History could come full circle for UNO baseball
June 2nd, 2015
Current University of Nebraska at Omaha Baseball head coach Bob Herold is the winningest coach in Maverick history. As a player, Herold played for a coach who is a big reason why the College World Series is in Omaha.
Omaha, NE – The next game head coach Bob Herold wins as the skipper for UNO will put him in exclusive company.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/virgil-final.mp3]
It will be his 500th career victory, a feat no other coach at UNO has accomplished. As a player in the 60s, Herold transferred to Omaha University from Creighton University where he played for one year.
“At the time Baseball was a pretty well taken care of sport, we travelled well, played most of our games at Rosenblatt Stadium,” Herold said. “It was a good time and lots of good players, I really enjoyed my time.”
Times sure have changed, according to Herold. When he played for OU in the late 60s, the university was then a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), a governing organization for smaller athletic programs. The first head coach in school history was a man named Virgil Yelkin. Yelkin was an all-Big Seven end in the 30s for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and served as an army major during the Korean War at the same time he was coaching Omaha. As coach, he led his squad to five NAIA College World Series finishing second in 1965. Herold said his time as a player under Yelkin earned him a load of experience.
“A lot of accountability, older guys thought highly of Coach Yelkin and I think some of his teams he had some guys come back from the service who played,” Herold said. “There were literally some veteran guys who were running around playing sports here at UNO at the time. It had a little bit of a maturing effect on the rest of us.”
The way Yelkin approached the game and how he expected his players to conduct themselves, mirrored that of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame manager, Connie Mack. That is the same way, Herold said, in which he approaches how his program is run. Herold said Yelkin was a perfectionist – even when it came to how the team dressed.
“You had to wear a black blazer and a respectable shirt underneath it so no matter where we travelled we were wearing black blazers,” Herold said. “At the end of the year as you handed back your gear you had to hand in your black blazer and then you met with Coach Yelkin.”
As Omaha gears up for the 69th College World Series, Herold recalled Yelkin having a hand in getting the CWS moved to the Big O in 1950.
“Virge Yelkin was the guy responsible along with Rod Dedeaux in having the College World Series moved to Omaha,” Herold said. “In fact he was the president of the College World Series the first year, in 1950.”
Yelkin also served as assistant coach for the U.S. team in the 1967 Pan-American Games, the last time the U.S. has won gold.
Herold’s playing career at UNO culminated with being named an NAIA all-American in 1971. He was then drafted by the Kansas City Royals that summer. Herold loved playing shortstop but would fill in where needed, be it first base or outfield. As an unmarried young man, Herold later moved to the Mexican Leagues and also played in Columbia in South America.
“I learned how to speak Spanish, I met people from a different culture, baseball was the tie that bound us together,” Herold said. “Travelling around and meeting new folks, it sure expanded my horizons, as a matter of fact, me being able to speak Spanish allowed me to be able to get a job with the Kansas City Royals as a coach.”
Herold was an assistant coach at UNO under Yelkin in the 70s and he was an assistant at Creighton in the 80s. Herold managed in Rookie and Class A ball for the Kansas City Royals organization from 1987-1998. He was promoted to hitting coach for the Omaha Golden Spikes, the AAA affiliate of the Royals before the 1999 season and during that year the Golden Spikes hit .289 as a team, good for 4th in the Pacific Coast League. Herold coached several players in Class A ball that went on to play in the majors, some with a reasonable amount success. Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Jeremy Affeldt and Jeff Conine to name a few.
He then left pro baseball to run his own program, at his alma mater Division-II UNO, in June 1999. Along with Bob Gates (464-473) and Yelkin (439-196), Herold is one of three coaches in UNO history, to have reached 400 wins.
Herold’s UNO team finished with an overall record of 21-31 this year and in fourth place in the Summit League. The Mavs becomes eligible for postseason play next year, following a four year moratorium after transferring to Division-I from D-II in 2011. Herold hopes his squad can make a push for the CWS. He said it would be bringing UNO full circle, so to speak.
“I hate to sound like a Cubs fan, but wait until next year,” Herold said. “We can’t wait to get out there and show what we’ve got and then jump into the postseason ourselves and make a bunch of noise.”
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