Justin Hill was named the 13th head baseball coach in McNeese State's history on Friday. (Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 5:13 PM
Of the 140 people who applied to be the Cowboys' 13th head baseball coach, one name stood above the rest for McNeese State Athletic Director Tommy McClelland.
That was Justin Hill.
The 33-year-old Hill was formally introduced as the Cowboys new head coach Friday morning after serving 10 years as an assistant at five different colleges, most recently at Louisiana-Monroe.
“He is a person who has won wherever he has gone, whether that was as a graduate assistant, recruiting coordinator, pitching coach or associate head coach,” McClelland said. “Success seems to find him, and we hope that trend continues here at McNeese.”
Hill said multiple trips to Cowboy Diamond as a visitor made him aware that the McNeese program was one with the potential to do something special.
“McNeese is a great place,” Hill said. “I’ve been in the third-base dugout. The support is really easy to notice. It was something you were envious of. When this came open, this was something I certainly wanted to make sure to try and get to.
“The alumni here are fiercely loyal. They’re everywhere throughout the state. And they are very vocal. They’re proud to be Cowboys. I want to make sure they’re proud to call their coach that as well.”
He also joked that he was glad to be on the side of fans who once razzed him in the visiting bullpen.
“I’ve personally been in the bullpen with the really obnoxious guy down there,” Hill said. “I don’t know if he’s here today, but we’re friends now. Keep doing it.”
When it comes to addressing the future, Hill is all-business.
“We will work hard,” Hill said. “We will work long hours. We will do what is necessary to put a winning product on the field.”
He said one of McNeese’s biggest assets is its location, which he considers a baseball hotbed. His goal is to cultivate both the area’s talent and fan base to give the Cowboys a distinct home-field edge.
“This area loves baseball, and it’s hungry for a winner,” Hill said. “Anytime you’re in an area with good baseball talent and good baseball coaches, you’re going to have an opportunity to get players who already know the game. When you have a chance to get players who are more advanced in skill set and knowledge, it’s going to be very advantageous.
“It’s our job to make this attractive for them to want to be here. We will certainly reach out to coaches, try to find the best players and try to keep them home.”
He is also grateful to be inheriting a program without academic issues and a freshman all-American pitcher in Bryce Kingsley to build around.
“I don’t think this is a program that has to be overhauled,” Hill said. “We just have to make some improvements, whether it be personnel or style of play. Whatever it is, there are things we’re going to bring to the table and we believe those will be successful.”
Though his background is in pitching — Hill pitched at LSU in Skip Bertman’s final season as coach — he has a clear offensive philosophy.
“I’m very comfortable with the offensive side,” Hill said. “We’ll certainly have an offensive coach that will teach more of the fundamentals of the swing. But one thing you can wrap up is that we’re going to be aggressive. I believe in not worrying about what the other team does. Scouting reports are good, but we want them more worried about us than worried about them.”
Hill is familiar with how to win in the Southland Conference after apprenticeships under Mitch Gaspard at Northwestern State, Mark Johnson at Sam Houston State and Jay Artigues at Southeastern Louisiana.
“He’s high-energy and an outstanding baseball man,” Johnson said in an official statement. “He’s had the advantage of being in various baseball programs and has been around a few different head coaches, all who have had a great influence on him. I see nothing but good things for McNeese.”
Artigues, currently SLU’s interim AD, was among those in attendance at Hill’s news conference.
McClelland said Hill was one of eight candidates who were interviewed for the position, and one of two finalists.
Hill, a West Monroe native, graduated from LSU in 2002 and earned his master’s degree from Northwestern State in 2005.