New Creighton assistant baseball coach Spencer Allen hit the ground running.
Allen’s hiring became official on Friday. By Sunday, Allen was showing his first recruit around TD Ameritrade Park, where the Bluejays play their home games.
Did he get a commitment?
“No,” Allen said, then added with a smile, “but we’re working on it.”
The 34-year-old Allen returns to Creighton, where he coached in 2005 and ’06, after spending the past three seasons at Washington State. He had been the Cougars’ hitting coach and recruiting coordinator.
After learning last month that he would have two openings on his staff with the departure of Rob Smith and Craig Moore to Ohio University, Creighton coach Ed Servais wasted no time in contacting Allen.
“He was my first call,” Servais said. “I was very impressed with what Spence did back in ’05-’06. I liked how he developed our players. Back then, he worked with our catchers and hitters.
“I thought we needed a little injection into our offense, and I feel Spence will be able to do that. And I felt he could give us a nice positive in our recruiting as well. He was a good recruiter with us before, and I know he’ll be better now.”
Allen, who will assume the duties as the Bluejays’ recruiting coordinator, has a different opinion of his recruiting skills his first time around at Creighton.
“I was a young coach then and I probably didn’t totally understand recruiting,” Allen said. “I think my experience as a scout really has helped me on the evaluation piece. Then, being in the Pac-12, there’s definitely a bit cut-throat.
“That has helped me understand what it takes to get the top athletes and top prospects.”
Allen left Creighton after the 2006 season to become a scout with the Detroit Tigers’ organization. He spent one season with the Tigers before returning to collegiate coaching at Purdue, where he spent two seasons before moving on to Washington State in 2010.
It didn’t surprise Servais that Allen spent just one year scouting. In fact, he remembers half-jokingly telling the personable Allen when he left Creighton that he would find himself back in the coaching business.
“In scouting, you spend a lot of time in a car by yourself traveling to watch a ballgame,” Servais said. “In my opinion, I felt Spencer was better suited for the daily hands-on relationships that come with working with college players.
“I didn’t know how long it was going to take him, but I knew he would be back in the college game. I never did tell him I told you so when he came back, but it’s better for the college game. We need young coaches like Spencer Allen in the college game.”
Allen hopes to use the recruiting contacts he’s made, both at Purdue and Washington State, to broaden Creighton’s talent base. He agrees with Servais that the Bluejays need to become more athletic now that they are playing at TD Ameritrade, a spacious ballpark that grudgingly yields home runs.
He wasn’t surprised that Arizona won the national championship last month in Omaha.
“They are the model we have to follow,” Allen said. “They have good athletes. They stay flat to the ball. They might not hit a lot of home runs, but they can run the bases well. No doubt, we have to increase the athleticism with our recruits.”
His familiarity with Creighton provides him with a solid base in trying to stretch the school’s recruiting base.
“Creighton is a niche school. Kids want to come here for the education, they want to come here to play in this stadium, they’re going to want to come here to play in our league,” Allen said. “Does it make more sense to start our recruiting in the Midwest? Sure.
“But I hope to get a kid every couple of years from the Northwest or from Indiana or from Canada, where I spent some time. And we’re going to utilize the College World Series and the tournaments that are around here during that time. The kids are already here. We’re going to get them on campus a little bit more.”
Once Creighton can get players on campus as student-athletes, Servais said, Allen can put to use another of his skills.
“When it was announced several days ago, several of our players from the ’05 and ’06 teams contacted Spencer telling him that they’re glad he’s back in the program,” Servais said. “He had a tremendous relationship with the players the first time.
“He’ll develop that again. Players trust him and believe that he can make them better. He has a way to break things down to adapt to each individual. His biggest strength is his ability to connect to young people.”
At Washington State, Allen coached about five hours from where he grew up in Olympia, Wash. Yet, he said his return to Creighton feels like he’s coming home.
He played from 1999 to 2001 at Iowa State. After graduation, he spent two seasons as a scout with the Kansas City Royals and one as a volunteer coach at Iowa before moving to Creighton in 2005.
“My mom thought I was crazy when I first came out here,” Allen said, chuckling. “To be honest with you, I love my family, but I really consider the Midwest home. This is where I grew up as a man, where I went through some good days and some bad days.
“I like the Midwest. I like the cities — Omaha, Minneapolis, Chicago — and the small ones in between. This is a good place to be from.”
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