The Wilson Times

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:31 AM

Tobs introduce Love as new manager

By Paul Durham | Sports Editor

Austin Love was the picture of confidence and passion for the game of baseball as he was introduced Tuesday as the new manager of the Wilson Tobs summer collegiate baseball organization.

Love, the assistant coach at N.C. A&T State University for the past seven seasons, will be the 12th manager in Tobs history as the team heads into its 17th season in the Coastal Plain League. He was the first full-time assistant coach in A&T history, working under former Aggies head coach Keith Shumate, Love’s collegiate coach and current head coach at Louisburg College.

Love, flanked by Tobs President Greg Suire and General Manager Thomas Webb during the press conference in the N.C. Baseball Museum in Fleming Stadium, is charged with the job of turning around a franchise that hasn’t been in the Petitt Cup playoffs for the past two summers. Wilson had participated in seven consecutive postseasons prior to the 2011 season, the first under the current ownership group. It’s a situation Suire and Love both want to change.

"The last two seasons have not measured up to where the Tobs should be, the victory totals we think we should have and this community deserves,” Suire said. "That’s really our focus in this offseason, making sure that our fans understand and the people involved with us understand that we want to win championships and we want to win division titles here. And it starts in the offseason and it starts, needless to say, at the top.”

Love shrugged off the notion of having any pressure put on him to win right away, saying the most pressure is going to come from within. Love did acknowledge that Robin Hauser, the Tobs’ energetic director of sales and marketing, has high expectations.

"I’ll be honest with you, if I’ve got any pressure it’s from Robin about winning games!” Love quipped.

Love, who was the recruiting coordinator at A&T among other duties, listed four players the Tobs have already signed, including Barton College junior infielder Collins Cuthrell, who was present Tuesday, and N.C. Central University junior Zack Lee. Both were members of the 2012 Tobs. Coming to Wilson next summer will be Texas Pan-Am University third baseman Alberto Morales and Samford University middle infielder Ty Filliben.

Love comes to Wilson as not only a former player at A&T, where he was twice named All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but also in the CPL. Love played for the Thomasville HiToms, who have the same owners as the Tobs, in 2001 and that experience gives him perspective.

"I’m very excited to be their head coach here in Wilson,” said Love. "When Greg called me with the opportunity to be here, I was extremely excited. Number 1, for the direction the organization’s going in; not only for the community involvement. Having played in the CPL, I know what it takes to be part of a community and not just on the field.”

The most important duty awaiting Love is putting together a roster. The Tobs’ biggest problem last summer was player attrition with 43 different players — a team record — spending time in a Wilson uniform.

"You have to be the right kind of person — kids who want to come here and be here the whole season, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Love said.

"I don’t miss a lot during the game. I try to focus on everything I see and every moment is an opportunity to teach. I try to teach players to constantly focus on the game so they can learn. I encourage players to fail; that’s what this game’s about. You’ve got to play this game with no fear, high energy, passion and with discipline And you’ve got to be very committed. The players we’re looking for, we want them to be committed to the next level and to winning.”

Noting he hopes to build a team "that can do a little bit of everything,” Love said he hopes to use his contacts in the college coaching realm to help find players. Love also noted that he is a player’s coach.

"I care about my players far more than winning games,” he said.

With his youthful appearance, the 31-year-old Love, married to the former Jennifer Hambright of Winston-Salem, could easily be mistaken for one of his players. But his passion and experience will set him apart.

"Having people being excited about baseball excites me,” he said. "Having players excited about details excites me. ... As they get excited, the win column will take care of itself.” | 265-7808

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