Baseball hires third head coach in three years

Jeff Calhoon brings a culture centered on blue-collar work ethic and high standards.

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Baseball hires third head coach in three years

New manager Jeff Calhoon exchanges smiles with one of his Eagles.

New manager Jeff Calhoon exchanges smiles with one of his Eagles.

Haven Luper-Jasso // THE CHIMES

New manager Jeff Calhoon exchanges smiles with one of his Eagles.

Haven Luper-Jasso // THE CHIMES

Haven Luper-Jasso // THE CHIMES

New manager Jeff Calhoon exchanges smiles with one of his Eagles.

Ashley Grams, Staff Writer

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(This story was originally published in print on Oct. 17, 2019).

Biola baseball is no stranger to a revolving coaching staff. The Eagles are adjusting to yet another head coach, Jeff Calhoon, their third coach in three seasons. Calhoon played D-I baseball at Niagara University and coached for the last six years at Point Loma Nazarene University, University of California, San Diego and Westmont College. During his years as an assistant coach, twice his teams advanced to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship

Calhoon is replacing the Eagles’ previous interim head coach, Justin Duarte, who was hired last January for a single season. Calhoon was hired to lead a strong roster through PacWest play. 

Former head coach Jay Sullenger, who led the Eagles for five seasons, suddenly resigned at the end of last year. This left Biola Athletics with a quick turn around for the upcoming spring season, prompting the hiring of Duarte for the interim position. 

With a new coach comes a new perspective, approach to the game and essentially a different culture altogether. Several Eagles have struggled through the coaching changes but continue to see the value in working through the numerous forms of leadership. 

“Having several coaches over the past year has been a roller coaster for sure, but I’ve started to see how God is working through it,” said redshirt sophomore catcher Andrew Buglino. 

BLUE-COLLAR APPROACH

Calhoon hopes to foster a “blue-collar, work-oriented” program by pushing players to get better each day. This effort-focused mindset begins off the field by maintaining Christ-centered relationships, healthy habits and academic excellence. 

“Most of the guys are into what we’re doing. It’s structured and detail oriented. For us, we’re not wasting time,” Calhoon said. “Our core is really good at trusting what we’re all about. They decided as a team their identity and all I have to say is: ‘Hey, are we living up to the expectations?’”

FAMILY BOND

Change can either strengthen or break a team, and Biola baseball is here to prove they’re closer than ever. A close bond inspires the work ethic Calhoon is looking for, especially when the players treat each other like family.  

“The team has never had a problem with staying bonded,” said sophomore pitcher Tyler Mead. “We’re still the same guys who love each other, and God no matter who our coach is.”

“It wasn’t them joining [my team], it was me joining theirs,” Calhoon said, who called each player individually to talk about team culture before fall ball began. 

Due to these pre-existing values within the community, Calhoon is looking to support the players and their passions. Instead of making extensive changes, he will be guiding and encouraging the standards set by leaders across the roster. By uniting the players’ vision, Calhoon hopes to establish quality relationships between players and coaching staff. 

STAYING GROUNDED

Key upperclassmen and the heart of current players keep the Eagles grounded during the transition. With the opportunity to play together in the fall, the Eagles are weathering the storm of change and are constantly reminded of their passion for baseball. 

“With new coaches, there’s always an adjustment period in the beginning. We’ve gotten through that stage now though and it seems like everybody is brought into the program which is really nice to see,” Buglino said. “I think our overall love for the game and desire to win helps us to play our hardest no matter who is coaching.” 

Calhoon’s experience at faith-based universities prepared him well to lead the Eagles, not only on the field but as growing men of God. 

Coach Calhoon is really trying to take us and turn us into men. ”

“He’s teaching us to do everything the correct way, how to dress nice and act like the men we all want to be,” Mead said.