Who says a person only gets one shot at his dream job?
Mike Littlewood, who was a finalist for the Brigham Young University baseball coaching position 13 years ago, this time was chosen as the man, Cougars athletic director Tom Holmoe announced Thursday.
Littlewood, who spent 16 years at Dixie State College and won 70 percent of his games there (563-238), said the job is one he’s wanted since his playing days at BYU back in the 1980s.
“When I was a finalist 13 years ago for this job and didn’t get it, I thought I’d missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “As it turns out, it was a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Littlewood will take over a program that has struggled in recent years and finished in seventh place in the West Coast Conference last season.
“More than anything, I believe this is a great opportunity to get this program going again,” he said. “I want to raise this program at BYU to national prominence and that’s going to require 100 percent of my attention.”
Gone are Littlewood’s days as the groundskeeper, a duty he both loved and hated at Dixie State. BYU has an entire crew for that. Littlewood will also give up his duties and relationships with Division I basketball refereeing.
“I have loved doing that,” he said. “I knew the potential was there that I would have to give that up and they (BYU administration) want me to put all my focus on the baseball program. I wouldn’t have applied if I wasn’t willing to do that.”
With the departure of its head baseball coach, Dixie State will begin a candidate search to replace Littlewood.
“We are so thrilled for Mike,” DSC athletic director Jason Booth said. “It is bittersweet for us. He is a phenomenal coach. We are extremely happy for him, but at the same time, we hate losing him. We know who we are – a Division II school. If we have coaches come in here, then move up to a bigger job, that’s a good thing. That means they are doing a good job and being successful.”
Booth said the search will begin immediately for Littlewood’s replacement.
“We’re going to try and get best possible coach in here,” he said. “Not only that, but we want to allow that person to coach and just be a coach. The field maintenance duties will not be a part of it.”
That will be a switch as Littlewood was the chief caretaker of Bruce Hurst Field and more often than not could be found on a lawnmower or with a rake in his hand.
Booth said the search will be an open one and that he and his committee will not rush a decision.
“I am thankful that we have a little time and won’t be rushed to make this decision,” he said. “We the most qualified person for the job, whether it’s a current high school coach or a junior college coach or someone else.”
Some probable candidates for the job include Randy Wilstead, a former Littlewood assistant who currently coaches Pine View High School, and Reed Secrist, who has had tremendous success at Snow Canyon. Both of those coaches are former professional baseball players.
Other possible candidates include Salt Lake Community College coach D.G. Nelson, who has also coached with Littlewood, as well as members of Dixie State’s current staff, including top assistant Trent Pratt.
Holmoe said BYU has made the right move and was impressed with the knowledge and excitement Littlewood brings to the job.
“He is passionate about baseball and his enthusiasm is contagious,” Holmoe said. “Mike has been very successful at every level of coaching and we look forward to having him guide our baseball program.”
Dixie State, which reached the NCAA Division II regionals for the first time this season under Littlewood’s tutelage, will also be looking for one full-time assistant job as well.
“I will miss St. George and all the great relationships we’ve established there,” Littlewood said. “We are going to keep our place there. I don’t like to look back, but I am so happy to have had so many great experiences down there, experiences I wouldn’t have had if I had gotten this job 13 years ago.”
Copyright 2012 St. George News.