Lower Columbia hires Fergus to replace Smith as baseball coach
An old face familiar to Lower Columbia College is the new face of Red Devils' baseball.
Former LCC assistant coach Donegal Fergus was hired from a pool of 49 applicants to take over the Red Devils. He will replace his uncle, current LCC coach Kelly Smith, when Smith retires in June.
"This is a real honor," Fergus said by phone from Seattle University, where he is an assistant baseball coach. "It feels good to be back in the Red Devil family. It's a chance to come back home (and) for my wife Kim (Franett), who is from Kelso, to come home."
LCC President Chris Bailey made the final decision to hire Fergus.
"We're very excited to get Donegal," Bailey said. "He has ties and loyalty to the local area, he's really bright, has great focus and knows the game. He's a keeper."
LCC athletic director Kirc Roland is also excited to have a former member of the Red Devil family return home.
"It was an incredible talent pool of applicants," Roland said in a school press release. "Coach Fergus has the perfect blend of knowledge, experience and understanding of the expectations here at LCC and he put himself right at the top."
In addition to his coaching duties, Fergus will also serve as a Retention Specialist at the college.
"Coach Fergus has a wealth of experience working with students as an education planner and that really separated him from the other outstanding candidates," Roland added.
In his previous stint at LCC from 2000-05, Fergus also served as special assistant to the athletic director and baseball recruiting coordinator. Besides helping the Red Devils to four division titles, his recruiting efforts helped orchestrate some of the best recruiting classes of any school in the Northwest. His 2005 group featured seven players drafted by major league organizations.
Fergus left LCC in 2005 when he was named head coach at rival Tacoma College. In five years with the Titans, he had a 125-100 record and advanced to the postseason every year. His 2006 club placed third in the NWAACC Baseball Championships. For the last two years, Fergus has served as a volunteer assistant coach at Seattle, where he was also the Redhawks' offensive coordinator, third base coach and Director of Camps.
"I love the coaching staff at Seattle U, and it was a tough decision for me to leave them," Fergus said. "They're excited for me but they're also sad to be losing me. The finances and the stability were hard to pass up along with the affinity I have for LCC."
The 32-year-old Fergus also received a rousing endorsement from "Uncle Kelly."
"I think it's a terrific choice," Smith said. "He was my personal best choice. Whether he's related or not, I think he's the best candidate of the 49 who applied."
Smith knows he's leaving the Red Devils in capable hands.
"He'll bring a little more new-age coaching, instead of the old curmudgeon coaching," he said. "I think the kids will love him, and the fans will love him. He's a Smith at heart, but the players will probably like him better than they like me."
Fergus admits he'll listen to Smith's advice.
"He's not only my mentor but also my uncle," he said. "It's not like our relationship is foreign. I know the first time I lose I'll get a phone call from him. His voice will always be in my ear whether I need to hear it or not."
Fergus is also appreciative of assistant coaches Grady Tweit and Chad Wagner, who have been recruiting players for next year's team.
"I know it's been tough for them not knowing who the next coach would be when they went out and talked to recruits," Fergus said. "LCC sells itself with its history and unmatched reputation, but we have to keep telling the story because kids aren't history buffs. We're a little behind in the recruiting process, but we'll catch up."
Fergus hasn't made any decisions about his 2013 coaching staff.
"I'm friends with Grady and have a long history with him," he said. "Chad comes highly recommended from former pitching coach Rob Hippi. I want to go through a process to build the best staff I can, so I haven't decided who we'll have."
In addition to assembling a team, coaching staff and finding a home for his family — which includes son Seamus and daughter Finnegan — Fergus will spend June and July in Myrtle Beach, S.C. as head coach of the Myrtle Beach Ghost Crabs of the first-year Myrtle Beach Summer Collegiate Baseball League.
"This was an interesting opportunity which came out of the blue," he said. "They were looking for a coach, and I was looking to coach a collegiate summer team. I told my wife they would cover our expenses and get us a place to live, and she sees it as a six-week vacation for the family."
The team plays 40 games during a six-week period. The Ghost Crabs include current LCC player Michael Monda, along with five players from Pierce College, two from Tacoma, a pair from Oregon State University and an outfielder from the University of Portland.
"I told the LCC hiring committee I had commitments this summer and I didn't want to break them," he said. "I'll have to put a good staff together early so they can handle the load early. I'll be on the phones a lot, and will be out in full force when I get back in July."