“It was hard to turn it down because it’s always been my goal and dream, and hopefully I get the chance again.”
When then junior outfielder Colt Atwood was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 38th round of the 2014 MLB draft, it was a dream come true. However, the reality of actually playing in the pros never came true.
Despite Atwood’s dream being within his grasp, he decided to come back to Sam Houston State and play his senior year with a new head coach Matt Deggs.
“Me and the A’s never really came to a decision on a money amount, but also the talks I had with Coach Deggs really helped,” Atwood said. “After talking to my family and Coach Deggs, it was the right decision to get my degree, and I would still have a chance to go next year.”
When Deggs was hired as the Bearkats’ head coach after the 2014 season, he already knew what the first thing on his list would be.
“When [the coaching staff and I] got here, we had already known who Colt was and we had faced him before,” Deggs said. “We made Colt our number one recruit and we recruited him hard over the summer and just felt like he was a natural fit for our system. Everything we do revolves around speed and strength. Colt’s a guy that could’ve played and started for me anywhere that I have been.”
With previous SHSU head coach David Pierce leaving the Bearkats for Tulane, Deggs’ heavy offensive philosophy attracted Atwood.
“Coach Deggs is a great coach and straight up told me that it would be perfect for us two to work together, and I agreed with him,” Atwood said. “His philosophy is great, and he is a great head coach to play for, as was coach Pierce.”
Most players in any sport would find it frustrating and difficult to be successful in the first season with a new head coach, especially if it were their final season of eligibility. In the Kats’ first four games of the 2015 season, Atwood’s performance offensively has been anything but frustrating and difficult. Atwood has gone 10-of-18 at the plate including two games where he has recorded four hits, a feat he did not achieve in the 2014 season. Atwood has the highest batting average of any Bearkat starter, batting .556 and leading the team in RBIs with 11.
“[The transition] has been different for sure,” Atwood said. “The two coaches are completely different. Both love the game with a passion and also both had great assistant coaches that make it a lot easier to transition and to get everyone involved.”
Not only does Atwood lead the team in the box score but also on the field and in the dugout. Deggs believes Atwood is something more than a leader as well.
“Colt’s the heartbeat,” Deggs said. “He leads from the front, he doesn’t just tell guys to do stuff. He gets out there and does it. He’s just an incredible leader, for as good of a player he is, he’s an even better kid. You know you have a chance when some of your best players are also some of your hardest workers.”
Atwood gives the credit to his teammates, despite being looked at as the leader of the team, the opponents and the fans.
“It’s awesome to hear that from a coach, but the teammates I have around me help me out so much with everything and the whole community being behind us,” Atwood said. “Being a leader is something that is earned, and I’m thankful to my teammates for seeing me that way, but there are a bunch of leaders in our team. That is what makes this team so special.”
The connection between Deggs and Atwood has been growing ever since the news broke of Deggs’ hiring. What really brings the two together – surprisingly – is something rather different than most coach-player relationships: beards. When asked what his favorite thing about Atwood is, Deggs laughed and said it was his beard.
“After hearing coach Deggs got the job, I remember people telling me he loves beards so I started growing mine,” Atwood said. “When I first met him, he told me he loved it, so it helped us get going, and I also love my beard a lot.”
This senior season has been even more special for Atwood beyond his new relationship with Deggs. He was able to partake in a special moment for him and his family in the Kats’ 10-0 win over Texas State on Tuesday. In the fourth inning, Atwood went up to bat to face a sophomore right handed Bobcat; his younger brother Quinn Atwood. The older brother was able to knock an RBI single to right field in the at bat.
“Not a lot of people get to do that and it was a pretty neat experience,” Atwood said to Bearkat Athletics. “I love him. I’m glad he gave me one down the middle with a 0-2 count, that was nice of him. It was fun.”
There are still many games to be played this season, and Deggs sees great potential from his outfielder.
“Colt is going to be successful no matter what he does,” Deggs said. “I imagine he will play this game for a long time.”
And as his time at SHSU eventually winds down, Atwood looks forward to the opportunity to get a call from a major league team in the future, except this time in hopes of a contract agreement to fulfill his life long dream.
“I want to improve my [draft] stock and hope I get the chance to continue my baseball days.”