DOBSON — Surry Community College’s last baseball coach was a local product who graduated from the high school next door.
The college’s new coach has been all over the country.
Shawn Hawk, 40, has been hired to take over the Knights’ baseball program after spending the past three years as a head coach and assistant coach in Region X.
“I am very excited. I think this is a great opportunity. I am at a school that loves baseball, loves athletics and has a very supportive administration. I believe with the support from the administration and athletic director Mark Tucker, the sky is the limit for the program,” Hawk said.
“There’s no doubt we can be a top contender in the nation with the talent we have in the area. With my experience coaching at other levels, experience in recruiting, knowing the area, recruiting the East Coast area of the state, I have a lot of connections and can build a really good program at Surry.”
Hawk already had plenty of playing and coaching experience when he decided to go back to college and get his bachelor’s degree.
He graduated from Arizona State University in 2012 with a BA in education and minor in physical education. He recently earned his master’s degree in coaching administration from Ball State University.
After ASU, Hawk moved with his wife to North Carolina to take over as head baseball coach at Wilkes Community College. Before the season was halfway over, the school decided to do away with the program.
He didn’t stay out of work long, as another school in the area saw his talent and hired him. In 2013, he joined Region X rival Guilford Tech as an assistant coach in 2013 and was promoted to associate head coach after one season.
Hawk said the past three seasons have been tough after moving his family across the country, but it couldn’t have worked out any better in the long run. He is ecstatic about taking over the Knights’ baseball program.
Hawk feels if he could build a competitive team at a school that deemphasized athletics at Wilkes Community College, he should be able to flourish at a school like Surry that loves and supports athletics.
“It’s just a great, all-around opportunity and I am going to make the best of it,” Hawk said. “I plan to be at Surry for a long time.”
That will be a welcome change for a man who hasn’t been able to put down roots yet.
Hawk was a 4-year starter and all-conference infielder in New Jersey. He spent one year at perennial JUCO powerhouse Gloucester County College before transferring to Salem Community College the following year.
After helping Salem to its most successful season in school history in 1996, Hawk accepted a tryout invitation and signed a free agent waiver with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He retained his college eligibility after spending less than 90 days with the professional organization, but remained in Arizona and played second base for South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.
Going as far as he could as a player, Hawk began his coaching career as a volunteer at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona before working three years as an assistant coach back at his former school, Salem Community College in New Jersey.
He also has extensive coaching experience at the prep and summer league level, serving as the assistant coach at two Arizona high schools, Higley and Tempe Prep, and as the head coach in three collegiate summer leagues.
Hawk served as the assistant coach of the 16-and-under Grinder Organization run by former major leaguer Kelly Stinnett, as well as the head coach of the 18U National Team in the Winter World Series Classic in Orlando.
Already hitting the recruiting trail, Hawk said he looks for academic-driven students first and foremost. Players who are good students are disciplined, he said, and you don’t have to worry about them skipping class or other off-field issues. From there, he looks for players with the tools you can’t coach such as speed and power.
“Hitting and defense are coachable, but when you have speed, have a cannon for an arm, those things don’t slump. You can be in a slump hitting, but still put down a couple of bunts and go 2-for-4.
So I like to go for the speedy types,” Hawk said. “I love to play small ball. When you are facing a good pitcher, which we will see a lot of in Region X, I love to do that. Get the defense out of position, move the runners and put the pressure on the defense.
“I also look for pitchers that fit into that same mold, and mostly positive players, players that want to be out there and have fun playing the game. I love the guys that love to be on the field and have been waiting for this moment since they were 12. When you have players like that, it is easy to put a good team on the field and compete.”
The coach encourages unsigned seniors to come for an open tryout this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the SCC baseball field. The workout will be pro-style with running, defense and hitting, and obviously pitching.
“We’re excited about Shawn Hawk leading our baseball program,” Surry AD Mark Tucker said.
“Shawn has substantial experience as a college baseball coach in Region X over the past three years. Being a head coach and associate head coach the past few years has been vital to him in understanding the landscape of Region X. This familiarity is something that is extremely important along with having coached at four different community colleges.”
Tucker said the new coach is already making a positive impression with the college and baseball recruits.
“While I had never met or even had a conversation with Shawn prior to his applying for the head baseball coaching position at Surry, he made an immediate impression with his enthusiasm and work ethic,” Tucker said. “Since getting the job, he has worked tirelessly in the summer heat getting the field back in shape and recruiting players for the upcoming year.”
Hawk plans to move to Surry County with his wife Wendy and their two dogs in July.