Penn State baseball’s pitching coach Josh Newman has already reached the highest level of baseball.
He spent five seasons in the professional ranks, including two seasons in Major League Baseball.
Now, he faces a new challenge — leading Penn State pitchers to the big stage— and he is using experience from his own journey to get them there.
Newman’s time in the majors was split between the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Royals, including being a part of the 2007 World Series run by the Rockies.
He was at the pinnacle of baseball with the Rockies, but was a part of one of the worst teams in the league in Kansas City.
“Now, as a coach, you use those experiences to your advantage,” Newman told The Daily Collegian. “Knowing that you’ve seen both sides.”
Newman credits Clint Hurdle, his manager in Colorado, as being one of his mentors and teaching him that every player has value.
“It’s how you treat people,” Newman said. “It’s about those guys in that locker room and the game is bigger than any of us.”
The most challenging thing for Newman in his transition to coaching? Understanding that every player is different, and figuring out how to connect with them.
“It doesn’t matter what you know until they know that you care about them,” Newman said. “They’ve got to understand that you’re in it with them.”
Head coach Rob Cooper said Newman’s experience helps with a lot of things, starting with recruiting.
When talking to a pitcher whose goals are to make it to the big leagues, it helps to have someone on staff who's been there.
“You see a guy who’s been drafted, and that’s the path you want to take, he’s been there,” Cooper told the Collegian. “He knows what it takes.”
When it comes to on the field work, Cooper puts total faith in Newman’s ability to handle his pitchers.
Cooper treats Newman as the “head coach of the pitchers” and trusts him to treat the guys the right way, develop them and make the right decisions.
However, Cooper says Newman’s biggest strength is his ability to connect with and care about his pitchers, just like he talks about.
“There’s a lot of guys that talk about that when it benefits them, in interviews or press conferences," Cooper said. "Then there are coaches who really walk that walk, and he’s one of those guys."
Cooper didn't have Newman on his original list of candidates when looking to fulfill the pitching coach position back in 2018.
Instead, he got put on Cooper's radar after friend and longtime Rockies scout Ed Santa, who drafted Newman, mentioned him for the gig.
Santa understood a lot of the things that Cooper stands for, so Cooper didn’t hesitate to give Newman a shot.
He shortly realized the impact he would have on building a family-type atmosphere around the program.
“I told him the things that were important to me, but as I’m telling him he’s basically telling me that stuff before I can get to it,” Cooper said. “About 20 minutes into the conversation and I was just like ‘This guy’s pretty special.’”
Since Newman joined the program in 2018, Penn State has seen major improvement with its pitching staff, setting a school record in strikeouts and shaving more than a run off of its team ERA.
Those improvements have shown, as Penn State has had four pitchers drafted to MLB teams since 2018, including Justin Hagenman to the Dodgers and Dante Biasi to the Kansas City Royals.
Hagenman pitched under Newman’s tutelage for one year, and he knew from day one that Newman would help him reach his goals.
“He knew I had a plan, he knew I had a goal. As someone who’s been through it before, he understood my end goal,” Hagenman told the Collegian. “He really understood that and pushed me in the right direction.”
The trust that Newman displayed in Hagenman allowed him to have confidence as a pitcher, and it's something he takes with him everywhere he goes.
“It was a trust that he had in me so I could then trust myself and be as good as I can be,” Hagenman said. “ To trust that it’s in there.”
Hagenman had that connection Newman makes with his players firsthand, and saw it contribute to the building of a successful culture around the team.
“He has a genuine care for all his players and wants the best for every single one,” Hagenman said. “He asks you to give your best, but he has your back no matter what. He’s never in it for himself.”
Biasi spent two years with Newman and credits him for making sure he was prepared for his days in pro ball.
“There’s a lot more to playing professional baseball, and him bringing that [experience] and using that style at Penn State really helped me,” Biasi told the Collegian.
Biasi also said a lot of what he does now in pro ball are the same things he had been doing for the past two years under Newman.
Cooper spent some time as a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, so he has seen what it takes to develop players at the highest level.
Just as Biasi experienced, Cooper sees that big league coaching potential in Newman.
“The way [the MLB] is going, they’re not afraid to hire non-professional baseball guys,” Cooper said.
To Cooper, there’s no reason Josh Newman isn’t one of those guys.
“I’m surprised that more people haven’t talked to him,” Cooper said. “It wouldn’t shock me if his name is up for jobs like that.”
Cooper attributes Newman’s potential to his knowledge of the grind of big league baseball and knowing how to connect with his players on a deeper level.
For now, Newman will continue to use his experience and build relationships with his players as he works toward creating a successful culture at Penn State.
“You’re never satisfied as a coach, but we’ve made tremendous strides, absolutely. In my heart I believe that those guys have the brotherhood that is just different.” Newman said. “When you represent the pillars of our program, it’s powerful — powerful because they’re playing for the name on the front and the brother beside them.”