Above photo of Todd Haney playing for the Chicago Cubs
BELTON, Texas- Todd Haney understands dedication.
It was Haney who stayed for hours after games at Panola Junior College to get extra swings in, his only source of light coming from the headlights on his car, parked a few feet away.
He slowly but surely climbed the minor league ladder en route to his MLB debut in 1992, spending time in towns such as Bellingham, Washington; Wausau, Wisconsin; and Williamsport, Pennsylvania, before reaching the bright lights of the big leagues.
And through an extensive coaching career, he has worked with countless youth, college and pro players, investing in them while helping them to attain their goals.
The now-UMHB baseball assistant coach is set to officially begin his time on Mike Stawski’s staff August 2, and brings with him a level of experience, dedication and expertise that is hard to match.
“Coach Haney brings a wealth of knowledge to this coaching staff,” Stawski said in a press release. “Not only has he coached at the highest level but he has also played at the highest level. That type of experience will be so valuable to our players. I am excited to watch him develop this roster that is full of talent and to see exactly what kind of impact he can make on these players, both on and off the field.”
How was UMHB able to enlist the services of a five-year MLB veteran, NJCAA All-American and College World Series starter?
A summer-ball teammate of UMHB president Randy O’ Rear in their youth, Haney took his lone scholarship offer out of Richfield High School to Panola Junior College, while O’Rear headed to Bee County College before transferring to UMHB. But while the two went their separate ways out of high school, they never lost touch.
So when O’Rear asked Haney to come meet Stawski, UMHB’s new head baseball coach, Haney happily obliged.
Stawski and Haney quickly found common ground, sharing a passion for baseball and memories of the Chicago Cubs, and soon enough, Haney was leaving his position at Texas State to coach the infielders and hitting in Belton.
“God’s timing is always interesting,” Haney said. “Dr. O’Rear and I played summer baseball together in high school. So we’ve known each other for a long time, and been friends for a long time. I happened to be talking with him and he was telling me about his new coaching hire and how impressed he was with Coach Stawski. During our conversation, he said, ‘If you’re going to be around Belton, I’d love for you to meet Coach Stawski.’ We set up lunch and Coach Stawski and I clicked immediately.”
For UMHB to ink a coach of Haney’s caliber is a sign of the upward trajectory of the program. He has excelled at the highest levels of baseball, a living testament to the young players he interacts with daily that reaching the big leagues can be done.
“I was impressed with his vision and his character,” Haney said of Stawski. “The more we talked, the more we both became interested that there might be an opportunity for us to work together and continue building what he and his coaching staff have started there.”
Haney’s determined attitude started well before he even reached the pro level, though. Not only did he use his two-year scholarship offer to Panola to become an All-American as a sophomore, but caught the eyes of the University of Texas, where he concluded the final two years of his collegiate career as a starter on a squad stacked with talent.
He fondly recalls the fall scrimmages in which he faced future big leaguers Greg Swindell, the No. 2 pick in the 1986 draft, and Mark Petkovsek, a 10-year veteran in the big leagues.
“We used to intersquad almost daily in the fall,” Haney noted, “based on the talent level we had on those teams, the fall games were extremely competitive and definitely contributed to my development as a player.”
The tough competition within the program revealed itself in the spring of 1987, the same year Haney was drafted. That year, with Haney starting at second base, the Longhorns reached the College World Series, where they won four games before being eliminated.
“The expectation every year is to play for a national championship,” Haney said of the Texas program.
Five years later, on September 9, 1992, Haney reached another milestone in his baseball career, making his MLB debut with the Montreal Expos.
“It was a dream come true, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Haney said of his debut. “There was adversity I had to overcome with being drafted in the 38th round and my size. So it was a culmination of hard work, dedication and much support from my family. My dad threw batting practice to me for many years, hit thousands of ground balls and spent countless hours working with me and deserves a ton of credit in helping me achieve my dream of playing Major League Baseball.”
Of his five seasons in the major leagues, spent with three teams, Haney remembers Chicago’s Wrigley Field as his favorite ballpark to play in. He played three years with the Chicago Cubs, hitting .245 with 11 RBI, 28 runs scored and three homers.
“The atmosphere was second to none,” Haney said of Wrigley Field. “It’s a great stadium, the way the game is supposed to be played; green grass, brown dirt, the ivy on the outfield wall. That was definitely just a phenomenal place to play and show up for work everyday.”
He carried his knowledge of the sport into the world of coaching soon after his retirement in 2000. He started with the Waco Storm, an elite travel baseball program for youth and high schoolers, before moving into an assistant, then head coaching role with the Victoria HarbourCats of the West Coast Collegiate League in 2018. The league, played in the summer, helps develop college players from across the U.S. and Canada, as they hit with wood bats in preparation for professional careers, and face tough competition. The league was canceled for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, but is expected to resume next summer.
Without a team to manage last summer, Haney still found an opportunity to coach, taking a role with the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths of the Independent Constellation League. As the hitting and bench coach, Haney helped the team finish second in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, triples and home runs.
Additionally, from 2018-2021, he served on the coaching staff at Texas State, scouting upcoming opponents and helping the Bobcats with gameday prep.
“I am excited about the opportunity to provide experience to the players; I’ve had success in the game and I’ve had failures as well,” Haney said. “Understanding how to handle success, adversity and failure is all part of baseball. I love teaching the game, developing players and this opportunity will provide me with the chance to continue to develop and grow players who are excited about the game and excited about becoming the best they can be.”
Baseball has given Haney the chance to play in some of the nation’s most historic ballparks, and make coaching stops in Canada, Sugar Land, Waco and San Marcos. Starting this fall, he will have a new opportunity to create memories, playing a role in what could be one of the quickest rebuilds in Div. III college baseball.
“It’s definitely an exciting opportunity,” Haney said of his hiring at UMHB. “I’m thrilled to work with such great people and continue to build on the success that’s in place. I certainly look forward to winning a national championship at UMHB.”