LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Assistant baseball coach Craig Kleinmann does a little bit of everything. Kleinmann is the pitching coach on head coach Doug Simons' coaching staff and is also the head of Covenant's Grounds Department.
The do-it-all Kleinmann has had success in both of his roles at Covenant. His wizardry in turf management has helped turn the playing surfaces at Covenant into some of the best in the South. Meanwhile, in 2011 Kleinmann's pitching staff had an earned run average of 3.57 while compiling 266 strikeouts and combining for five shutouts.
Kleinmann's expertise in the field of turf management has gained high praise from colleagues at Covenant and even opposing coaches.
"He is like King Midas- every field he touches turns to gold," said Simons. "He is the reason our field is one of the best in the South. Almost every visiting coach wants to talk to Coach K and find out the secret to our pristine field."
Kleinmann has not always been in turf management; he played two years of baseball at a junior college then transferred to play his final two seasons at King College. He then became the King assistant coach and eventually was hired as the head coach. He said "I liked to build, I like taking things that need fixing."
Build is what he did at King. Kleinmann took a team that had struggled, winning only eight games the year before he arrived, to a team that in his final season went 43-19. During his time as head coach, King reached two regional championships and had a player taken in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
When Kleinmann's wife, Christie, got a job at Mississippi State University, he felt like it was time to move on. He decided to work on his turf management skills there. He said, "I thought it would be fun."
One year later he was hired by Lee University to be the pitching coach and work on the fields as well as teach. He was there for three years and helped turn the baseball field into one of the best in the area.
Covenant then called and offered him the position as head of the Grounds Department and also assistant baseball coach. He loved the potential of the campus and athletic fields; he also was intrigued to learn under Simons.
During his tenure at Covenant, Kleinmann has been instrumental in turning the playing surfaces into the nicest in the region. "It shows the athletes that the school cares when you have nice facilities," he said. In addition to his coaching and grounds duties, Kleinmann is a professor in the Physical Education Department.
On the diamond his pitching knowledge has helped yield some of the best pitching staffs in the conference since he has been on the team. Kleinmann guided his pitching staff to its 3.57 ERA in 2011 and saw Covenant ace Tyler Smith to a 5-3 record with a 3.57 ERA last season.
"Coach K has added discipline and structure to our pitching staff," Simons added. "The pitchers know what is expected of them each day and what needs to be done to reach their expectations. He has been on the cutting edge when it comes to conditioning and preparation. He has taken a big load off my shoulders by his knowledge of the game, practice planning, game prep, and leadership skills."
With a host of young pitchers on this season's team, Kleinmann will once again be in position to build up young talent on his perfectly manicured field.