Assistant coach Billy Gernon joined the Spartan staff in July 2008 after serving as head coach at IPFW for nine seasons. Gernon left the program as the winningest coach in Mastodon history. As the Spartans' first-base coach, his primary responsibilities include working with the outfielders, coordinating MSU's base-running program and assisting the hitters.
"Billy works with our outfielders and coordinates our base running and bunting which have become two extremely important aspects of our offensive system," said coach Boss. "He is extremely detail oriented and approaches coaching the game with a passion that is unparalleled. Billy's head coaching experience at the Division I level has been a tremendous asset to me and his ability to relate to and interact with players makes him extremely effective in his role."
In his first year with the Spartans, Gernon's aggressive style helped the Spartans steal 71 bases, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten and sixth on the MSU single-season list. Several players, including Jonathan Roof, Eli Boike and Jeff Holm, all stole at least seven more bases in 2009 than they had the prior season. MSU's .967 fielding percentage also ranked in the top half of the conference. Gernon's tutelage also helped several players elevate their level of play during the 2009 summer ball season, including Boike who captured Cal Ripken League MVP honors.
Gernon had the challenge of coaching IPFW in its transition from an NCAA Division II team to an NCAA Division I independent to its entry in the Summit League in 2008. He averaged just under 20 wins per season as the head coach, including three straight 20-win campaigns from 2004-06. In 2005, IPFW ranked 28th in the nation in batting (.315) and ninth in stolen bases (113).
"Billy was the head coach at IPFW for nine years and worked tirelessly to build that program from NCAA Division II, to an NCAA Division I independent, to now a fixture in the Summit League," said Boss. "The job that Billy did at IPFW is extraordinary given the limited resources he had to work with. He is also a tremendous recruiter and an outstanding judge of talent. His head coaching experience will prove invaluable as we look to build the Michigan State program into a consistent contender for the Big Ten title."
Highly regarded for the academic success of his program, his teams maintained over a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average in his nine years and in the 2007 fall semester, the team posted a 3.25 GPA, which was the highest among all male programs and highest in program history. In 2007, shortstop Chris Venvertloh was named the Student of the Year from the Communication and Athletic Department for graduating with a 4.0 GPA, while Zach Wilson, who now works in the front office as Manager of Scouting for the Colorado Rockies, received the prestigious Doc Skelton Award for his academic excellence and community service. Under Gernon, the Mastodon program was also recognized for its involvement in the Fort Wayne community, as the team helped Habit for Humanity and the United Way Big Brothers Program.
Gernon has had five of his own players offered professional contracts while working with over 20 in his coaching career. He tutored the highest draft pick in IPFW history, shortstop Ryan Steinbach, who was selected in the 20th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Before being named the head coach at IPFW, Gernon was the pitching coach for the Mastodons for two years (1996-97).
Gernon's first coaching position arrived at Indiana, where he was a student assistant coach in 1995-96 for former IU Coach Bob Morgan. Gernon also played for Morgan for one season in 1990 and served as the team's closer. As a coach, Gernon and the Hoosiers claimed the 1996 Big Ten tournament title and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers had five players offered professional contracts.
The head coach of the Lexington Dixie in the summer of 1996, Gernon's squad won the regional tournament and three players went on to sign professional contracts.
Gernon began his playing career at Indiana University Southeast, where he played three years (1986-88) and earned team MVP honors as a sophomore.
Gernon's respect in the coaching community is evident by his speaking and camp experiences. He was the featured speaker at the IHSAA state clinic in 2004 and 2007 and was also invited to be an instructor at the Indiana, Michigan and Notre Dame elite baseball camps.
Gernon earned a bachelor's degree in general studies from Indiana in 1991 and a bachelor's in education from IPFW in 1998. He is married to the former Annie Recker; they have a son Jacob (8) and a daughter Abby (5).
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