The 2020 season will mark Jeff Messer’s 35th season in charge of the Slippery Rock University baseball program. Messer has enjoyed nearly unparalleled success during his time at The Rock, establishing himself as one of the top coaches in college baseball history.
The all-time winningest coach in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) history, Messer will enter the 2020 season with a career record of 1,009-661-5 (.603).
Messer, who has averaged 30.1 wins per year over his career, ranks 17th in NCAA Division II history in career wins and has the fifth most victories of any active coach in the nation. For his efforts, Messer has been named the PSAC Coach of the Year a record seven times (2018, 2003, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1993 and 1992) as well as being named the Atlantic Region Coach of the Year on four occasions (2003, 2000, 1997 and 1989). He was inducted into the Butler Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Slippery Rock’s success under Messer has been unprecedented in not only the PSAC, but the entire Atlantic Region. In 33 years in charge of the Slippery Rock baseball program, Messer has guided The Rock to 31 winning seasons, finishing with a losing record just twice.
18 of the 31 winning seasons saw Slippery Rock produce at least 30 victories including a pair of 40+ win seasons in 1989 (42) and 2003 (48). Only one other PSAC school, Shippensburg (19), has more 30-win seasons in the last 33 years than SRU.
Slippery Rock, which has won 15 PSAC West division titles under Messer, has qualified for the PSAC Tournament 27 times since 1986, coming away with tournament titles in 1991 and 2001. On the national stage, Messer has coached 12 teams that have earned NCAA Tournament berths. SRU’s 1989, 1997, 2000 and 2003 squads all won regional championships and qualified for the NCAA Division II World Series. The Rock’s 1989 team finished the year ranked third in the nation while Slippery Rock’s 2000 team was slotted fifth in the nation at the conclusion of the year.
The Rock’s superior team success over the years has led to countless individual honors for players under Messer’s tutelage.
Since taking over the program in 1986, Messer has coached 13 players that have been selected in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, which is the third highest total of any team in the PSAC over that time range.
Additionally, Messer has mentored 36 All-Americans, 96 all-region honorees and 205 all-conference selections. Six of Messer’s players have been named the PSAC Athlete of the Year in Nate Thimons (1999), Dan DeCola (2000), Matt Adams (2009), Matt Howard (2014), Will Kengor (2014) and Tyler Walters (2018). Adams, who currently plays first base for the Atlanta Braves, was also named the consensus Atlantic Region Player of the Year in 2009.
Freshmen also have a long tradition of thriving under Messer as six rookies have been named the PSAC Freshman of the Year since 1994; T.J. Kamerer (1994), George Johnson (1999), Adams (2007), Ryan Oglesby (2011), Tyler Walters (2015) and Abraham Mow (2018) were all bestowed with the honor.
Just as important as all of the on the field accolades has been the accomplishments of Messer’s athletes in the classroom. Since 1997, Rock baseball has had four players named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team as well as 133 PSAC Scholar Athletes.
Messer added to his Hall of Fame caliber resume in 2019 when he became just the 89th coach in NCAA history, regardless of division, to reach 1,000 career victories. Messer’s 1,000th win came on March 14, 2019 in a 17-9 victory by The Rock against Franklin Pierce in Cary, North Carolina.
A native of Lee Massachusetts, Messer attended Springfield College, where he played shortstop on the Pride baseball team before graduating in 1980 with a with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
Upon graduation, Messer played professionally in Holland before beginning his college coaching career. His first collegiate coaching position came in 1983 as an assistant at Westfield State College in Westfield, Massachusetts.
After two seasons at Westfield State, Messer became the assistant coach at Oklahoma City University for one season where he earned his master’s degree in counseling psychology in 1985 before becoming the fourth head coach in Slippery Rock University baseball history and commencing what has turned into a legendary career at The Rock.
Messer has long been an active member in the American Baseball Coaches Association, the governing body of armature baseball, ascending to the role of president for the 2017 season. In addition to his coaching duties, Messer was also an assistant professor in SRU’s health and physical education department until January 2008, when he relinquished his teaching duties to become a full-time baseball coach.
Messer and his wife Mary, who is the Director of Parks and Recreation for the town of Slippery Rock, are the parents of three children: Matt, Michelle and Billy.
All three Messer children have attended SRU. Matt played on his father’s Rock teams in 2005, 2006 and 2008. Billy also played at The Rock and was a four-year starter at second base, where he was a two-time All-PSAC selection before starting his own coaching career.