Enlighten Me: Longtime Delaware baseball head coach’s impact extends beyond the diamond
Univ. of Delaware baseball coach Jim Sherman is in his final season as skipper for the Blue Hens.
Sherman’s career highlights include more than 800 wins - over 600 of which came at UD – as well as multiple conference titles. But there is more to the longtime Blue Hen than what he accomplished on the diamond.
And in this week’s Enlighten Me - UD senior and Delaware Public Media intern Patrick Laporte reports on the legacy of one of the state’s best known baseball coaches.
2022 marks the grand finale in a 36-year coaching career for longtime Delaware Head Coach Jim Sherman. From his high school and college playing days at William Penn and Delaware to coaching stops at Wilmington University and UD, Sherm is no stranger to the first state.
During his time at William Penn, Sherman played football and basketball along with baseball. For Sherm, the idea of competing at the collegiate level went beyond the baseball field to include his passion for football.
“I thought I also wanted to do football and be a dual,” Sherman said. “So that was the game plan initially, to come to Delaware and play both and then I decided once I was here just to be a baseball player.”
With football out of the picture, Sherman would play all four years at Delaware as an outfielder. The four-time all-conference pick helped the Hens make three NCAA regional appearances and earn top 25 rankings in three of those four seasons.
Along with his team’s success, Sherman thrived as a player, garnering attention from major league teams.
After two summers in Cape Cod and his junior year with the Blue Hens, the Chicago Cubs drafted the outfielder in the 20th round of the 1981 draft. The question for Sherm became whether to stay one more year at Delaware or sign the contract.
“I knew that I was ready to go play professional baseball after my junior year in college, but something just said don't do it,” Sherman said. “I was loyal to our team; I was loyal to the university.”
Sherman says his college coach Bob Hannah, the winningest head coach in Delaware baseball history, was another reason to stay in Newark. Sherman credits Hannah for his development on and off the diamond.
“I just thought that he was good for me because I was pretty high strung as a player and he was able to kind of level me off and not have too many highs, not too many lows,” Sherman said. “Being a level player probably ended up being the best thing that happened for me.”
As a senior, Sherman continued to grow as a player, recording 68 RBI’s, which remains eighth best in school history. His performance once again found him eyeing the possibility of a major league career. The Houston Astros selected Sherman in the 14th round of the 1982 draft.
This time, he took the offer and began his effort to reach the major leagues. Sherman bounced around the field throughout his minor league career, playing right field and third base before a knee injury derailed his big league hopes at the Triple-A level.
“I always thought I’d do the college thing for a little while and then go back to professional baseball coaching and here we are 36 years later.”
Sherman’s return home marked a new chapter in his baseball career - an opportunity to coach at Wilmington.
Sherman landed with the Wildcats in 1987 as head coach and the athletic director and began constructing an extensive network of former players that would go on to play or coach the sport of baseball.
Current Wilmington baseball Manager Brain August is one of the many branches of Coach Sherman’s coaching tree. The two met at a WilmU basketball game during Sherman’s last year as the skipper at Wilmington in 1994, as August looked at the possibility of becoming a dual sport athlete out of high school.
Sherman took August under his wing, telling August, the then high school prospect, he planned on serving as an assistant coach at Delaware the following year.
“He said ‘what are you doing here,’ and I said ‘oh I was talking to coach here and he said that maybe I could play both,’” August said. “And he was like ‘the heck you are you’re going to the University of Delaware.’”
After a successful three years at Delaware and multiple years in the Yankees minor league system, August hoped to get into coaching. Sherman once again paid it forward, hiring August as one of his assistants when he became Delaware’s head coach.
“I knew I wanted to coach, and it was a tough transition because you’re still in that player mode and stuff like that and I had to jump into that assistant coaching role really quick,” August said. “But he helped me really get that, he was like ‘listen man you’ve got to make that adjustment of now not being a player, you’re going to be an assistant.’”
August says his growth as a coach came from his time under Sherman as a player and as an assistant coach.
“All the type of characteristics I knew coaching wise and the relationships with the players and all that kind of stuff is what I’ve took from our relationship,” August said. “When he was a coach to me and then when he was a coach to me as a player and then obviously, when I was an assistant under him.”
The same can be said for Sherman’s relationships with his current players and coaches. Delaware Associate Head Coach Dan Hammer serves alongside Sherman on his current staff. The pair’s long history at Delaware stretches back to 1997 when they both served as assistants.
Hammer remembers Sherman’s reaction to the birth of his son and told Hammer to stay back with his family as Delaware played a road series at East Carolina.
“He just knew the importance of it all,” Hammer said. “He’s a tremendous family man, he understands that, all that stuff and how that’s important to people’s lives, he just an all-around genuinely good person.”
Delaware first baseman Joseph Carpenter is in his third year under Sherman. Carpenter says Sherman and his staff were one of the reasons he committed to play in Newark, entrusting him to play in the starting lineup as a freshman.
“He’s had an impact on me just doing the small things the right way on the baseball field, taking care of things off the baseball field, in the classroom and everything else that comes along with taking care of your business here,” Carpenter said.
Sherman is now in his final month at Delaware. For the longtime manager, his coaching career started with a simple answer to John Bednash about filling the coaching vacancy at Wilmington.
“I thought about it and said ‘Yeah, that might be cool, maybe I’ll do the college thing for a while,’” Sherman said. “I always thought I’d do the college thing for a little while and then go back to professional baseball coaching and here we are 36 years later.”