February 2, 2001
Boyish good lucks may sometimes be a detriment. Take Marc Thibeault, for example. The former South Shore Baseball Club member is one of the youngest college head coaches in the country. At the tender age of 24, the second-year head baseball coach for his alma mater, John Carroll, is often mistaken by rival coaches and umpires as the Blue Streaks player he was only three short years ago.
“When I go on the field and don’t know the other coach,” he jokingly explained, “I go over to introduce myself and he asks me where my coach is. My age can work to my advantage because I understand what these kids are going through. I know that our freshmen are pumped up, but also scared because they don’t know what’s going to happen. I played with my seniors. When I was a senior, they were freshmen, and it’s tough trying to explain stuff to them like the importance of curfew.”
A native of Quincy, Marc’s family moved to Hanover when he was in the eighth grade, and he attended B.C. High, where he was a three-time Catholic Conference all-star and two-time team Most Valuable Player as a pitcher/outfielder. Thibeault was a Boston Globe and Patriot Ledger All-Scholastic player his senior year.
Coach Thibeault remembers attending Saturday morning “early bird” clinics for several years between the third and seventh grades at the SSBC in Hingham. He also took extra cuts in the batting cage and used the soccer field area to practice pitching and fielding. “I went to the ‘early bird’ clinics every year it was offered and used the South Shore Baseball Club until my senior year of high school,” Marc said. “I picked-up a lot there, especially at the clinics with Frank Niles. I became better skilled and better understood the fundamentals of baseball, things like the proper grip. I had good hand-eye coordination and also played soccer, football and basketball. But the drills I learned there helped me better understand the fundamentals.
“The same drills I learned at the South Shore Baseball Club I now teach to my players. We don’t get super athletes in Division 3, so the players we have need to develop their skills. I teach them fundamentals that I was taught at SSBC.”
When Marc was a high school sophomore, one of his coaches told him that he wasn’t going to be a pro baseball player and suggested he concentrate on academics. He could have attended more of a “baseball factory” in college than John Carroll, a Div. 3 school in Cleveland, but he wanted to continue the Jesuit school education he received at B.C. High. In retrospect, he’s a college baseball coach today because of that decision. It’s also interesting to note that if Thibeault continues coaching at John Carroll for another four years, he’ll have six years experience coaching college baseball and still only be 28 years old.
On the mound, Marc recorded 107 strikeouts and 12 victories during his John Carroll playing career and at bat, he batted .283, including a senior season in which he batted .355 and knocked in 22 runs. He was the Most Valuable Player for the Blue Streaks as a senior, as well as an all-Ohio Athletic Conference (3rd oldest conference in country) pick and named to the OAC Tournament team.
He served as an assistant coach in 1999 at JCU and succeeded the head coach, Brian Brewer, a year later. In his first season at the helm, the club posted a 16-25-1 record last year, but, significantly, JCU earned a berth in the OAC tournament for only the fourth time in the program’s history.
Coach Thibeault agrees that baseball has changed over the years and feels that there’s an increased need for clubs like SSBC. In fact, Marc gives lessons during the off season at a club similar to SSBC in Twinsburg, Ohio. “It’s different today in high school,” he remarked. “It wasn’t uncommon to see two sport players not too long ago. Now, you rarely see a three-sport player and very few two-sport players. Baseball is played year round and the guys on my team are more like that. Fall baseball is on the rise and there’s a need for clubs like SSBC, especially in climates like New England and here. In Northeast Ohio, snow’s on the ground November 1 and there’s a need for indoor places so players can develop their skills. Ohio will always be a football state and kids here grow-up dreaming about beating Michigan. But there’s equally talented baseball players today in Ohio.”
SSBC president/director Frank Niles Jr. recently met Coach Thibeault at a coaching convention in Tennessee. They hadn’t seen each other for a few years, but when March said hello to Frank, Thibeault was surprised to head his old instructor say, “You’re the left-handed thrower who bats right.” “Marc came to SSBC for a few years before and during his B.C. High days,” Frank noted. “He came around rather steadily whether he was a member or not. He’s a good kid and it’s very rewarding for us to know that somebody we taught when he was a little kid is now a college baseball coach.”
Even if Marc Thibeault still looks more like a player than a college head coach.