Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- Coaching is about so much more than strategy, teaching the game, and utilizing talent.
Empathy and understanding are major components as well.
Jordan Bischel was introduced on Thursday as Central Michigan's baseball coach, and he told a story of his days at Division III St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. As a freshman, he was part of an 11-man pitching staff on the Green Knights' spring trip to Florida.
Ten of his mound counterparts had pitched at one time or another on the trip, and St. Norbert trailed badly in a particular game midway through the trip. Believing that his turn would come, albeit in mop-up duty, the eager freshman awaited the call as his coach went to the mound to make a change.
The coach, Bischel said, summoned the third baseman to pitch, leaving Bischel waiting in the bullpen.
"I was the 12th guy on an 11-man staff," Bischel said, drawing laughs from the media and Chippewa administrators, coaches and supporters in attendance at Thursday's press conference. "I grew into a pretty solid Division III pitcher, but that helped me a lot as a coach because I've been in every spot.
"I've been a guy who was our staff ace as a senior, but I was also the 12th guy on an 11-man staff. So when I come in and talk about how important it is to work and earn your spot, I speak from experience."
Bischel, 37, was introduced along with his wife Katie and their 12-month-old twins by CMU Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Michael Alford in the media room of the Kulhavi Events Center.
"It takes a special leader to sit in the dugout at Keilitz Field at Theunissen Stadium," Alford said, referring to the Chippewas' home digs. "We had strong interest from around the country for this position. Our search included finalists from some of the most well-known programs in the country.
"But we quickly gravitated towards Jordan, who impressed us every step of the way."
Bischel, a Green Bay, Wis. native, comes to CMU from Northwood University, just down the road in Midland. He led the Timberwolves to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships in each of the last two seasons. He earned the league's coach of the year award in each of those two seasons.
He was a combined 137-76 in his four years at Northwood. The Timberwolves were 84-29 with two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances in the past two years. Before Bischel's arrival, Northwood had never won a GLIAC baseball championship.
The Timberwolves' combined 84 wins in 2017 and '18 were the fifth most in the nation among Division II programs.
"I couldn't be more excited to be here," said Bischel, evoking the names of legendary CMU coaches Bill Theunissen, Keilitz and Dean Kreiner. "The history of CMU baseball, these are big shoes to fill. It's incredible to be a part of this.
"To know the coaches who were considered for this and to know I'm the right fit here is just an honor and really flattering. That is unbelievable. I'm going to work so hard to make those guys proud, and the guys who have played here, to make them proud."
Alford pointed out Northwood's rapid and precipitous improvement at the plate during Bischel's tenure at the school.
The Timberwolves hit 51 home runs in 2018 and clouted 46 in 2017. In the three years before Bischel's arrival, they hit a combined 30.
"We're going to have to drive the ball a little bit," Bischel said. "That's a big part of our philosophy. We're going to swing with some conviction. Hitting it out of the park is not really anything we talk about, but driving it and doing damage is."
Having been at Northwood for four years, Bischel has the luxury of being quite familiar with recruiting not only the state of Michigan, but the entire Midwest, Alford said.
There are 16 former Chippewa players who today are high school head coaches in the state, Bischel said, and most are keenly aware of the success his teams had at Northwood.
That, and the way his Northwood players excelled off the field, are benefits he can draw upon in attracting student-athletes to CMU.
"As much as high school coaches want their guys to play at a higher level, they want to know that their guys are going to be taken care of as people and I think that's something we've built in this area more than anything," he said.
Bischel emphasized the importance of tradition, a strong foundation that is rooted, obviously, in good players, but also good students who are respected representatives of the university and the community.
"We're going to do the right thing," he said. "We're going to have good people who are good students, who care about each other, who care about CMU. That's where it's going to start.
"To play college baseball is a pretty special opportunity and these guys will understand that; but then to play college baseball at Central Michigan University, that's an extra-special opportunity and they're going to understand that. And the way we play is going to represent that. It is going to be an honor for those guys to put on that uniform."
Armed with an accounting degree from St. Norbert, Bischel followed his father's footsteps and went into business right out of college.
He did that, he said, for 18 months in Milwaukee. Near the end of that 18-month stint he volunteered to coach at his high school and caught the coaching bug.
He emailed dozens of colleges across the country and landed a volunteer coaching position at John Carroll, a Division III school in Cleveland.
"I knew then that if you're going to chase a dream you don't wait," he said. "Everything I owned went in the back of the car" and it was off to the shores of Lake Erie to begin his coaching career 13 years ago.
His first head coaching job came at Midland University in Nebraska in 2013. In two years at Midland, Bischel's teams went a combined 74-45. Among his other stops was as the manager of the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League, a summer league for college players.
"I was not handed any jobs when I got into coaching," he said. "I had to earn it and I had to work my way up and I think our players are really going to respect that. They'll know I'm not here by chance, I'm here because I know how to build a championship-level program and it's because of the guys who play for us."