New UTM baseball head coach Rick Robinson made his first public appearance in the city of Martin Monday evening.
Robinson, who is the tenth coach in the history of the program, met with media prior to the official meet-and-greet held at the First State Bank on University Street to discuss his future as a member of the Skyhawk family.
“I appreciate the opportunity that [Athletics Director] Julio [Freire] and Chancellor [Tom] Rakes have given me to come and revitalize the baseball program here at UT Martin,” Robinson said.
Robinson has 17 years of head coaching experience in college baseball, 16 of which he spent at NCAA Division II school, Young Harris College. He holds a lifetime record of 699–281. During his time as a head coach, Robinson’s teams have never posted a losing record.
Robinson says that his main reason for coming to Martin is his desire to return to coaching in Division I, where he previously spent four seasons as an assistant at Old Dominion University.
“I’ve coached at all different levels,” Robinson said. “And when this job came open, the fact that it was a Division I job in the OVC was the first thing that got my attention. My children are getting a little bit older. So, my wife and I decided this would be a good time to make a stab at getting back into Division I baseball.”
Robinson was given a chance to talk with each of the players individually over the phone the day he was announced the new coach.
“We have spent a lot of time talking with and motivating the kids,” Robinson said. “I feel like I need to take about an hour to two hours a week where we do nothing more than talk and sit and listen to the kids. Hear what they’re saying and try to figure out what motivates them. What inspires them to be the best that they can be.”
Athletics Director Julio Freire, who was also present at the media forum, praised Robinson’s readiness to get to know his players.
“I can tell you that that day [June 3, the day Coach Robinson’s signing was announced], he spent no less than 10 hours speaking with our student athletes, and no less than 30 minutes with each and every one of them,” Freire said. “That just talks to the fact that it’s about students, and one of the things we were looking for is someone who would be able to work with our students and be able to get to know them as individuals.”
During the meet-and-greet, Robinson addressed those in attendance and took questions from the audience, such as how he plans to increase community and student interest in baseball events.
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve gone into a situation that hasn’t been real successful, and hasn’t had a lot of attendance,” Robinson said. “I think the first thing you have to do is to have young men get involved in the community. And I mean the community as far as the college community as well as the surrounding community. Once those guys are involved in the community on campus … that’s when we’ll bring the students out.”
For Robinson, the most important short-term goal is “to make baseball an opportunity for these young men to enjoy their collegiate experience.”
“You have to find the positives, and then recruit off the positives. For me, the positives start with UT Martin as a university, UT Martin as an athletic department under Julio’s guidance, and then the baseball program … and so we’re going to build off of all of that.”
Feature photo: Rick Robinson, UTM’s new baseball coach, is pictured on the right with UTM Athletics Director Julio Freire on the left. (Matt Bodkins)