The Big Ten’s newest assistants

The transition from the summer offseason to the fall practice season isn’t complete without a rundown of new faces. Yes, the Big Ten is welcoming another talented freshman class, headlined by several players saying no to professional organizations, but they will also be new faces in the in the coaches’ boxes and in the dugout as part of the coaching staff.

With an entirely new staff in Bloomington as head coach Jeff Mercer leads the Hoosiers, to two new assistants up the road in West Lafayette under Mark Wasikowski, rounded out by promotions in Columbus and Minneapolis, heres a look at the new full-time assistants coaches in the Big Ten.

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Mercer Adds Held, Parker and Dykes to Coaching Staff

Bloomington, Ind. — Indiana baseball head coach Jeff Mercer announced the additions of Dan Held, Justin Parker, and Casey Dykes to his coaching staff on Wednesday. Held will serve as the program’s recruiting coordinator, Parker will be the pitching coach and Dykes will be the volunteer assistant coach.

DAN HELD

“I’ve known Dan for over 10 years,” said Mercer. “He hired me for my first coaching job with the Indiana Bulls directly after college. Working with him over the years it became obvious he’d make a terrific recruiting coordinator. His experiences in professional baseball as a player and coach will translate well to our player development processes. His many relationships with high school and summer coaches will make for a smooth transition into leading our recruiting efforts.”

“I am really excited to join Jeff Mercer and Justin Parker at IU,” said Held. “It’s going to be an awesome staff, and I’m really excited to get going.”

Held comes to Indiana after serving as the Executive Director of the Indiana Bulls Baseball Organization. He brings nine years of pro baseball playing experience and 16 years coaching experience, including four in the major leagues, to the Hoosiers.

The Bulls is a travel baseball organization based out of Indianapolis that has had the goal of developing homegrown baseball talent in the state of Indiana. Held oversaw the organization, that as of 2018, had a total of 26 teams that ranged from eight to 18 years old. He was responsible for hiring all the coaches within the organization.

Since joining the Bulls organization in November 2006, Held has seen four Bulls players reach the big leagues. Those players include Tucker Barnhart, Micah Johnson, Alex Meyer, and Cameron Perkins. A total of 80 Bulls players have been drafted since Held took over club.

A 42nd round draft pick in 1993 by Philadelphia, Held played nine total seasons in the minors in the Phillies and New York Mets farm systems. He returned to the Phillies organization in 2002 as a hitting coach with Batavia (Short-Season A) and then served as a bullpen assistant with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2003 to 2007 where he was a member of the 2006 World Series Champions coaching staff.

During his minor league career, Held hit 121 career home runs and drove in 474 runs. He spent three seasons at the Triple-A level, playing for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Norfolk.

Held and his wife, Lynn, have a daughter, Téa (14), and a son, Boston (10).

JUSTIN PARKER

“Justin and I played together in college, then were assistants together for several years, it’s been very gratifying to see him become one of the best pitching coaches in the country,” said Mercer. “Indiana University baseball is better in every way with Justin joining the organization. He is an incredible asset to our entire program, not just our pitching staff.”

“I couldn’t be happier to be back home in Indiana, to work with Coach Mercer again and to continue to build on the tradition here,” said Parker. “As far as recruiting Hoosiers and player development, I am just really looking forward to doing that here at home.”

Prior to joining the Hoosiers, Parker served as the pitching coach at UCF for two seasons. He was formally named pitching coach for the Knights on July 18, 2016 after spending the previous six seasons with the Wright State program as an assistant

coach.

During the 2018 campaign, Parker’s staff posted a 3.32 ERA, the eighth sub-3.50 ERA season in school history. Pitchers struck out 556 batters, good for second in program history behind 2001’s 597, while the Knights set a new program record with 7.1 hits allowed per nine innings and gave up the third fewest hits at 405. UCF’s bullpen had a strong year as well, as Knight relievers inherited 74 runners this season and allowed just 20 to score. Thad Ward was a first team all-conference reliever with a 2.88 ERA and a team-high 52 strikeouts in 40.2 innings of relief this season.

Under Parker in his first season with the Knights in 2017, the pitching staff was one of the best in the nation, finishing 10th in WHIP (1.22), 24th in strikeout-to-walks ratio (2.74), 28th in strikeouts per nine innings (8.9) and 52nd in walks per nine innings (3.26). The crowning achievement for Parker’s players was the fifth best ERA in the nation at 3.00. Freshman Joseph Sheridan and senior Robby Howell both won 10 games and finished tied for 13th in the country in that category.

Parker has consistently produced pitchers selected in the MLB Draft. Of his 12 draft picks, five have gone in the first 10 rounds. In just two years at UCF, Parker sent nine arms to the professional ranks.

Following the 2018 season, Parker and UCF had five pitchers selected in the draft, the most since 2002 and tied for the second most ever in school history. Thad Ward (5th Round, Boston Red Sox), JJ Montgomery (7th Round, Baltimore Orioles), Bryce Tucker (14th Round San Francisco Giants), Eric Hepple (27th Round, Colorado Rockies), and Cre Finfrock (29th Round, Toronto Blue Jays) each heard their names called.

UCF’s Jason Bahr was a fifth-round selection by the San Francisco Giants in 2017. He was followed by Robby Howell in the 10th round, who went to the Cincinnati Reds. Jordan Scheftz (23rd round, Cleveland Indians) and Andy Rohloff (37th round, San Francisco Giants) also heard their names called after one year under Parker.

Dating back to his days on staff at Wright State, Parker guided Jesse Scholtens to a ninth-round selection by the San Diego Padres in 2016. Fellow Raider Robby Sexton was also tabbed in the 14th round by the Boston Red Sox in the same draft. His first player ever drafted was Andrew Elliott in the 30th round of the 2015 Draft to the Baltimore Orioles.

Parker’s ability to work with freshmen and veterans has been showcased in seven All-Americans selections. At UCF, Joseph Sheridan (College Baseball News and Perfect Game) was tabbed as a Freshman All-American, and Robby Howell earned Collegiate Baseball All-American status.

His Wright State pitching staff had four honorees in Scholtens (Third Team) and Caleb Sampen (Freshman) in 2016, and Elliot (Third Team) and Sean Murphy (Freshman) in 2015.

In six seasons with the Raiders, Parker’s pitching staff helped Wright State to four Horizon League Championship Games, winning in 2015 and 2016.

The Raiders pitching staff enjoyed a great deal of success under Parker. In 2016, Wright State freshman pitcher Sampen was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, while senior ace Scholtens compiled a 10-1 record, which included the first perfect game in school history.

Parker’s pitchers guided Wright State to the Horizon League Championship in 2016. The Raiders posted a 46-17 record and ranked fifth in the country in walks per nine innings at 2.45, 33rd in ERA at 3.49 and 10th in WHIP at 1.2, all of which led the Horizon League. Scholtens finished the season 18th in wins (10), 70th in strikeouts (95) and 51st in walks allowed per nine innings.

The 2015 season finished with the Raiders leading the league in almost every pitching category, including ERA (3.54), strikeouts per nine innings (7.2), hits allowed per nine innings (8.84), shutouts (4) and WHIP (1.33). Luke Mamer was 19th nationally for fewest walks allowed per nine innings (1.19) while Elliot came out of the bullpen to record 11 saves.

The Raiders ranked in the top 100 in hits allowed per nine innings (8.64) and shutouts (4) in 2014, while Elliot posted 13 saves, good for 19th nationally. In 2013, the Raiders averaged 7.5 strikeouts and 8.98 hits per game to rank 46th and 99th, respectively.

Following a professional career, Parker returned to coach his alma mater in 2011.

Parker was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 43rd round of the 2005 MLB June Amateur Draft from Fort Wayne High School (Fort Wayne, Ind.) but opted to play for Wright State University. He was drafted again, this time by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 6th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft where he spent three years playing for the Diamondbacks minor league affiliates.

As a player at Wright State, Parker earned first-team Horizon League selections in 2007 and 2008, as well as second team ABCA All Region in 2007, and was an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District recipient in 2008.

Parker graduated from Wright State with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership in 2012. He is married to Angela Parker and is the brother of former MLB pitcher Jarrod Parker.

CASEY DYKES

“I coached Casey at Western Kentucky and then coached with him for a year, before he left to become the recruiting coordinator at Virginia Military Institute,” said Mercer. “His outstanding track record of player development and tireless work ethic will be driving forces in our program’s success. I’m thrilled to work with Casey again and we’re very fortunate he’s joining IU Baseball.”

“I am extremely grateful to Jeff Mercer and Indiana University for giving me this opportunity and believing in me,” said Dykes. “It is an unbelievable feeling for my family to join the Hoosier tradition and have a role in the vision of Coach Mercer. I have complete trust in his ability to lead and develop young men in this game and in life at the highest level. This is an exciting time in Bloomington and I understand the expectation at Indiana. I can promise the players, coaches, and entire Indiana family that they will get my very best every single day. Let’s go to work.”

Dykes comes to Indiana after spending the last four seasons with the VMI baseball program. He worked with the catchers, hitters and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. He saw 14 of his players earn all-conference honors, five draft picks – including a school-record three underclassmen in 2018 – and his hitters paced VMI to two top-10 finishes in Division I home runs. His hitters posted 32 top-10 efforts among the VMI record books, and he coached two of the three players in school history to earn All-American honors.

During the 2018 season, Dykes’ protégé Matt Pita, who was named a Third Team All-American by ABCA, hit .389 with 14 homers, 21 doubles, 48 RBI, 23 steals and 163 total bases in his final year as a Keydet. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 12th round and also became the first VMI player to earn state Player of the Year honors in any sport. He also set new single-season school record in hits and total bases, while teammate Nathan Eaton – who was drafted in the 21st round by Kansas City – set a new school record in stolen bases.

Pita was one of Dykes’ student-athletes who earned SoCon Player of the Week awards, as the newest Hoosier assistant saw his hitters earn seven during his time at VMI, to go along with four National Player of the Week honors and a SoCon Player of the Month award. That Player of the Month was DH/1B Collin Fleischer, who became the school’s all-time home run leader during the 2018 season.

In 2017, Tyler Tharp, the senior outfielder who hit just over .200 in 2016, burst on the scene to hit .348 and earn all-SoCon honors, thanks in large part to his 16 homers and 143 total bases, a new school record in that stat. Collin Fleischer finished with 17 homers, the second-most in school history, and moved into third all-time at VMI in that statistic, while the Keydets as a team hit 77 homers, just one off the school record set in 2010.

In 2016, Dykes saw Pita earn Second Team All-State honors, Fleischer post the third-most home runs in school history en route to Second Team All-SoCon laurels and third baseman David Geary finish fourth in the SoCon in doubles. The team hit the second-most home runs in school history (surpassing the previous year’s total) and ranked in the top-10 in Division I in that stat for much of the season. Dykes, serving as recruiting coordinator, also brought in the first Perfect Game top-100 recruiting class in school history.

In his first year on Post, Dykes made an impact as star catcher Matt Winn was a Johnny Bench Award finalist, a Third Team All-American and a 14th-round MLB draft selection, while Jordan Tarsovich was also chosen in the MLB draft (22nd round, Dodgers). Both players also earned First Team All-SoCon honors, while outfielder Will Connerley was a Second Team all-conference selection. Despite missing nearly three weeks of action due to weather postponements, the Keydets hit the then second-most home runs in school history (surpassed the following season) and also ranked in the top-10 in program annals in runs batted in.

Dykes came to VMI in 2015, after spending the 2014 season as a volunteer assistant at his alma mater, Western Kentucky. He worked with the outfielders during that time, in addition to heading up team operations, baseball camps and team nutrition, which he also did during the fall of 2013. Dykes saw significant improvement from his outfielders during his lone regular season as a volunteer, as the WKU outfielders went from six assists in 2013 to 15 the following year. All three of the Hilltoppers’ regular outfielders hit over .300, with Anderson Miller leading the team with a .336 batting average that helped him earn Second Team All-Sun Belt honors.

During his four-year playing career at WKU, Dykes saw the majority of his time at third base. He finished his four-year stay at WKU as a .284 career hitter, playing in 185 games, including 174 starts. He posted a career .382 slugging percentage and a .373 on-base percentage, while belting 11 home runs and driving in 95 over four years.

Dykes holds a bachelors’ degree in sport management from WKU, in addition to a masters’ in athletic administration that he completed in 2014. Dykes and his wife, Chaney, have a son, Jett.