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Jenkins on coaching path under Casey

On Sports


by: COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - Andy Jenkins (right) played in the College World Series for Oregon State and now coaches the Beavers from the third-base box.OMAHA — Last June, after veteran Oregon State assistant coach Marty Lees left for Oklahoma State, head coach Pat Casey sent a text message to Andy Jenkins.

“You ready to coach?” the text read.

“Absolutely,” was the reply.

So began the ascension of a first-year, post-grad assistant to a second-year, full-time assistant and third-base coach.

It was a healthy leap for Jenkins, who had never coached third base and was only a year removed from his playing days.

Daunting? Had to be.

“I was really anxious,” Jenkins admits. “Probably more nervous when we started practice in the fall. When you haven’t ever been over there (coaching third), it feels like you’re in no-man’s land a little bit. There are big decisions you have to make.

“But I trust my instincts. I listen to the things coach Casey tells me to do. I try to work hard and get better. It’s been fun, it really has.”

If Jenkins, 29, wasn’t the youngest third-base coach in the Pac-12, he was close. He may be the youngest to serve in the capacity at this year’s College World Series, too.

“I’m so lucky, man,” the South Salem High grad says. “I feel fortunate. To start my coaching career with coach Casey and his staff and all these players ... you telling me it gets better than that? I don’t think so. It’s pretty cool ‘Case’ has a lot of confidence in me.”

Casey gives Jenkins a positive review for his first season with such heavy responsibilities.

“Andy’s done great,” Casey says. “That’s a tough thing to do when you’ve never done it before. When you’re a player, you’re on the other side of the lines. But he handles himself extremely well, and the guys are comfortable playing with him out there.”

Corvallis is familiar territory for Jenkins, the second-best player on Oregon State’s 2005 CWS squad, the school’s first to make it to Omaha since 1952. Jenkins hit .388, behind only Jacoby Ellsbury’s .406 mark, and had a team-high 56 RBIs as a slugging first baseman. He batted .459 in the postseason that year.

An 11th-round draft pick by Florida that year, Jenkins spent 6 1/2 years in professional ball, getting as high as Triple-A before being released by Texas during spring training 2011. He played independent ball that summer, all the while realizing it would be wise to look to his second career.

“I always knew I wanted to coach,” Jenkins says. “When I was in the minor leagues, (team officials) always looked for me to help younger guys in the farm system. I maintained a relationship with Oregon State’s coaches over the years.

Now that vision has become a reality.”

Jenkins, who played catcher, first and third at Oregon State and a half-dozen positions in the minor leagues, works with the Beavers’ catchers and infielders. He figures his versatility as a player provides assets as a coach.

“It helps not just with the fundamentals of each position but with (directing) the communication on the field,” Jenkins says. “You have to pay attention to detail when you play for Case. I’ve played all those positions, which gives me an edge when I’m bouncing around, helping everybody.”

Coaching third base is like serving as offensive coordinator in football. There can be plaudits when things are going well, but make a mistake and you’re suddenly in line for plenty of second-guessing.

Jenkins hasn’t been perfect, but he hasn’t made a lot of glaring errors from the coaching box this season.

“If I have a motto, it’s be aggressive,” Jenkins says, “Be overly aggressive sometimes, but not stupid. There’s a fine line. I know how hard it is to throw a guy out from left-center. You understand the speed of your runner, who’s on deck, what kind of arm is in the outfield, the situation with the score and outs. And you force the defense to make plays.”

Jenkins is a voyeur when viewing major league games on television, but he’s not watching the pitcher, the batter or the couple necking in the stands.

“I watch the third-base coaches, how they’re positioning the runners, whether they send a guy, how far up the line they let the runner go,” Jenkins says. “Sometimes you see things that help you. Sometimes you see things you want to avoid.”

Casey likes that Jenkins is only a few years older than the players.

“He’s right on the pulse as far as having a feel for what the guys are thinking, what makes them tick,” Casey says. “He has a good demeanor. He’s been real good about knowing when they need some freedom and when they need to be leaned on.”

Jenkins enjoys being in the thick of the action.

“I like to pitch batting practice,” he says. “I like to be right there with the players. Coaching third base is perfect. Some of my decisions affect how well we do that. I don’t think I could just sit in the dugout and watch. I love being out there.”

The past week has been déja  vu for Jenkins, who hadn’t been back to Omaha since the trip with the Beavers in 2005.

“It’s been fun to watch our guys and see their emotions on the bus,” he says. “All the reporters, the excitement of the games, the hospitality in the city of Omaha — I see myself back in ‘05. It’s pretty cool.”

Casey has served twice as a mentor for Jenkins. Once as a player, now as coach.

“Case is everything that’s been written about him,” Jenkins says. “He is a warrior, a competitor, and an even better guy off the field. He’s all about the players. He understands his success is all about them and the coaches working with him.

“For me, it’s been so great to work with Case and Nate (Yeskie) and Pat (Bailey). I don’t know if Beaver Nation understands we’re not just coaching during the games. It’s a very involved year-round process, and it’s been inspiring to me to be a part of it.”

Some day, Pat Casey will retire following his Hall-of-Fame career at Oregon State. His successor could be coaching third base for him right now.

“I could see Andy doing that one day,” Casey says. “I would love to see him coaching at Oregon State for a long time.”

I’m guessing that to Andy Jenkins, there can be no higher compliment.

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