Baseball: New head coach Jim Foster looks to establish a winning culture


Daily file photo by Mika Ellison

Junior left fielder Jay Beshears takes off running. The team’s hit leader added to his breakout season with another hit in the a loss to No. 14 Notre Dame, 14-4 in 2022 season. The Cats look to rebound in 2023 season.

Lucas Kim, Social Media Editor

When Jim Foster signed on to be the head coach at West Point Military Academy in 2016, he inherited a squad that had gone a combined 37-58 (a .389 win percentage) in the two seasons prior.

In the next five full seasons, Foster guided his team to two Patriot League regular season championships, four Patriot League championships and four NCAA tournament appearances. Foster was also named 2022 Patriot League Coach of the Year.

Now head baseball coach at Northwestern, Foster recognizes the challenge of rebuilding a program that has not finished above .500 since 2000 and has only made it to the NCAA tournament once.

“It’s hard to become good. And Northwestern baseball hasn’t been good,” Foster said. “So, we’re gonna make it good, real quick.”

Foster is no stranger to winning. Prior to his six seasons at West Point, Foster spent nine seasons at Rhode Island –– becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach –– and two seasons as associate head coach at Boston College.

In his playing career, Foster was a star catcher at Providence, earning MVP honors at the 1992 Big East Tournament. Foster was selected in the 22nd round of the 1993 MLB Draft and subsequently played eight seasons in the minors, being named Baseball Weekly’s Minor League Catcher of the Year in 1997.

Because catchers are uniquely positioned as a crucial piece in a team’s pitching and batting, Foster has been able to observe and learn the game from multiple angles even during his playing days.

“I think I had 27 ex-catchers as managers, so I took a little bit from each one of them,” Foster said. “Catchers –– you can see the whole field, and you’re always thinking about everybody else.”

As the Wildcats coach this spring, Foster succeeds interim head coach Josh Reynolds, who led the team to a 24-27 record in 2022. Reynolds was named interim head coach in 2021, replacing Spencer Allen who stepped down from the role after six seasons.

Foster has his work cut out for him, however, as NU –– who was one win away from qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament –– finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten in both batting average and ERA this past season.

Perhaps even more glaring is the massive departure of Cats through the transfer portal during the offseason. 

All four of NU’s top batters last season left for other programs, including 2021 First Team All-Big Ten selection Anthony Calarco, and 2022 Second Team All-Big Ten selections Ethan O’Donnell and Patrick Herrera. Pitcher Sean Sullivan, who was named to the 2022 Big Ten All-Freshman Team,also transferred.

“We can’t just go up there and expect three-run home runs,” Foster said. “That’s what Northwestern has been (in) the past –– like doubles, home runs –– some decent offenses but couldn’t create. So hopefully, you’ll see more of an opportunistic offense.”

To help ease the transition, Foster brought in pitching coach Jon Strauss from Baylor and retained hitting coach and recruiting coordinator Dusty Napoleon, who has been with the Cats since 2016.

Foster also named three team captains for the 2023 season, something that NU has not done recently, according to Foster. The captains are senior outfielder Stephen Hrustich, junior infielder Vincent Bianchina and junior right-hander David Utagawa. 

For now, Foster must rely on an unproven team reeling from several unexpected departures. But, after working with players since his arrival last June, Foster believes they can establish a winning culture.

“They’re hungry. They’re great guys. And their willingness to learn has been impressive,” Foster said. “I can’t wait to give these guys more each and every day. Building the relationship up and getting that belief and trust in each other is more important than the baseball.”

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Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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