt said
at the press conference. “It’s quite overwhelming, to be
honest. To know that I’ll be listed among the same names as
Riddle and Bobby is really hard for me to fathom.”
Following the 2015 season, Smartt will become the 13th
head coach in the program’s history. It will soon be his turn
to continue the winning tradition established by Riddle and
Pierce. The decision to select Smartt was a natural one and
backed by one simple fact – both men atop TROY’s all-time
wins list have offered Smartt a spot in the Trojans’ dugout.
By Adam Prendergast
Coach Mark Smartt and Coach Bobby Pierce
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