Former Saluki remembers his roots in success

By Gus Bode

Even though the Yankees captured their second World Series Championship in three years Wednesday night, Newman’s heart will always remain in Carbondale.

Newman lettered in baseball for two seasons (1968-70) at SIUC and made his way up the ladder from a Saluki player to Yankee vice president of player development and scouting. But it was not easy.

Newman, who prides himself on being a very hard-working individual, believes his time at SIUC has helped him climb to where he is today.

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I feel that the years I spent at SIU helped me because they always maintained a commitment to excellence, and when I left there that desire fueled me and guided me forward, Newman said.

As a player, the Wheeling native pitched and played second base for the Salukis for two seasons. After graduation, Newman left SIUC to find an institution with a law program. Newman aspired to attend the University of Illinois to study law, but he rejoined the Saluki ranks again after they started a law program at SIUC in 1973.

Newman earned a law degree at SIUC in 1978. Newman also set a standard in the classroom, earning Academic All-American honors in 1970.

Newman served as an assistant coach for nine seasons and saw his first Saluki squad post a 1.37 ERA (earned run average) in 1972 still a school record before leaving the program following the 1980 campaign.

Under the guidance of coach Joe Lutz and Richard Itchy Jones, Newman watched the Salukis become one of the best teams in the nation. In 1968, the SIUC squad made the College World Series for the first time, starting a solid program that has remained intact to today.

SIU was one of the most highly regarded schools in the nation, Newman said. The talent that we had while I was coach was some of the best talent there was in the nation at that time.

After leaving SIUC, Newman made his way over to Old Dominion University in Virginia, where he coached some of the most successful teams in Monarch history. But the yellow brick road did not stop there.

With the help of former Saluki George Bradley, who was a pitching coach for the Yankees’ organization at that time, Newman earned an administrative position as a coordinator of player development in 1989. Newman spent six years with the Yankees in the same capacity before moving up to vice president of player development and scouting in 1996.

That season, the Yankees posted their first World Series crown since 1978. And nobody needs to remind Newman where the Yankees stand in the baseball world today.

The Yankees are a very special and rich organization, Newman said. I am very proud to be a part of it … I think it’s a tribute to all the hard work that this organization and players put in each and every day.

But becoming a proud organization takes time, effort and dedication from all involved. Newman sees the same determination in the Yankees’ organization now as he did 27 years ago with the Salukis.

In the Yankees’ organization, our motto is to strive for complete excellence, Newman said. When we recruit our players, that is what we are looking for.

That’s what SIU was like when I was there. The players then went out every day and gave it all they’ve got. We were one of the most successful teams in the nation.

The Yankees’ minor-league organization under Newman’s guidance has produced many of baseball’s marquee names, including Derek Jeter, Orlando El Duque Hernandez and postseason phenom Shane Spencer. And that trend does not look to end soon.

Our minor leagues are stronger than ever, Newman said. The players that came into this organization within the last couple years are already producing for the team right now.

The importance of Newman’s many scouts that cover all the regions of the United States is as strong as ever. Even though Newman does not travel on the road himself, there is always an area scout that visits Missouri Valley Conference schools every year.

Newman believes that players being scouted now are definitely different than the ones he coached back in the ’70s.

When people say to me, Are players different now than 27 years ago?’ I say yes, they are more committed, Newman said. “Players work harder, train harder than they did back while I was a coach.”

Bill McMinn, Newman’s friend of 25 years, knows no one who works harder than the Yankee executive.

He is the most competitive person I have ever known, McMinn said. Nobody does a better job at what they’re doing than Mark Newman.

But for all the glory, the World Series rings and the success Mark Newman has, nothing will ever take away from the time he spent in Carbondale.

There are times in my life that I wish I could come back down to Carbondale and be a pitching coach, especially when the times get tense, Newman said.

“The years I spent at SIU are some of the best times of my life, and I will always remember them.

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