Degging A Little Deeper: A Look at SHSU’s “Pack Baseball”

An Inside Look at Matt Deggs

The Sam Houston State University Bearkats baseball team has been one of the schools most successful athletic programs within the last few years. A major contributor to this success has been head coach Matt Deggs.

Deggs was hired by the university before the 2015 season to be the head coach of a team coming off three consecutive regional appearances under former head coach David Pierce. In Deggs’ first four seasons as a head coach, he has led the team to a winning record every year, including being 44-23 and reaching the NCAA Super Regional for the first time in school history in 2017—the team’s best season under his command.

Before taking the helm for the Bearkats, Deggs bounced around the baseball world for many years. He began his coaching career in 1996 with Northwestern State University and stayed there for two seasons. He was then hired by Texarkana College in 1998 to be their head coach. After four years there, he moved around quiet a bit. He was an assistant coach with the University of Arkansas, Texas A&M University and University of Louisiana-Lafayette before finally behind hired by SHSU.

“We’re home,” Deggs said.  “That’s the way Kathy [Deggs’ wife] and the kids look at it, and the way I look at it.

Deggs is very well traveled in the baseball world, so naturally he has coaching influences from all different parts of baseball.

“Butch Hopson [had] a tremendous impact on my career,” Deggs said. “I was fortunate enough to play professionally under him and learn a lot of baseball and learn a lot about leadership and managing.”

Being a former hitter, Deggs had a lot to learn about pitching when going into the coaching profession, and he was able to learn from former Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn.

“[Jorn] was an incredible baseball man that I was with at the University of Arkansas,” Deggs said. “I learned a lot about pitching from Dave.  Most hitters don’t know pitching, and I was able to learn from one of the best.”

When he accepted the job, Deggs was not worried about the pressure of keeping up the success the program had been having. He was tasked with replacing David Pierce, who is now the head coach at the University of Texas.  Pierce coached the Bearkats for three years and left the school with a winning percentage of 65.7, the highest in school history.  Coming to SHSU Deggs was known for creating a style of play that he refers to as “pack baseball.” Deggs adopted this style of offensive baseball himself, but the name comes from a pretty unlikely source.

“One night I was watching a documentary on a pack of wolves, and that’s when I had the lightbulb moment,” Deggs said. “In nature literally every wolf has a job, duty or function.  In order for them to survive— not win a baseball game, but to survive— they have to perform that duty.”

In large part due to pack baseball, the Bearkats were able to make history in 2017 when the team made it to a Super Regional for the first time in school history.

“When you get fired it humbles you,” Deggs said. “I spent 430 days outside the game. It’s not about wins or losses…it’s about love. It’s about building men and building relationships that will last forever.”

The Bearkats ended up losing to Florida State University in the Super Regional, but after the loss a video of coach Deggs’ press conference went viral. In the video he talked about the way he now coaches.

“You can’t stop God’s timing,” Deggs said about that video. “I’m not a social media guy, but the outpouring was so significant that we saw it as the most viable [way] to get the message out to thank people and to let them know we appreciate their support.”

The Kats are 6-3 to begin the 2019 campaign, and Deggs feels really good about the team he has in place. For the Bearkats once again it is mission Omaha, and Deggs believes this team has a good chance of getting there.

“This is a team that is full of pitching,” Deggs said. “We’ve got a little bit of everything. We’ve got some power bats, and we’ve got some guys that can run and execute. So really and truly we have no excuses.”

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