Lincoln Memorial University Head Coach Jeff Sziksai Talks Division II Baseball

Jeff Sziksai is in his twelfth season as head baseball coach at Lincoln Memorial University.  He came to LMU in 2004 after two-year stints as an assitiant coach at Western Carolina and Old Dominion and has amassed more than 250 victories in his tenure over the Railsplitter program.

We recently caught up with Coach Sziksai to discuss a variety of topics including Division II baseball and the LMU program.

PBR: As a Division II program, what is your approach to recruiting? What type of player are you looking for?

Coach Sziksai: For me the three things that are crucial in recruiting are being well organized, relentless and following through.  There are a lot of quality players out there, but there are also a lot of quality college programs out there recruiting them.  We have to find a way to make LMU stand out from the crowd.

We are not only looking for players that have great physical tools, but ones that fit our system and style.  The type of player that fits our program is one that is passionate about baseball, and passionate about getting better.  We push our guys really hard here, and we have to have kids that are willing to get outside their comfort zone.  Work ethic and accountability are the foundation of LMU baseball and we have to have kids that are bought in to that.

PBR:  How is the 2015 recruiting class shaping up for the Lincoln Memorial baseball program and what needs are you still looking to fill?

Coach Sziksai:  Our 2015 recruiting class is really shaping up really nicely.  We signed 13 student athletes in the early signing period, with seven of those being from Tennessee.  We feel really good about what each of them is going to bring to our program.  We are still recruiting every position as needs inevitably change and evolve throughout the course of a year.

PBR: Obviously, many kids have the desire to play at the Division I level. How do you help them understand the advantages of playing DII baseball at Lincoln Memorial?

Coach Sziksai: Having the desire to compete at the highest possible level, in any endeavor, is a great thing.  The first thing I’ll ask a recruit that is considering LMU alongside a DI program is, “Have you ever attended a high level DII baseball game?” A lot of times the answer is “No” and I encourage them to do that first.  What they will realize is that DII baseball is very competitive, regularly draws the attention of professional scouts, and forces you to compete at a very high level.  I spent eight years at the DI level as a player and coach before coming to LMU, and while there are some differences the gap is not nearly as big as some players and parents perceive it to be.  Just look at the programs like Kennesaw St., UNF and FGCU that have made the jump from DII to DI recently, and the success they have enjoyed immediately.

PBR: This is your 12th season at the helm of the LMU baseball program but prior to that you spent time as an assistant at the Division I level.  What is the biggest difference between Division I and Division II programs?

Coach Sziksai: As I mentioned before, I think top 30 DII baseball around the country compares very favorably with the low to mid major DI conferences.  There is a stereotype out there that there is “DI” baseball way up here somewhere, and all other levels are way down here.  Just not true.  Again I would encourage anyone who feels that way to go watch a high level DII game this spring and see if that changes your opinion.

PBR: What do you feel sets Lincoln Memorial apart from other Division II programs?

Coach Sziksai:  In addition to the elite quality of the education you can receive here, LMU is just special.  I think it’s a place you have to come to to really understand what I’m talking about.  We are tucked away up in the Cumberland Gap in a small town, and that is a big part of the feeling that surrounds LMU…..a sense of tight-knit family.  I’ve devoted almost 12 years of my life to being a Railsplitter and I am overflowing with pride for this place.  If the big city is something you have to have, don’t come here.  But if you’re looking for a sense of brotherhood, there isn’t a better place.

PBR: Prep Baseball Report is well established in many nearby states and arrived on the scene in Tennessee this past summer.  How have you been able to utilize the information that Prep Baseball Report offers?

Coach Sziksai:  PBR has been a tremendous resource in getting info about players in Tennessee on our radar.  The evaluations are accurate, fair and ones that we can trust.  That’s what coaches are looking for from recruiting services; accuracy in evaluations, not fluff.  PBR does a great job with this.  Thanks!