Division II veteran Rick O’Dette, who has amassed nearly 500 wins and led his teams to NCAA Regional play four times during his career, was named Saint Leo's new head baseball coach on June 15, 2017, ushering in a new era for Saint Leo baseball.
“Rick O’Dette was exactly the type of coach we were looking for when this process began, and I am thrilled he will be joining us at Saint Leo University,” said Francis X. Reidy, Saint Leo’s director of athletics, at the time of O'Dette's hiring. “He has proven his ability to develop a program built on academic success, athletic excellence, and a commitment to the Division II ideal, and I am confident he will bring Saint Leo baseball back to the upper echelon of Sunshine State Conference baseball.”
“We look forward to welcoming Rick, his wife Sherry, and his children Ricky and Alyssa, to the Saint Leo family,” said Reidy.
O’Dette came to Saint Leo from Saint Joseph’s College of Indiana, where he led the Pumas for the last 17 seasons and amassed a 494-407-4 overall record. He will begin his first season in the Sunshine State Conference ranked fourth among active SSC head coaches in total wins behind Tampa’s Joe Urso (744), Rollins’ Jon Sjogren (680), and Barry’s Juan Ranero (542).
In his most recent campaign at Saint Joseph’s College, O’Dette guided the Pumas to a 35-22 record and the program’s fourth berth in the NCAA Midwest Regional – a coaching performance made more remarkable by the fact his team was playing with the knowledge that the school would be suspending operations at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. He was recognized as the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year, the second time in his career O’Dette had earned the award.
O’Dette’s 17-year ledger at Saint Joseph’s includes 56 All-GLVC selections, 25 All-Region honorees, and four Division II All-Americans. Under O’Dette’s tutelage, three Saint Joseph’s players earned GLVC Pitcher of the Year honors, and his 2013 pitching staff led all of Division II with a 2.88 earned run average.
Twenty-four of O’Dette’s players have gone on to play professional baseball, including eight who were drafted or signed as free agents by Major League Baseball teams.
Most importantly, every baseball student-athlete that exhausted their eligibility during O’Dette’s 17 seasons at Saint Joseph’s College has earned their degree. A total of 84 players have earned GLVC Academic All-Conference honors during O’Dette’s time at the helm of Puma baseball, and his most recent squad finished the academic year with a 3.38 team grade point average.
“I am honored to be the next head baseball coach at Saint Leo University,” said O’Dette. “My family and I are thrilled to be part of this great community. I cannot thank Fran and the athletics staff enough for the hospitality and professionalism during the hiring process.”
“My staff and I are going to work tirelessly to find the best student-athletes to represent Saint Leo at the highest level in all aspects. We know the task will not be easy playing in the Sunshine State Conference, which I consider to be the best Division II conference in the country,” added O’Dette. “We are excited to get going.”
A 1999 graduate of Saint Joseph’s College, O’Dette was a three-year baseball letterwinner and a pitcher on the Pumas’ 1996 NCAA Division II national runner-up squad. He finished his career with a 15-3 record on the mound, earning All-North Central Region honors in 1996 and getting tabbed as an All-GLVC selection in 1997. O’Dette was a 15th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 1997 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and played at four different levels within the Red Sox organization.
In recognition of his coaching and playing achievements, O’Dette was a 2012 inductee into the Saint Joseph’s College Sports Hall of Fame.
Prior to his return to SJC O'Dette worked as a professional instructor for Championship Sports Academy in Tinley Park, as well as the Chicago White Sox Training Center. He also spent two summers as the head coach for the Upper Deck Cougars Baseball Organization out of Palos, Ill. The Cougars finished in fourth place at the World Championships both years.
O'Dette spent the 1999-2000 academic year as the pitching coach for Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind.