BYU baseball coaches definitely work in “eras,” with only four head coaches taking the field over the past 50 years. Each coach leaves the team with a legacy.
Glenn Tuckett (1959–1976) led the Cougars to win 13 division baseball titles and three conference championships and was a Hall of Fame inductee in 1982. Gary Pullins (1977–1999) won more than 900 games and took the Cougars to the NCAA regional tournaments nine times before he retired. Vance Law (2000–2012) brought a major-league atmosphere to the team and won two Mountain West Conference tournament titles for the Cougars.
Now it’s Mike Littlewood’s turn.
Littlewood attended BYU and was a third baseman for the Cougars during the 1985–1988 seasons. There he married his high school sweetheart, Dani, and graduated with a degree in secondary and physical education. In fact, the only thing Littlewood has not done at BYU is play at Miller Park because it was built after he graduated. He was then drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played for the organization for a season.
Littlewood later coached baseball at Alta High School and at Dixie State University. He also officiated NCAA basketball games for 16 years. Now, Littlewood is back in Provo making changes to the baseball program.
“It’s great to be back here after 25 something years,” Littlewood said. “It’s like seeing an old friend.”
In his first season as head coach, Littlewood hopes to foster competition within the team to play games despite the lack of team depth.
“My best years in the past have been where … the first team knows there’s someone behind them that’s chasing their position,” he said. “Our role as coaches is to get everybody to compete like that, even though they know they’re going to play.”
Littlewood wants the team to be “hard-nosed” and “intense” but also wants to make sure the players develop their skills appropriately.
“We’re really detailed,” Littlewood said. “Guys know what we expect of them, and if they don’t, our doors are open and they come in and ask us.”
The coaching opportunity is a dream job for Mike Littlewood, who moved with his family from St. George to take the position. His assistant coaches also moved from St. George with their families to coach at BYU.
“If you’re a baseball coach, collegiately, this is where you want to be,” he said. “And then you add the faith part, and that’s just like the icing on the cake for me.”
The spiritual aspect of BYU was key to Littlewood’s accepting the coaching position and was no surprise to his wife.
“He has always been so spiritual,” Dani Littlewood said. “We were very happy in St. George, but he knew it would be a good move, and I just trusted him.
Dani Littlewood says her husband always made time for their family despite his extensive career in athletics.
“He always helped out so much,” she said. “He’s as good of a guy as he seems in every aspect of his life.”
Mike Littlewood’s success in his career and family life has the team excited to compete under his direction.
“He’s a baseball genius,” BYU catcher Dillon Robinson said. “It’s an honor to call him my coach. … He has been successful everywhere.”
Robinson said players look up to coaches like Mike Littlewood because they will help the team be “successful on and off the field.”
Redshirt pitcher Mark Oslund said Mike Littlewood “is going to make BYU something special.”
Mike Littlewood strives to have a personal relationship with his players, and the team notices.
“There hasn’t been a single time that I’ve walked by his door that Coach Littlewood hasn’t said, ‘Hey, what’s up? How are you doing?'” pitcher Adam Miller said. “I feel that the coaches … have a really good relationship with each one of the players.”
Pitcher Daniel Welch also noted a difference in Mike Littlewood’s coaching style.
“I think the biggest difference is Coach Littlewood does an excellent job at identifying the underlying problems and addressing them directly,” Welch said. “It’s a team where any loss is a disappointment and every win is an expectation. I think anything short of a championship would be a little disappointing to us.”
Since the season opener, Mike Littlewood has lead the Cougars to a 9–7 record, including a 9–4 upset against No. 2 LSU and a home-series win against nationally ranked UC Irvine.
“We want to establish an atmosphere where when we walk on the field, we expect to win,” Mike Littlewood said. “If we put out a winning product, everybody’s going to want to be here, and that’s our goal.”