Decker Ushers in New Era

Good Eye
Robert F Worley

Always attentive to detail, Decker likes to manage from the third base coach’s box.

It’s a snowy morning in March, but the Harvard baseball program isn’t taking any breaks.

Two assistant coaches are working in a room on the upper level of Dillon Field  House. A whiteboard lists detailed practice schedules and upcoming dates. And in his own office, Crimson head coach Bill Decker is peering at a few sheets of paper sitting on his desk.

It isn’t the first time Decker’s eyes have strayed downward. He has routinely consulted tables of statistics to provide context when discussing his team’s performance on the season thus far.

He doesn’t just examine the box scores—which, as Decker notes, can be deceiving—but typically devotes his attention to more detailed notes, including those that chart quality-at-bats and pitch-by-pitch sequences. He points to baserunning as a particular point of emphasis this season.

“If you look at the statistics last year, people tended to run on us a little bit—which is an understatement,” Decker says. “We’re going to control the running game [this season], and it’s going to start with the pitchers.”

Indeed, Decker is a man of the details. For him, games are won when the little things are taken care of.

Now, in his second year at the helm of the team, Decker’s office across the Charles River is starting to feel more like home. He can now turn his focus to developing a successful baseball program and instilling his vision for success.

When Harvard hosts Penn at O’Donnell Field this Saturday, the Crimson will compete at home for the first time all season. If Decker has his way, in a few years, the trip to Cambridge will not be one that opponents enjoy making.

“My goal is to come in here and take this program and get it back where it needs to be, and that’s at the forefront of the Ivy League,” Decker says. “That’s my goal. We’re going to do it the right way with the right student-athletes that want to come to Harvard and can succeed at Harvard, on and off the field.”

A NEW TRANSITION

Although Decker is entering his second year coaching at Harvard, the current season could just as well be considered his first full stint.

After the July 2012 passing of former head coach Joe Walsh, the face of the Crimson baseball program for 17 years, the search for a new head coach began in earnest. Decker’s hiring was announced in late September, and he didn’t set foot on campus until early October.

In addition to having to adapt to a new city and a new job, Decker had to rapidly get to know his team and assess the state of the program.

“The whole hiring process, due to the untimely death of Joe, happened very, very late,” said Decker at the beginning of the 2013 campaign. “So my expectations were to come in here and really just look and get a feel for what had happened.”

Before accepting the Harvard job, Decker spent 22 years as head baseball coach for Trinity College, where he eventually became the all-time winningest coach in school history with a record of 529-231.

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