Over his entire lifespan, Josh Newman has made plenty of life-changing memories through the sport of baseball.
Now, because of his work at Marshall, he’ll have the chance to experience another excellent opportunity.
The 35-year old, who has been the pitching coach at Marshall University for the last four seasons dating back to 2014, accepted the same position at Penn State, according to an official press release by the Penn State Athletic Department on Wednesday afternoon.
The new opportunity — which serves as an excellent belated birthday present for Newman — is certainly thrilling for the former Wheelersburg and Ohio State baseball standout.
“I’m ecstatic to be able to work under Rob Cooper,” Newman said. “He and his coaching staff up there at Penn State are building a program, and I look forward to helping them with that process. It’s all about just putting my best foot forward and helping the program in the best manner that I can. The Big Ten is something that I am familiar with, both as a player and as a coach, and the conference is nationwide now with the Big Ten Network and all of the exposure that the conference is getting on the national stage. It’s just great to be back in the Big Ten Conference, fun to be a part of a program that has a leader with such a tremendous track record, and to be part of a school that is really supportive of the baseball program. I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Newman, however, didn’t take those relationships for granted — and that’s arguably what got him to where he is today.
After learning from one of the state’s legendary high school coaches in Jack Branon — who won a total of 357 games over his 22-year coaching career, including the 1996 OHSAA Division III State Championship — Newman followed up that success in strong fashion as the star pitcher won two Division III State Poll titles with Branon in 1997 and 1999 in a career that spanned from 1997 to 2000 at Wheelersburg High School, Newman obtained an opportunity to pitch at Ohio State University, where the southpaw accumulated a 32-21 record across 61 appearances — including 54 starts — from 2001 to 2004.
During that timeframe, Newman was nothing less than a workhorse, accumulating at least 72 innings per year in all four years of his college career — including 94 innings or more from 2002 to 2004 — en route to logging a total of 368 and one-third innings of work during his time with the Buckeyes. In that same stretch, Newman averaged at least six strikeouts per nine innings in every season, and accumulated a strikeout-to-walk ratio that exceeded 2-to-1 in each of his final three seasons with Ohio State — including 2004, where the ratio pushed above the 3-to-1 mark. Newman also proved his worth in the classroom, as well, by racking up Academic All-Big Ten honors in every season that he was eligible to do so.
As a result, team success followed. Newman helped the Buckeyes to a 161-84-1 record, a Big Ten regular season championship in 2001, two Big Ten tournament championships in 2002 and 2003, and three NCAA Regional appearances.
Not surpringly, those accomplishments allowed Newman to not only get drafted by the Colorado Rockies, but — after impressive showings at minor league stops in Casper (Wyo.), Modesto (Calif.), Tulsa (Okla.), and Colorado Springs — obtain a spot in the major leagues, where the Wheelersburg native contributed as a reliever to a 2007 Colorado Rockies unit that pulled off one of the most improbable late season and playoff runs in Major League Baseball history as the unit won 22 of 23 games — including a walkoff victory in the tiebreaking wild card affair between their division rivals in the San Diego Padres — to advance to the 2007 World Series.
With an enjoyable career coming to a conclusion at the end of the decade, Newman wanted to stay involved with the game of baseball. In 2010, newly hired Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals — who had just come off of a successful tenure with Ball State before being hired on — provided Newman with that opportunity by hiring the then 28-year old as a volunteer assistant coach.
“As a player, I was back and forth between the minors and the majors toward the end of my career,” Newman said. “I knew that I had my degree (Bachelor’s in Arts, History), and I knew that I wanted to stay in the game. Greg Beals had just gotten hired at Ohio State, and started his new chapter there. He offered me the job as an assistant under him, and the entire timing of the decision and everything just aligned perfectly. To get my start at a school where I graduated from is always going to be special to me, because that doesn’t happen very often.”
It was also an opportunity, however, that Newman took full advantage of. In three seasons with Ohio State, the Wheelersburg hand, along with pitching coach Mike Stafford, took a unit that held a 4.94 ERA in 2011 to a 3.24 mark in 2013. The biggest quality in that improvement, you ask? Walks per nine innings, which sat an an overall mark of 2.45 — eighth in the country — in that same year.
This improvement attracted attention from Marshall, who hired Newman as the program’s pitching coach following the conclusion of the 2013 season. Newman, as a result, made his residence in his hometown.
“Getting the opportunity to come back home to Marshall University and to live here in Wheelersburg was just sweet,” Newman said. “It was great to come back to where I grew up. To be able to recruit some local talent that I felt was overlooked, and have guys like Wade Martin, who represent themselves the right way, was special. Those are special, special people and special memories that have impacted me and have allowed me to be where I am at today.”
At Marshall, Newman didn’t shy away from the local products. In fact, he embraced them. In addition to Martin, who won two state titles at Wheelersburg and led the Pirates to OHSAA Division III State Final Four appearances in every season of his high school career, Newman proved to be the primary point man in the recruitments of products from across the Tri-State Area, including Jackson’s Hunter Sexton and Charleston (W. Va.)’s Jacob Bradley.
As Newman stuck to his gameplan, Marshall continued to improve. In 2016, the Thundering Herd went 34-21 with a 21-9 record in the perennially tough Conference USA realm — a major improvement over the program’s 20-32 mark and 12-18 conference finish from the year before.
Now, after making his presence felt at two separate schools, Newman will look to do the same at Penn State — an opportunity that he says couldn’t happen without the help of his family, the players, Wheelersburg head coach Michael Estep, and Branon.
“I would not be here today without Jack Branon,” Newman said. “Coach Branon is one of those guys that helped me, not just on the baseball field, but off of it, as well. I am so fortunate to be able to play under a guy like that. Then, I go back and look at my parents and how much they sacrificed growing up. Sometimes, you don’t have that appreciation until you’re a parent yourself, and you see and start to really comprehend all of the things that your parents sacrificed for you. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been surrounded by my family, who has sacrificed for me in order for me to chase my dreams, including my wife, Sarah, who has sacrificed for me every step of the way. They’ve been an excellent support system.”
Regardless of where baseball takes Newman, it’s clear that the area standout will cherish the entire Wheelersburg community forever.
“Wheelersburg will always be home for my family and I,” Newman said. “It’s a special place. It’s hard to realize that I’m not going to be living here anymore. But it’s a special place. The four years that we (Newman, Sarah, and their two children, Ayda and Kash) spent here was awesome, and it will always be home. It’s not like I won’t be back. I’ve got many family members and many friends in this region, and Wheelersburg will always be home for me.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7