SJU Skipper Fritz Hamburg lauded as Atlantic 10 Conference Baseball Coach of the Year


Under the lights at Richmond’s The Diamond for the 2023 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament are SJU Athletics Director Jill Bodensteiner, Assistant Head Coach Ryan Wheeler, Head Coach Fritz Hamburg, and Amanda Hall, Deputy Athletics Director for Operations and Campus Recreation. (Submitted photo)

When the news was circulating that Coach Fritz Hamburg, in his fifteenth year at the helm of Saint Joseph’s University Baseball, was selected as Atlantic 10 “Baseball Coach of the Year,” the Hawks were getting set to match up with Saint Louis in the post-season tournament.

Richmond’s “The Diamond,” home of the Minor League Flying Squirrels, welcomed seven seeded teams out of fifteen to the double-elimination tourney beginning on Wednesday, May 24.

In their game one, the Hawks lost versus Saint Louis, then won against Richmond in the consolation bracket, and finally battled Dayton to a loss in their game three in the tournament which ended with George Mason as top dog.

For Saint Joe’s, the bittersweet nature of that A-10 tourney outcome derived from the fact that the Hawks defeated George Mason in the final weekend of the regular season to clinch first place on May 19.

Back on Hawk Hill at Saturday’s May 20 Commencement Exercises held on Sweeney Field amidst sporadic drizzle, SJU Athletics Director Jill Bodensteiner knew exactly what to do.

“Reading the room” correctly as Bodensteiner so effectively has proven time and time again, the University of Notre Dame alumna and veteran attorney, with contagious zest, shouted into the mic the news of the Hawks’ A-10 finish in first place,

“Hawks Baseball Claims First-Ever Atlantic 10 Regular Season Title with 13-6 Win at George Mason!”

In true ebullient fashion, Sweeney Field exploded in an uproar of applause in recognition of the Hawks’ success.

Later, mid-week and true-to-form, Bodensteiner traveled to Richmond’s Diamond Stadium to show her support for Hamburg’s squad, along with families, faculty, and fans.

According to the SJU Athletics webpages, Skipper Hamburg is the Hawk’s all-time leader in coaching baseball victories, guiding the team to heights never before seen by the Crimson and Gray, once the Hawks tied the school record for “wins in a season” in 2012 followed by breaking the wins total in both 2013 and 2014.

His 2016 squad went on to become the program’s second team to reach the 30-win plateau, while the senior class of 2016 posted the most victories of any four-year class in school history.

Hamburg has led the Hawks to 10 consecutive full seasons of 20-plus wins, the only coach in Saint Joseph’s history to achieve that success.

Hamburg’s tenure has included three Liberty Bell Classic Championships (2012, 2014, and 2016) and six trips to the Atlantic 10 Championship (2012, 2014, 2016, 2021, and 2023).

Prior to Hamburg’s arrival on campus, the Hawks had never won the Liberty Bell Classic, nor qualified for the Atlantic 10 postseason.

Thus, season 2012 was a banner year for baseball on Hawk Hill as Hamburg’s charges became the first Saint Joseph’s squad to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Championship.

The Hawks won a pair of games in the tournament, signaling their arrival in the Bronx with a 3-0 shutout of third-seeded Rhode Island in their first game before eliminating the Rams two days later.

That tournament appearance came on the heels of a 13-10 conference mark, SJU’s first winning record in conference play since 1984.

The 2012 Hawks also achieved another first for the program on April 17 when they defeated Penn, 6-3, at Citizens Bank Park to claim SJU’s first-ever Liberty Bell Classic title.

In addition, Saint Joseph’s opened the new John W. Smithson Field on the Maguire Campus in 2012 with a 5-1 win over Iona on March 9. That game marked the first varsity baseball contest on the Saint Joseph’s campus since 1958.

Pitcher Kyle Mullen became the first Hawk starting pitcher in program history to be named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team and was named the Philadelphia Big 5 Baseball Pitcher of the Year.

First baseman Kevin Taylor was an All-Conference First Team selection as well, while the squad was named the Big 5 Team of the Year and Hamburg earned “Big 5 Coach of the Year” honors for the second time in four seasons.

Hamburg came to Hawk Hill after eight years at the United States Military Academy, first as an assistant coach and later as the associate head coach.

While at West Point, Hamburg was named the 2007 Baseball America/American Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year.

Over the course of his extensive coaching career, Hamburg has established a reputation as one of the nation’s finest tutors of young pitchers and catchers and has maintained his track record of repeated and dynamic success on Hawk Hill.

Notes on the Atlantic 10 Conference: On March 2, 1975, the idea of what is now the Atlantic 10 Conference was conceived. Starting as an eight-school, men’s basketball-only affiliation, the conference has grown into a 15-university, 22-sport league that is universally hailed as one of the best conferences in the country.

That growth and prominence is a direct result of the ideals and commitments of the member institutions of the Atlantic 10:

Davidson College, The University of Dayton, Duquesne University, Fordham University, George Mason University, The George Washington University, Loyola University Chicago, La Salle University, University of Massachusetts, University of Rhode Island, University of Richmond, St. Bonaventure University, Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

In its growth since 1975, the Atlantic 10 was proactive in navigating sweeping conference realignment, adding Davidson College, George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The additions have proven successful with all three institutions winning regular season and tournament championships.

The addition of strong academic institutions with basketball-centric, robust athletic programs added to a league that is united and strengthened by the diversity of its member institutions.

Each is extraordinary in its educational mission, whether Catholic faith-based, private university, or a land grant institution.

The varied pursuits of each member school prove that there are many threads that weave the fabric for a great conference.

The Atlantic 10 Conference, with a total population of over 76.5 million people within its geographic footprint of eight states and the District of Columbia, will crown champions in 22 sports this year:

Baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track & field, women’s rowing, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.

The presidents and chancellors of Atlantic 10 institutions, in conjunction with Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade, have made a strong commitment to making the academic and athletics equation a successful one.

Over the years, the league membership has strived to better recognize the academic accomplishments of its student-athletes.

The Commissioner’s Honor Roll, which cites every Atlantic 10 student-athlete with a 3.0 grade point average or better, recognized 3,582 student-athletes in 2016-17, a record for the A-10.

The league sponsors Academic All-Conference teams in each of its sports and honors two student-athletes as the A-10 Scholar-Athletes of the Year.

In addition, the Atlantic 10 provides $70,000 in postgraduate scholarship awards to 15 student-athletes, one from each campus.

The A-10 Conference annually earns high marks in the NCAA academic metrics. This includes graduating its student-athletes at a 91 percent rate, which is above the national average of 88 percent.

The league had 86 teams with perfect scores, and 10 of the 15 programs had a GSR score in the 90th percentile, while 11 Atlantic 10 programs had a rate above the national average according to the NCAA’s most recent Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figures.

A record 69 teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference have been honored with NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) public recognition. The league was also among the top five of all Division I conferences in the percentage of teams earning public recognition.

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