Diamond Dawgs hire Herrin native Wolff as new pitching coach

By Gus Bode

After spending 10 years in the minor leagues and giving pitching clinics to Little Leaguers, Bryan Wolff is going to get his first shot at coaching baseball.

A right-handed pitcher and 1990 graduate of Herrin High School, the 31-year-old Wolff was recently hired as the new pitching coach for the SIU baseball team. Wolff replaces former three-year pitching coach Ty Neal, who accepted a similar position at the University of Cincinnati.

“On paper, he looks like a very solid addition to our coaching staff,” Saluki head coach Dan Callahan said. “Bryan’s got a tough act to follow, but I think with his experience and expertise he’ll hopefully be a real good, solid addition to our program.”


Neal, who received a “best pitcher” honor from Miami University in 1998, joined the SIU baseball staff in 2000-2001. His contributions to the team both on and off the field will be missed.

“I think the pitchers realized that he was always there for them, in the good times and the bad,” Callahan said. “Because of that, he developed a solid relationship with most of our staff.”

Wolff played professionally in the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians organizations. He never pitched in the major leagues, but took part in two Major League spring training camps. He also spent parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level.

Wolff has never totally given up on the idea of playing professionally in the major leagues. He has spent the last five years offering pitching clinics to players from ages 8 to 18 and still hopes to be called up someday.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity that Dan’s given me,” Wolff said. “Even up to a month and a half ago I thought I’d be playing, but I have to move on.”

In the spring of 2002, as a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, Wolff raised several eyebrows when he shut out the world champion New York Yankees in their last game of spring training.

A short time later, Wolff sustained a rib injury and interest in him declined. Recently, he received a few calls from the Chicago White Sox asking if he was still pitching.


“If I had my way, I’d be playing right now, but it didn’t work out that way,” Wolff said.

As an incoming coach, Wolff expects his players to work hard and be happy with the season that SIU had last year. The Salukis lost both games of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship to Wichita State in May.

Wolff wants his players to realize that they can play with teams like Wichita State, which is one of the premier programs in the nation.

“Our players shouldn’t go in there thinking that their guys are better just because of where they’re at,” Wolff said.

Getting to know players and where they are at athletically is one of Wolff’s top priorities. He has never coached before and wants to develop his own style.

“I’m not going to be like Coach Neal,” Wolff said. “I’ve always got to keep the focus of helping these guys get better.”

Wolff believes he has a lot to offer SIU’s pitchers and would like to help players carry their careers beyond the college level. He said that if any pitcher has even the slightest chance of making it to the majors, that they should go for it.

Wolff also hopes his experiences can help his pitchers in getting through their careers.

“I went through plenty of adversity through injuries and getting overlooked,” Wolff said. “I’ve been at both ends [of the good and bad times] and I hope I can help guys through theirs.”

Reporter Pete Spitler can be reached at [email protected]