A packed crowd in Reckling Park’s Roost watched Rice baseball introduce its new head coach, Matt Bragga, on June 21. After a two-week long search, Rice Athletics named Bragga, the former head coach at Tennessee Tech University, the 20th head coach in program history.
After praising the program and calling the Rice job one of the best in college baseball, Bragga said he is going to bring a new attitude to the team.
“You are going to expect a lot of toughness, a lot of grit, the ‘get after it’ mentality, and the competitive spirit, because competitiveness is so key and vital,” Bragga said.
Bragga coached at Tennessee Tech for 15 seasons, leading it from a 15-31 record in 2004 to a 52-10 record in 2018. The Golden Eagles reached the Super Regional round in the NCAA tournament this year, falling just one game short of reaching the College World Series for the first time. In addition, Tennessee Tech had eight players drafted this year to the MLB, the most for any team in Ohio Valley Conference history. He said he expects his players to compete relentlessly in everything they do.
“What you are going to get with me is high energy, great passion, blue-collar work ethic mentality, and competitiveness,” Bragga said. “We will compete every single day we are doing anything. If we’re walking to class, let’s see who can get there first. If we’re playing ping-pong, who’s going win ping-pong. If we’re on the field, in the cages, in batting practice, who’s going to win. I love competitors. Competitors win.”
This attitude, according to Bragga, cannot spread without buy in from the players. Bragga emphasized giving players power and said it is vital for the coaches to understand what the players are trying to achieve.
“The best teams have internal player leadership,” Bragga said. “The coach puts them there, and the team becomes a well-oiled machine that the young man takes such leadership and ownership in.”
Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard, who conducted the head coaching search, said Bragga fit everything he was looking for in a new boss.
“A search like this comes down to three things,” Karlgaard said. “Your experience, or what have you done, your interview, or what you said, and your references, or what others have you said about you.”
According to Karlgaard, Bragga excelled in all three categories. His references, though, particularly impressed Karlgaard. The athletic department released a statement from an anonymous baseball coach who said Bragga is an ideal role model for college athletes.
“I love him,” the anonymous coach said. “I would send my own son to play for him. He’s a well-balanced male mentor who creates an atmosphere of growth and positivity. Everyone in the profession respects him.”
Bragga will spend the summer recruiting and finalizing his coaching staff. The Owls will begin fall practice after school begins and will return to the field for the 2019 season next February.