Matt Deggs, Sam Houston State Bearkats

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Matt Deggs, head coach of the Sam Houston State Bearkats, is living proof that God gives second chances to those who accept His guidance.

As the calendar flipped to 2011, Deggs was one of the top assistant coaches in college baseball while serving on the Texas A&M Aggies staff under head coach Rob Childress. Most observers believed it was only a matter of time before Deggs would be leading one of the premier programs in the country. His rapid ascent, however, came to a sudden halt when Deggs was fired from his position as the Aggies’ hitting coach and recruiting coordinator due to his refusal to get help for his battle with alcoholism.

To that point, Deggs had succeeded everywhere he had been. After playing professional baseball for a couple of years in the independent ranks, he began as an assistant at Northwestern State. His next step included a five-year stint as head coach at Texarkana Junior College before serving as an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas under head coach Dave Van Horn. Deggs was a part of the Razorback team that won a Southeastern Conference title and advanced to the College World Series. Shortly thereafter Deggs joined Childress in College Station, Texas, and helped the Aggies win a Big 12 title.

Relieved of his duties with the Aggies in 2011, Deggs spent 430 days on the outside looking in with college baseball. He loaded feed onto trucks and later worked in pharmaceutical sales. Finally, he was given a second chance to return to the game he loved when Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux had a rare mid-season opening on his coaching staff. Deggs helped the Ragin’ Cajuns have two outstanding seasons, which enabled him to get the head coaching job at Sam Houston State.

Under Deggs’ direction, the Sam Houston State Bearkats have made consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances while producing the first back-to-back 40-win seasons in Division I program history during the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

The Sam Houston State Bearkats came away with a season to remember in 2017, capturing the program’s first ever berth in the NCAA Super Regionals. Sam Houston matched a Division I team record with 44 including three straight against Arizona and Texas Tech to win the NCAA Lubbock Regional and advance to the Tallahassee Supers.

Following the Sam Houston State Bearkats’ final loss to the Florida State Seminoles in the Super Regionals, Deggs told his personal story and philosophy during the post-game press conference. A clip of the press conference went viral as it provided inspiration to hundreds of thousands throughout the world. The entire 9:53 video is well-worth viewing, which can be seen on this link via the Tallahassee Democrat:

The squad finished nationally ranked in all six polls, checking in at No. 14 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 16 (NCBWA), No. 18 (D1 Baseball), No. 19 (USA Today Coaches), No. 20 (Baseball America) and No. 22 (Perfect Game).

While coming two wins from advancing to the NCAA College World Series, Sam Houston pitching recorded a program-record 522 strikeouts while offensively, the team set a new team best with 28 triples.

The 2017 Bearkats won 12 of 13 games down the stretch entering the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional. Sam Houston began the season with its first-ever top-25 ranking at No. 23 and reached its highest ranking in team lore following the Lubbock Regional at No. 13.

The Sam Houston State Bearkats captured the Southland Conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, running off four-straight victories at the league tournament at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field. The team hit .356 (48 of 135) at the event, averaging 9.25 runs per game while the pitching staff posted a 1.32 ERA, limiting opponents to a .167 average.

The Southland Conference Tournament title was the second in as many years and marked the third-consecutive trip to the championship game. Sam Houston was equally as dominant in the midweek, recording six-straight wins — the most consecutive since 2000 — including three victories against Houston, and one each against Baylor, Dallas Baptist and Texas A&M. The six wins were among 13 total victories against teams that competed in an NCAA Regional in 2017.

Since the end of last season, Deggs has given dozens of presentations throughout the country as a motivational speaker. He also has written a book, 15 to 28: A Story of God’s Love, Power and Redemption, and released a six-part, nearly three-hour video system entitled The Pack Video System. Both of those can be obtained by clicking here:

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).