A New Hawk in the Nest

Photo courtesy of Ed Diller Photography.
Photo courtesy of Ed Diller Photography.
Photo courtesy of Ed Diller Photography.

Matt Righter was chosen by SUNY New Paltz Athletic Director Stuart Robinson to fill the head baseball coaching vacancy, with Matt Griffiths stepping down last spring.

Once the 2013 season had ended, Righter applied for the opening. He exhibited himself as someone who impressed New Paltz’s search committee, Robinson said.

“He was clearly the first choice, he just impressed all members of the search committee, impressed the staff by his energy and passion for the sport,” Robinson said.

Righter comes to New Paltz from his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, where he served as the head pitching coach and recruiting coordinator from 2009-13.  He was an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins from 2000-2004 and played four years of baseball and basketball, earning All-Conference in both sports in 2004.

After college, Righter was drafted in the 21st round by the Detroit Tigers, becoming the highest-picked player in Johns Hopkins history at the time.  He spent 2004-08 in the Tigers organization, making it all the way to the team’s Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens.  His professional career ended in 2009 after he spent the season pitching for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent league, the Atlantic League.

During his professional career he would help out with the non-traditional portion of the Blue Jays season during the fall. Once his professional career ended in 2009, Righter immediately joined the Johns Hopkins coaching staff.

During the application process, Righter was invited to visit the campus and was offered the job at the end of day.  First, he had to first run it by the boss in his family; his wife, he said.

“I asked if I could bring her up that weekend to see the campus and meet everybody and after that, that’s when we decided we’d take the job,” Righter said.

Righter credited his coach at Johns Hopkins for turning him into the coach he is today more than his professional career did.

“I would say the teaching and coaching I got at Hopkins from Bob Babb, our Head Coach, who has been there for 34 years and has about a thousand wins, might have helped me even more than the pro side,” Righter said.

Robinson said he believes Righter’s professional experience will give the student-athletes he works with new insight.

“[Playing professionally] gives him a perspective that’s unique from a lot of other candidates,” Robinson said.  “It’s a situation where he brings a perspective that allows our students to understand what it means to play at the highest level, but at the same time an appreciation for what hard work could potentially be out there.”

Fourth-year catcher David Lostaglio was in awe over what he thinks his new coach is going to bring to the team, he said.

“I was just really impressed by his resume and what he’s bringing to the program,” Lostaglio said.  “He has a great resume, and a ton of experience that he’s bringing to us.  I’m excited to see what else he has in store for us.”

While coaching at Johns Hopkins in 2010, Righter started his own company, eBaseball Training. The company helps amateur baseball players develop mechanics, confidence and approaches to all positions that will help them reach their playing goals.

Righter said his company allowed him to develop the skills needed to become a head coach.

“I think working with people one on one gives you the ability to access certain issues mechanically, or maybe even mentally,” Righter said.  “Being able to run a business helps you run a team effectively, so I think the values I learned from running a business helped prepare me for a head coaching job.”

While Righter was hired to be the head baseball coach at New Paltz, he is constantly talking with the Head Basketball Coach Mike Rejniak about the basketball program. Righter was an assistant basketball coach at Johns Hopkins during the 2012-13 season, so he hopes to help out the New Paltz Men’s Basketball Team when he can, he said.

“I think right now I’ll be more behind the scenes,” Righter said. “I would not rule out me getting back involved, hopefully with New Paltz basketball.”

Robinson hopes that Righter will bring the baseball program to a higher level than they’ve been at the past few years, he said.

“[I want him] to be the person we hired,” Robinson said.  “To be the person who can motivate, listen, understand, but challenge our students. And push them to achieve at a level that we have not achieved at consistently.”

Looking forward to the season, Righter thinks his team will compete at a high level, he said.

“We have some seniors that really don’t want to have a lost year,” Righter said.  “Our expectations going in are high.”