Greg Beals dives into 'doing baseball' with Akron Zips, explains 'what happened' at Ohio State

CANTON TWP. − After running Ohio State's baseball program for 12 years, Greg Beals needed a job.

Greg Beals
Greg Beals

He found a very unusual one, the task of reviving the Akron Zips.

On Monday, Beals spent almost his entire speech to the Hall of Fame Luncheon Club talking about his first several months as head coach at Akron. The university disbanded baseball in 2015 and struggled to bring it back under Chris Sabo.

Beals spent no time discussing the old job.

It was almost time to turn out the lights at Tozzi's on 12th when he fielded a question from the back of the room."Why did you leave Ohio State?"

Beals comedically slumped his shoulders and said, "And I thought I was gonna get outta here."

The 52-year-old baseball lifer — who followed in the tradition of Thurman Munson as a catcher at Kent State, played three years in the Mets system, and slid into a 30-year run of coaching — proceeded to tell what happened in Columbus.

"I didn't win enough ballgames the last two years," he said. "That's it."

He was replaced by Bill Mosiello, who put together a strong run at TCU.

Coming off the COVID-crazy year of 2020, when his Buckeyes barely played, Beals' teams went 22-20 in 2021 and 21-30 in 2022. The 2020 record, 6-8, included zero games in the Big Ten.

Beals was told by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith in May that he was out, with one year left on his contract. His 12-year record was 346-288-1.

"Gene came in and met the guys," Beals told the Luncheon Club. "He looked at me and he looked at them and he said, 'Guys, I love him. He's done everything right. But we have to win.'"

Things were fine for Beals, at times more than fine, before COVID. He had help from Stark County recruits, and he knew the county well from his years as a Canton Class A League catcher, with Buttrey-Mayle, Buttrey Coins and Pizza Oven.

His longtime playing and coaching buddy, Malone head coach Tom Crank, listened from a seat nearby. Akron Zips Hall of Famer John Massarelli, who played pro ball for 10 years, was in the house.

The best of times stretched through 2019, when Beals' Buckeyes wrapped up regular-season Big Ten play with a three-game road sweep of Purdue. In the last win, catcher Dillon Dingler of Jackson and shortstop Zach Dezenzo of Marlington each had three hits.

The Buckeyes went to Omaha for the Big Ten Tournament, led off by beating Michigan 2-1, and went on to win the conference crown. For the third time in four years, Ohio State reached the NCAA regionals.

Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals stands in the dugout at TD Ameritrade Park during the Big Ten baseball championship game May 26, 2019, in Omaha, Neb.
Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals stands in the dugout at TD Ameritrade Park during the Big Ten baseball championship game May 26, 2019, in Omaha, Neb.

Ohio State baseball 2019:Buckeyes baseball coach Greg Beals earns three-year contract extension

Dingler and Dezenzo became two of the 32 Buckeyes who played for Beals and got picked in an MLB draft.

Dingler hit .340 in Ohio State's short-lived 2020 season, then got drafted 38th overall − the first pick of the second round by Detroit − in 2020. In 2022, he was the No. 1 catcher for the Class AA Erie Seawolves, who outlasted the Akron Rubber Ducks in a race for an Eastern League division championship.

Dezenzo, two years younger than Dingler, hit .319 with 19 home runs in 51 games with Beals' 2022 Buckeyes, then was drafted in the 12th round by the Houston Astros. He joined the Astros' Class A Fayetteville Woodpeckers on Aug. 9, in time to hit .255 with four homers in 27 games.

Marlington's current shortstop, Drew Denham, committed to Akron after Beals got the job. Denham is a senior at Marlington this school year.

Recruiting will be a different animal for Beals at Akron. The university dropped baseball in 2015 and eventually brought it back after hiring Sabo, a three-time All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds.

The university opted not to renew Sabo's contract after the 2022 Zips went 15-41.

Sabo brought name recognition. He was the 1988 National League Rookie of the Year and, in 1990, was one of the Cincinnati's best hitters in a 4-0 World Series sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

Beals brings less name recognition but way more coaching experience. In Columbus, he succeeded 23-year Ohio State head coach Bob Todd after piloting Ball State for eight years.

"I took the (Akron) job because I firmly believe there's an opportunity to build something," Beals said. "It's an opportunity to compete, and to provide student-athletes with an elite experience. If I didn't think I could do that, I wouldn't have accepted this job."

Akron hired a new athletic director, Charles Guthrie, on July 1, 2021. Guthrie brought in Beals a year later.

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"Charles Guthrie has a great deal of energy," Beals said. "He's done a lot in his short time. In 17 months, he's resurfaced the football field, resurfaced the basketball floor, resurfaced the track and done a lot of hiring of coaches.

"He re-branded the athletic department with a new logo. We've partnered with Akron Children's Hospital so all of our athletic training, all of our needs student-athletes have from a medical standpoint, are provided through there.

"His energy for doing baseball, and I say that, doing baseball, is why I chose to come here.

"When baseball was brought back it was privately funded, without scholarships. We do have scholarships now, and the scholarships are provided through the university. So we do have university funding, and that is going to continue to grow. I've got that commitment to our baseball program from the top of the university down."

Akron Zips athletics:For University of Akron Director of Athletics Charles Guthrie, a year of accomplishment

Disbanding Zips baseball after the 2015 season left a crater.

"My biggest challenge is that everybody gets over this hump from when the program was dropped," Beals said. "A Canton guy, Rick Rembielak, had the program in a very competitive spot, and we want to get back there.

"They got to a championship day in the (Mid-American Conference) tournament. I have a lot of respect for coach Rem. I coached with him at Kent State. I played under him when he was an assistant coach at Kent State."

Initially restoring the program with no scholarships raised big questions.

"Are you really doing it, or not?" Beals said. "The answer has been provided to me. My job is to make sure everybody in our baseball community, our high school coaches, our travel coaches, our students understand … that Akron's doing baseball.

"Our facilities have grown immensely in the last three years. We have a full artificial surface on the field. Our indoor facility is top notch. From a baseball standpoint, the indoor facility is as good as the anyplace I've been … including The Ohio State University."

The crowd chuckled when Beals over-pronounced "The," as Ohio State people tend to do.

The job he has now is coaching the Akron Zips. One supposes an ocean of thoughts swimming around regarding his previous 12 seasons at the helm of a program.

Reach Steve at steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP

This article originally appeared on The Repository: New coach Greg Beals talks Akron baseball, and Ohio State run