The baseball man. Once you forget the lines like "when you cut him, he bleeds tobacco juice," you realize that this rare species does exist--the professor in a grammar school game, the practical historian of the pastime.
There is a new guy on the Harvard diamond this spring. He wears his stirrups too low and he says only what he has to say, but he is unquestionably a baseball man. And one look at Alex Nahigian will tell you he never wanted to be anything else.
"Coach Nahigian has been very fair and extremely serious about the team. His practices are so well organized that you have a greater chance to improve on your own," infielder Dave Knoll says.
Knoll reflects the attitude of virtually every player on the squad--that Nahigian is finally adding the intangibles of self-respect and professionalism to a tangibly sound Harvard baseball program.
Whatever success the Harvard baseball team experienced in the past was many times in spite of the man at the helm. Loyal Park, who coached the Crimson for the decade preceeding Nahigian, was a sound fundamentalist but could never talk straight to a Harvard man.
Nahigian doesn't want to hear about the past. "I'm an optimist," he says, and as the new patriarch of the Harvard baseball heritage, he has the chance to redirect the disposition of the program in a positive way.
"The thing that strikes me the most is that he's very open and straight-forward to all the players, which we all appreciate," said pitcher Ron Stewart. "It's like a shot in the arm for the program," he added.
Nahigian was the unanimous choice of the six-man search committee last June, when the Athletic Department was trying to find a replacement for Park. Nahigian was then baseball coach at Providence College, where he had led his teams to NCAA post-season play in nine of 16 seasons.
In addition to never having suffered a losing season at Providence, Nahigian and his Friars were twice national leaders in team defense (1972, 1975).
"The older I get the more the old adage comes true about how you've got to be strong up the middle," Nahigian said in Briggs Cage the other day.
The new guy was talking shop. And to see him--hear him--was to get the feeling that this baseball man will leave an impression much more lasting than spikes on a basepath.