Mazey’s Ties To Region At Root Of WVU Success
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— Good things happen to good people.
Randy Mazey, West Virginia’s baseball coach, is good people … and a good coach … and good father and family man.
He’s a salt of the earth kind of guy, someone having success but not believing it makes him any different than the kid he once was.
Yeah, he’s got a three-year contract extension locked up now and will coach WVU baseball, whose growth comes out of the seeds he and Oliver Luck, the athletic director who hired him, have planted.
It’s worth $2.49 million without the many performance bonuses available to him, which is big deal no matter how you look at it.
But he doesn’t see it terms of dollars and cents or guaranteed years.
“Most importantly it’s a good feeling coming to work every day knowing your administration supports and appreciates what we are trying to do here,” he said this week. “That goes a lot further than people think when you go to work every day knowing people have the same goals and missions as you do.”
Funny, though, how it worked out. We don’t think of him as originally being one of our own, but in many ways he is.
That, as much as anything else, is why seven years ago he left TCU, where he was pitching coach on a top program, to take a chance here on a program that was headed into the Big 12 without a real foundation upon which to build.
He bought into the area as much as the baseball team and he did so because of who and what he is.
“I was born in western Pennsylvania. My wife, Amanda, was born in Columbus, Ohio, so we always enjoyed coming back to this area closer to the family,” he explained. “We knew it was a great community, great sports programs, we knew one of the years just before I got here Morgantown was voted as one of the top sports communities in the country.”
And he’d been to Morgantown before, a long time before anyone thought he had.
“I grew up a Penn State Nittany Lion football fan and had actually come here to see them play West Virginia,” he recalled.
And Penn State won. They always did in those days.
“My daddy and I used to come here and hunt when I was 13 or 14 years old. We’d stay at the old Morgantown Hotel. Before going hunting we’d go eat and Ruby and Ketchy’s over here. That was 30 and 40 years ago but you can still do the same things if you want to.”
Morgantown, North Central West Virginia, were an idyllic place to raise a young family.
“We came here, my kids were four and five. We wanted to get them ingrained into the community. They had the ice rink here and I grew up a big hockey fan and always wanted my children to enjoy that sport and they still are to this day,” he said.
“We’ve made unbelievable friends. It’s just a great place, amazing, and I knew when I came here as long as they’d have me I’d love to retire here.”
Western Pennsylvania roots, “We Are Family” Pirates history, young family … it all fit.
And Mazey wasn’t about to leave wife Amanda, son Weston and daughter Sierra at the gate when he went to work. His team was their team.
“We Are Family.” That was it.
“I never wanted to be a guy who coached until I couldn’t coach any more. I wanted to be someone who always enjoyed my family and the reason I do what I do is for my family,” he explained.
And so they were included in all of it.
“My family is a part of our practices and our games and I encourage my assistant coaches to be the same way. There’s hardly a practice where my wife, or their wives and children aren’t watching practice.
“It makes it a happier place to have your family involved.”
At the games, his son, whom he calls “Wammer”, serves as bat boy, his daughter and wife sit right next to the dugout behind the on deck circle.
“I just love being around my family every day. When my career is over, I don’t want to be that person who lives only a couple of years. I want to enjoy my life and my family for as long as I can,” he said.
But, in the end, it’s a job coaching West Virginia and when he came they were in Hawley Field, moving into a league they didn’t figure to be ready for.
He remembers how Luck recruited him.
He was interested right from the start.
“I think everybody kind of looked at West Virginia then — and I don’t want to call it a sleeping giant looking in from the outside because you never know — but I think everyone understood the reputation of the school and all it had to offer so it could have a great baseball program,” he said.
“That was just confirmed when I came here and talked to people, heard what they wanted and what they were all about. All the stars lined up as to a program that could get better surrounded by people who wanted it to get better. That was pretty exciting to me.”
Luck capped it off.
“He told me we were going into one of the best baseball conferences in the land; that they were doing all we could to build a nice baseball facility and that beyond that the rest was up to me,” Mazey said.
“That’s all I wanted — an opportunity.”
Opportunity … that’s really what it’s all about.
“I tell my assistant coaches, early in your career, don’t chase the money. Chase the opportunity. If you do that, all else will follow,” he said. “Early in my career I had a couple of opportunities to do some things, to be around good people and learn my way to where I am now,” he said.
And so it was that it didn’t matter that he would be the lowest paid coach in the Big 12, that he didn’t have a good facility or a good team. He wasn’t thinking about building a powerful team, of playing in NCAA Regionals, even hosting one at West Virginia.
“I don’t remember thinking about that stuff. You just come in and do what you do and make your program better, surround yourself with the right people, recruit the right kids and teach them how to play the right way,” he said.
“It’s a matter of just focusing on the process. If you do that, results will follow. Looking back on it now, it sure looks like that’s been the case. We focused on the process, hard work, recruiting, changing the culture and providing resources for kids.
“You just do what you know how to do, do it to the best of your ability and whatever happens is icing on the cake.”
But he knew he had a lot working for him and that if that new stadium would come along he’d be far better equipped for success.
So it was that it was submitted, but that came with no guarantees.
“It got a little touch and go,” he admitted. “It had to get approved at the state level.”
And that led to some lost sleep. As he went to the state legislature, he remembers being in Charleston, sitting in a hotel room, listening to the general session going over project after project.
“I was just waiting for the stadium to be approved,” he said. “If I remember correctly it had to be passed by midnight but by midnight the stadium never had been mentioned.”
They adjourned and his heart dropped.
“Oliver texted me in the morning and said, ‘Don’t worry, don’t panic, there’s a special session they can call in the next month or two.’ Well, it wound up being passed in a special session.”
By then he’d run up enough miles that if he were getting mileage he’d have been able to finance the stadium himself.
“I remember during that time traveling back and forth to Charleston and shaking hands with people and trying to convince communities of the importance of having a facility like this,” he said.
“Seven years later, you look at the excitement and the economy this stadium has brought to the Morgantown community, I don’t think there is anyone who would say it wasn’t worth it.”
The area around the stadium has been developed and there’s more coming. And there’s any number of other ways the stadium could produce revenue, concerts being just one.
But it paid for itself when it drew an NCAA Regional to Morgantown last year.
“Usually when you host a regional that changes the face of a program. Now the whole community knows what these kids are striving for,” Mazey said.
If there was any negative it came when they lost a heartbreaker to be eliminated at home before an overflow, excited, emotional crowd.
It hit everyone hard, Mazey, his team and, yes, that family he loved.
“That’s sometimes tough,” he said, thinking about his son being there in the dugout. “I try to separate as much as I can. The way we lost that last day last season was really tough for everybody involved. He was out on the field crying, along with our players, our coaches … but after a game when we get out of the car we go in the back yard and play catch and talk about our favorite player of the day.
“You have to learn from everything you do. Failure is an opportunity to get better. Next time we’re in that situation we will be better for it.”
And Mazey believes there will be a next time.
“You look at the evolution of a program and the last seven years are probably realistic as to how it has gone,” he said. “It went the way it should have. It took us a few years to get to the top half of the Big 12.
“It took a few years to make it to the regional. Usually you don’t win the first time you get to a regional because the kids don’t have the experience in that atmosphere. Then we hosted a regional and that’s the same thing.
“That was hard for our kids to play in that atmosphere as it was for the opposing team because we spend so much time telling these kids when you put this jersey on you are representing th 1.8 million people of the state of West Virginia.
“That’s a lot of pressure for these kids. They had so many people rooting for them and sitting on the edge of their seats. It’s hard to win the first time you host a regional.”
But now the Mountaineers have a chance to move forward.
“Now we have experience in both those venues,” Mazey said. “The typical evolution is it’s time to start winning them, going a little further and a little further. If it continues evolve as it should, the next five or six years should be bright. It’s not every year. It’s hard to be good every year, but the program is heading in the right direction.”