“Coach, Former Player Continues Legacy At UT”

For anyone who has ever met Joe Urso, the word ‘championship’ probably comes to mind.

Not many people can say they have won championships at three different levels.

Urso has captured a high school state championship, three collegiate national championships (both playing and managing) and one minor league championship.

In 1988, Urso’s senior year at Plant High School, they took the state championship and Urso was’ twice named first-team all-area, all-county, all-conference and second-team all-state during his high school career.

Urso then continued his personal winning tradition at UT.

Playing four years of varsity baseball. Starting his freshman year, the Tampa native became the starting second basemen for all four years.

Urso ranks fourth all-time in games played (258).

Among these staggering records, both current and previous, Urso turned in a .377 batting average and stole 11 bases in 15 games against Division I opponents in his senior season.

Upon graduation Urso entered the draft and was picked up in the 49th round by the California Angels.

Although drafted in the late rounds, the winning tradition never faded for the college standout.

When he moved on to minor league baseball, his last year they won the state championship.

He credits Tom Kotchman, his former minor league manager, for the advice.

And through those minor league years, ‘[he is] probably the most influential guy that I’ve been around,’ Urso said. ‘He is the winningest minor league manger in the history of the game.’

He played five years until he saw his name on that devastating board in 1995 telling him that he would not be moving up in the Angels system.

He then opted to step down to A level from AA division to take a player/coach position.
He was the hitting instructor under Kotchman at Boise, Idaho.

Kotchman taught Urso valuable lessons to bring out the best in his players.

‘He has taught me how to treat players, raise their expectations and how to win late in the game,’ Urso said.

After managing at the minor league level for two years, Urso heard the news that UT’s Terry Rupp was leaving for a another coaching job at Maryland.

In his ninth season as the Spartan’s leader, Urso has won 40 or more games in seven of the past eight seasons, including two 50+ win seasons that resulted in back-to-back national championships.

One year they broke the single season win record as they tallied 54 wins.

He also comes in as the winningest coach in UT history with a winning percentage of .767 and a record of 360-109-1.

He has taken his team to the regional tournament all eight seasons, bringing back-to-back national championships to Tampa in 2006 and 2007.

‘Forty wins marks a good year for college baseball,’ Urso said. ‘You get 40 wins and most of the time you’re in the postseason.’

Urso says hitting the 400-win mark would be nice, because it shows he is carrying on UT’s winning tradition.

Always being a family man, soon to start a family of his own, Urso sought and landed the head coaching job at his alma mater, UT.

As if getting the UT head coaching job wasn’t exciting enough, Urso’s wife, Juile was due with their first child.

He was offered the job two days after his son JD was born.

The proud new parents, who met in California, made the cross-country move to Florida.
Back in the Tampa area, Urso reunited with his six siblings.

All of Urso’s older brothers were involved in baseball in some way.

Only one of them played junior college ball. However, his younger brother Sal played AAA ball and also a year in Japan’s professional league.

‘I’ve come from a baseball family, so I think a big part of that family I’ve brought to coaching. These guys [his players] know that [family] is very important to me,’ Urso said.

Kyle Bennett can be reached at minaret.overtime@gmail.com

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