Former Trinity College head baseball coach Bill Decker has been named the new Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67 Head Coach for Harvard Baseball, Athletics Director Bob Scalise announced Tuesday night.
In Decker, the Crimson has found its replacement for Joe Walsh, who suddenly passed away from an apparent heart attack on July 31 after serving as manager of the Crimson for 17 years. Walsh’s assistant Thomas Lo Ricco had served as interim head coach while the Harvard athletic department conducted a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.
“Obviously it’s a situation that nobody in baseball wanted to be in with the untimely passing of Joe Walsh,” Decker said in a statement Tuesday. “Nevertheless this is a tremendous opportunity at a world-class institution, and I greatly look forward to both those opportunities as well as the challenges to come.”
Decker served as head coach of the Bantams for 22 years, accumulating a career record of 529-231. The all-time winningest coach in Trinity sports history, he was named the ABCA National Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading the Bantams to an undefeated regular season and the Division III National Championship, finishing with a 45-1 record overall.
“I am thrilled for Bill and his family and am extremely supportive of his decision to pursue this great opportunity at Harvard,” Trinity Athletic Director Michael Renwick said in a statement. “Bill has been such a catalyst over the years in Trinity's great athletic tradition.... His leadership of our baseball program will be missed.”
Trinity’s 44-game winning streak in 2008 is the longest in Division III baseball history, and its .978 winning percentage that season set an NCAA record for any sport. During his tenure, Decker managed the Bantams to five total conference titles and nine NCAA tournaments—including four College World Series appearances—and was named the New England Coach of the Year four times. Last season, Trinity finished 34-11 while winning the NESCAC Championship.
“I have been fortunate to spend 22 years at a wonderful place in Trinity College that's been home to me and my family,” Decker said in a statement. “I step away from that program knowing it's healthy and knowing that I can share a similar situation with the wonderful people at Harvard.”
The coach will be looking to turn around a program that recently struggled greatly under Walsh, going 61-150 over the past five seasons. Members of the team said that while they were still mourning Walsh’s passing, the presence of a new manager would allow them to turn their attention towards the future.
“The team’s ready to move forward and get ready to play some baseball,” outfielder Jack Colton ’14 said. “[Coach Decker] really built a successful program down at Trinity, and we’re excited to see what he’s all about.”
Pitcher Baron S. Davis ’14 said the squad would be introduced to Decker on Wednesday.
“I’m pretty excited to meet him,” Davis said. “He has a great record coming from Trinity; he’s won over 500 games, so we’re pretty psyched. He seems like a pretty straight-edged guy.”
Decker is a graduate of Ithaca College, where he was a football and baseball star. He took over the Trinity baseball program before the 1991 season after a year as manager at Macalester College in Minnesota, and he also served as an assistant football coach during his first years with the Bantams.
A member of the 1997 USA Baseball National Trials coaching staff, Decker has had eight former players go on to play baseball professionally over the past seven seasons. He will begin his duties with Harvard immediately.
“We are extremely excited to have someone of Bill's character and background to lead our baseball program,” Scalise said in a statement. “We are particularly impressed with Bill's successes at a well-respected academic institution such as Trinity. Harvard has a lengthy tradition of excellence in baseball, and we trust that our program will thrive under Coach Decker.”