Joe "Spanky" McFarland enters his 17th season as head coach of the "Diamond Dukes" in 2014. During his first 12 seasons beginning in 1998, he occupied the home dugout at Long Field/Mauck Stadium before moving to brand-new Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park for the 2010 season.
McFarland's tenure has featured a 486-414-4 overall record, highlighted by CAA championships in 2008 and 2011, first-place finishes in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2011 as well as NCAA appearances in 2002, 2008 and 2011. He enters the 2014 season among the top 50 active coaches in college baseball for career victories at four-year institutions with 629.
McFarland was named the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2002 and Co-Coach of the Year in 2010. He was also the Louisville Slugger Conference Coach of the Year in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2011 as well as the East Region Co-Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2011. In 2008, McFarland added the State Coach of the Year by the Virginia Sports Information Directors and the 2008 College Coach of the Year by the Middle Atlantic Baseball Scouts Association. In late 2010, he was inducted into the Springfield-Clark County Baseball Hall of Fame near his hometown of New Carlisle, Ohio.
In 2010, McFarland became the second coach to reach 400 wins at JMU when the Dukes won at East Carolina 11-5 on May 18. He reached 600 career coaching wins during the 2011 season needs five victories to surpass 450 with the Dukes.
McFarland's daily approach to work and the game is the simple application of consistency. He expects of himself, his coaches and his players, an unbroken investment of effort while keeping the crosshairs steadily trained on a goal.
"The people associated with this program, from the coaches through the players, come to work and practice hard every day with the consistency similar to that of a blue-collar worker," said McFarland, a former two-sport college athlete. "The most important thing is to remain even-keeled, avoiding the emotional highs and lows. It's the best way to play baseball. If you believe in what you are doing every day, and you do it well, it doesn't matter who you're playing, because you are still playing the way you practice. The game comes to you. The same can be said for many everyday tasks.
"We are trying to develop ballplayers that give you what you need to make every day successful, as opposed to players who might give an exceptional effort every so often, a flash in the pan. We want good, steady growth and development, just like a blue-chip stock. It only comes through hard work and being good at what you do on a consistent basis. It's a very basic practice that correlates into wins when playing the game of baseball."
The 2011 campaign proved to be a breakthrough season for McFarland and the Dukes.
He guided the team to a 42-19 record while playing the most games in program history and accumulating the third-most wins in a season. JMU finished first in the CAA (21-9) for the seventh time in program history and the fourth time in McFarland's 14 seasons, the third occasion in the last six years. The Dukes then went 3-0 in the CAA tournament to capture the program's second CAA title.
The Dukes made their eighth NCAA Division I regional appearance and earned multiple wins in a regional for the first time since 1983 after posting wins over FIU and Maine. JMU finished as runner up of the Chapel Hill Regional, its best postseason showing since reaching the College World Series in 1983.
JMU finished 48th in the final RPI and was recognized by the NCAA as the national statistical champion for slugging percentage (.517) and scoring (8.9 runs per game). The Dukes also led the nation in sacrifice flies (47) while ranking fourth in batting average (.319), sixth in hits (685), 20th in doubles (130), sixth in triples (27), third in home runs (80), second in stolen bases (155), 10th in walks (289), 19th in hit batters (85) and 20th for overall winning percentage (.689).
As a team, the Dukes established school season records for games (61), at bats (2,145), plate appearances (2,608), runs (541), RBIs (486), triples (27), hit batters (85), sacrifice flies (47), innings pitched (550 1/3), putouts (1,651) and defensive chances (2,364).
JMU also set single-game records for runs (37), hits (28), RBIs (35) and extra-base hits (18) in its season-opening 37-7 win over Bucknell. That win stood as the most runs and largest margin of victory for any NCAA Division I game all season. The Dukes went on to pound 23 home runs and score 91 runs in the four-game series, resulting in a signed bat going on display in the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Individually, McFarland was named Co-Coach of the Year in the East Region by the ABCA while catcher Jake Lowery and shortstop David Herbek became the first JMU teammates to each earn First Team All-America laurels. Lowery, the CAA Player of the Year, captured the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's best catcher and was tabbed National Hitter of the Year by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Lowery gave JMU the highest draft pick (fourth round, Indians) in the CAA for the second straight season while Herbek (15th round, White Sox) and outfielder Alex Foltz (Evansville Otters) also hit the professional ranks. The Dukes tied program records with five All-Region selections and five All-State honorees.
Following the 2011 season, the Dukes experienced a campaign besieged by injuries as the CAA's preseason favorite posted a 16-35-2 record with numerous key pieces missing significant time throughout the season, combined with a pitching staff relying largely on freshmen. Despite the injuries, the Dukes had three All-CAA selections and remained in contention for a CAA tournament spot heading into the final weekend of the season.
JMU rebounded to claim a CAA Tournament spot in 2013. The Dukes finished fourth in the nation with a .318 batting average and second in scoring with 7.9 runs per game. Four Dukes collected All-CAA honors, led by sophomore Chad Carroll, who was second in the nation with eight triples while finishing as a semifinalist for the Gregg Olson Award as College Baseball's Breakout Player of the Year.
The 2011 season made it back-to-back regular season CAA titles for the first time in program history as the Dukes also finished first in 2010. That year (2010), JMU went 30-23 overall and 18-6 in the CAA while winning all eight league series. McFarland was honored as the CAA Co-Coach of the Year and the Louisville Slugger Conference Coach of the Year. In addition to posting his 400th JMU win, the Dukes played their first season in brand-new Veterans Memorial Park and set a program record by averaging 795 fans per game. As a team, JMU led the CAA in nearly every offensive category in league games, including a .344 average, .430 on-base percentage, and .592 slugging percentage.
The team featured three Major League draftees, including Kevin Munson, a fourth-round selection (#121 overall) of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Munson won the first CAA Pitcher of the Year honor ever handed out and was named an All-American after setting records for season and career saves and posting the third-best career ERA (2.35). Mike Fabiaschi (38th round Oakland) and Matt Browning (43rd round Seattle) were also draftees while the Dukes took home a league-best 12 overall CAA postseason honors. Fabiaschi was also named the CAA Scholar-Athlete for Baseball and JMU's Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
In his 12th season in 2009, JMU went 30-24 overall and 12-11 in the CAA. JMU headed into its final six conference games at 11-7 before dropping four out of five plus a rainout. That left the Dukes as the only team in league history to miss the CAA tournament despite posting a winning record. JMU was .002 percentage points behind Delaware and finished seventh in a CAA race where second through eighth in the standings were separated by just 1.5 games.
JMU led the CAA and ranked 25th nationally with a .330 team batting average in 2009. The Dukes also ranked 29th in slugging percentage (.524), 14th in steals per game (2.0), and 24th in strikeouts per nine innings A program-record eight players earned All-CAA recognition along with four All-Region honorees.
The 2008 season for the Diamond Dukes proved to be a special breakthrough season for the program. A roster of largely freshmen and sophomores that represented back-to-back top-ranked recruiting classes jumped out to a quick 14-3 start and later 25-8. The Dukes pushed through the CAA slate to a second-place regular season finish at 20-9. JMU ended the regular season at 34-17.
As the #2 seed in the CAA Tournament, the Dukes rallied through the bracket undefeated with an opening 6-1 win over #6 Old Dominion followed by consecutive 9-4 and 18-14 wins over #3 George Mason. Redshirt junior Kurt Houck then pitched a complete game four-hitter in the CAA championship game for JMU's first title. JMU was sent to the Raleigh Regional of the NCAA tournament. The Dukes fell to N.C. State 6-2, fought back from a 10-4 deficit to defeat Charlotte 13-12, and then fell to South Carolina 7-5 on a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.
The Dukes were well-rewarded for their season, in addition to McFarland's coaching honors from VaSID and MABSA, JMU had one All-American, three Freshmen All-Americans, three All-Region honorees, four All-CAA performers, a record five CAA All-Rookie picks, five CAA All-Tournament selections (including the MVP), three All-State honorees (including the Rookie of the Year), and two players signing professional contracts. JMU finished with a final RPI of 60 and ranked in the top 50 in the nation in team batting average, scoring average, doubles, home runs, slugging percentage, walks, strikeouts per nine innings, fielding percentage (a school record), and winning percentage.
JMU went 22-31 in 2007, but the season was full of highlights, including McFarland's 300th victory at JMU and a victory over #3 Virginia, the highest-ranked team the Dukes have ever defeated. Four players earned all-conference accolades, three collected national freshman honors, and Kellen Kulbacki (2005-07) was named an All-American for the second straight season. Kulbacki and Eddie Kim (2000-03) are the only players in conference history to earn CAA Player of the Year twice.
JMU had a strong season in 2006, going 38-21. The Dukes went 22-8 in the CAA and finished first in the regular season, thanks to a streak of eight wins in their last nine conference games. The final series of the season against UNC Wilmington ended in back-to-back walk-off home runs to help JMU vault past Old Dominion for the regular season title. The team produced three professional draft picks as well as the CAA Player of the Year in Kellen Kulbacki, who was named an All-American by six organizations.
McFarland's 2002 squad set a school record for wins with a final mark of 44-16. The Dukes ranked 27th on the final NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and advanced to the CAA championship game for the second year in a row that spring. His 2001 squad played its way into the CAA title game with four consecutive tournament wins following a second-round loss in the double-elimination event. That team finished 36-23-1 and ranked 49th in the RPI. The team of 2000 finished 37-22 and was ranked 36th in the RPI. That year JMU was the highest RPI-ranked team with a winning conference record that did not get a bid to the NCAA regionals.
During McFarland's tenure, the Dukes have had 26 players drafted and 36 have signed professional contracts. Three players turned pro from each of JMU's first-place teams in 2010 and 2011 while the Dukes had the CAA's highest draft pick each year. Kevin Munson was chosen in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks while Mike Fabiaschi (38th round, Oakland) and Matt Browning (43rd round, Seattle) joined him later in the draft. The 2011 season saw Jake Lowery picked in the fourth round by Cleveland and David Herbek in the 15th round by the Chicago White Sox. Alex Foltz then signed a free agent deal with the independent Evansville Otters. Pitcher D.J. Brown joined the fray in 2012 after being drafted despite missing the entire season due to injury.
The 2008 season, in which the Dukes captured their first CAA championship, saw slugging first baseman Steven Caseres picked in the ninth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Outfielder Brett Sellers, a Third Team All-American, also signed a free agent deal with the Washington Nationals.
Kellen Kulbacki was selected 40th overall in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft in 2007, the third-highest in program history. Short stop Davis Stoneburner was picked in the ninth round, joining Kulbacki as the two highest picks in the CAA. Senior lefthander Jacob Cook signed a free agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Also in 2007, former JMU pitcher Travis Risser, who transferred after setting the JMU season saves record, signed with the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League.
The 2006 draft featured right-hander Ryan Reid, who was selected in the seventh round by Tampa. Reid was joined by left-hander Greg Nesbitt, a 29th-round pick by Seattle, and second baseman Michael Cowgill, a 40th-round selection by Minnesota and JMU's career home run leader.
A school-record seven players turned pro when their careers concluded in 2003 when the draft selections included left-handed pitcher Kurt Isenberg, first baseman Eddie Kim, shortstop Nathan Doyle and catcher Matt Deuchler. Isenberg was a fourth-round pick by Toronto and Kim went later in the same round to Oakland. Doyle was a 25th-round choice of Detroit, and Deuchler was called in the 40th round by the Chicago White Sox. Additional players to sign as free agents included right-hander pitcher Rick McKernan by Baltimore, third baseman Brent Metheny by Seattle and right-handed pitcher Mike Trussell by an independent team in Baton Rouge, La.
In the 2002 draft, left-handed hurler Dan Meyer was tapped by Atlanta in the first supplemental round, the 34th overall pick. He found himself on the fast track to the big leagues and made his debut late in the 2004 season. Meyer was traded to Oakland in a deal in which the Braves received Tim Hudson in 2005. Meyer later reached the Major Leagues for the full 2009 season as a reliever with the Florida Marlins. Also in 2002, left-hander Jared Doyle was chosen in the third round by Arizona with the 99th overall pick.
The Dukes other draft choices under McFarland have been fifth-round left-handed pitcher Aaron Sams (Chicago Cubs, '98), fifth-round outfielder Mike Butia (Cleveland, '04), sixth-round right-hander hurler Blair DeHart (San Diego, '99), sixth-round outfielder Rich Thompson (Toronto, '00), 24th-round second baseman T Riley (Texas, '00), sixth-round left-hander Adam Wynegar (Chicago Cubs, '01) and 20th-round outfielder Greg Miller (Atlanta, '01).
McFarland has coached nine All-Americans, 51 All-CAA picks, 14 CAA All-Rookie selections, five CAA Player of the Year honorees (including Eddie Kim and Kellen Kulbacki twice each), one CAA Pitcher of the Year and 20 ABCA All-East honorees. He also coached three players named to the CAA's 25th anniversary team in 2010 in Kim, Kulbacki, and Greg Miller. Kulbacki was also recognized as a "Silver Star" as one of the top 25 athletes in any sport in the league's 25-year history.
McFarland was named the head baseball coach in October of 1997, a very unusual time of the year to take the reins of a Division I baseball program. He did not have the benefit of evaluating his players during the fall session, and on-the-field time was limited during the few weeks between early January and the opener on February 14.
McFarland coached for seven seasons (1991-97) at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., which reinstated baseball in 1991 after discontinuing the program in 1982. He previously was an assistant coach at South Florida (1986-90), Georgia Tech (1983-85), Florida State (1982), Appalachian State (1981), and at his alma mater, Hillsdale College (1977).. His first head coaching job was at Kellogg (Mich.) Community College (1979-80) where he led the Bruins to a 33-13 record.
McFarland resurrected the NIU program from the ground up. He accepted the challenge with no team, field, equipment or scholarships. His first team consisted of all non-scholarship, walk-on players. It took only six years for the Huskies to reach the NCAA tournament, thanks in part to nationally-ranked recruiting classes in 1992, 1993 and 1995. McFarland led Northern Illinois to the Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular-season and tournament titles and into NCAA play in 1996 and to third-place league finishes in 1995 and 1997. The conference championship was the first by the school in 24 years, and the 1997 squad led the MCC in hitting with a .323 average. His 143 victories with the Huskies make him the winningest coach in NIU baseball history.
McFarland has coached 67 pitchers who signed professional contracts, including 1997 World Series standout Kevin Brown, then of the Florida Marlins and later with the New York Yankees before retiring in 2006. Twelve hurlers have gone on to the Major Leagues. Four of his Northern Illinois players were drafted after 1992, and 15 Huskies were named all-conference over his last five seasons at the school. Other proteges include Dave Eiland, who was named pitching coach of the New York Yankees under Joe Girardi, and Mark Quimuyog, who serves as East coast scouting supervisor for the Twins and whose son joined the Diamond Dukes for the 2014 season.
Before his seven years in Illinois, McFarland helped guide the Appalachian State, Florida State and Georgia Tech programs to more than 400 victories, season records for wins, national rankings and NCAA tournament bids. In all, he was instrumental in five conference championships, six NCAA tournaments and two #1 national rankings.
McFarland has written pitching books "Developing Pitchers" and "Coaching Pitchers," which included a foreword by Brown. The third edition of "Coaching Pitchers" was released in 2003. He was a guest speaker at the U.S. Olympic Committee symposium on "Injuries to the Throwing Arm" in 1983 and has been a featured speaker at five National Baseball Coaches Association National Clinics and four American Baseball Coaches Association conventions. He has also been an ambassador for the sport, having been associated for several years with the Edinburgh Diamond Devils, a Scottish professional team, and in January of 2005 assisted with a week-long clinic for more than 75 coaches and 700 players in Bratislava, Slovakia. In December of 2007, McFarland gave a coaching clinic to the Austrian Baseball Federation and worked with some of the Austrian National Team players.
In addition to coaching, McFarland is on the board of the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and he is involved both nationally and locally as part of the Turner Ashby High School Huddle. He is also a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg. In 2008, McFarland traveled to the Dominican Republic for the fifth annual Baseball Outreach trip with SCORE International (Sharing Christ Our Redeemer Enterprises), a trip that he repeated in 2012.
McFarland is a native of New Carlisle, Ohio. He is a 1976 graduate of Hillsdale (Mich.) College with a bachelor's of arts degree in physical education and art. He received a master's in physical education at Appalachian State in 1981. He played baseball and football at Hillsdale and was in training camp in 1976 with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
McFarland's wife, Deb, is a native of North Palm Beach, Fla. and is a 1982 graduate of Florida State University. Spanky and Deb's oldest child, Tara, was married in the Fall of 2010 while their son Tyler competed as a sophomore for the Diamond Dukes in 2012. Their son-in-law, Mark Brennan, is a JMU graduate and a police officer in Henrico County (Va.).
McFarland's History of Developing Pitchers
*36 Years of College Coaching
McFarland's 16 Seasons at JMU