Steve Sabins paid plenty of dues in working his way to becoming WVU’s head baseball coach

MORGANTOWN — Steve Sabins could only chuckle at the notion, but there may be no college baseball coach in the country who understands the ins and outs of transferring like he does.

“I was a revolutionary,” Sabins begins to tell his story about playing at four different colleges before the days of the transfer portal.

Most of those colleges require a Google search, but still play a major role in the development of the man who was officially introduced Friday as the 20th head coach of the WVU baseball team.

Just who is Steve Sabins? Well, he is a Texan by birth, having spent most of his life in Austin, where the Longhorns are king of the castle.

He also played football and had a lot of interest in hockey growing up, but baseball was his true love.

And it’s been baseball that has taken him on quite a journey, one that includes cleaning dugouts, painting walls and spending most of his early paychecks on gas money, to being entrusted as Randy Mazey’s chief recruiter and eventual successor.

Yes, Sabins, who is just 37 years old, has spent his time learning, growing and paying his fair share of dues to stay in baseball.

“Baseball means everything to me,” he said. “I just had to stay in the game.”

Sabins’ baseball background begins with two stops at junior colleges in Texas and Florida. He was at Oklahoma State for a season, but was redshirted.

“It didn’t look like it was going to be in my cards to become a starter there, so I transferred again,” he said.

He ended up at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an NAIA school located in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he was named the Sun Conference Player of the Year in 2011 after batting .384, driving in 51 runs and stealing 18 bases as a third baseman.

Great numbers, to be sure, and professional baseball was not in Sabins’ future, but the game itself would not let him go.

“In my fifth year in college, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office and I wanted to be around young people and I wanted to stay around the game,” Sabins said.

His first job was coaching in a summer college baseball league, which paid him a whopping total of $400 for the summer.

“I drove 90 minutes each way, so I lost a ton of money on gas, but I got to be around the game,” he said.

Former Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson then brought him in as a graduate assistant.

“I started by cleaning dugouts and painting walls,” Sabins said. “I was in charge of the work-study program.”

He had begun to work his way up the coaching ranks with the Cowboys when Mazey first brought him to Morgantown.

With each rung of the ladder the Mountaineers climbed under Mazey, including a trip to the school’s first super regional this season, Sabins was a man behind the scenes.

He became the program’s recruiting coordinator in 2018, a promotion that came after he had already developed a passion for recruiting.

“I’m so excited that the expectations are higher and the standards are higher,” Sabins said taking over as WVU’s coach now. “If they weren’t, that would mean I wasn’t a very good recruiting coordinator. To cower in the face of new expectations would be silly. I helped create them.”

He also created roots in Morgantown and West Virginia. His two young children, Charlee and Tucker, were born here. His endless list of recruiting contacts on his cell phone stretch to all points around the state, as well as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and beyond.

The man who was painting walls in Oklahoma is now charged with knocking them down at WVU and expanding the Mountaineers’ level of national relevance in college baseball.

His contract with WVU runs through 2029. He will be paid $400,000 next season — plenty enough for gas money — and he will earn a total of $2.25 million, plus incentives, through the end of the deal.

If WVU qualifies for another NCAA tournament at any point from now until the end of the 2029 season, Sabins’ contract will automatically be extended for the 2030 season.

His coaching tenure begins as the Big 12 becomes a sort of revolving door.

Traditional powers Oklahoma and Texas are off to the SEC, while the Big 12 gains two more traditional powers in Arizona and Arizona State, as well as Utah. The league balloons to 14 teams — Iowa State and Colorado do not sponsor baseball teams — next season.

Sabins and WVU will likely find themselves as an emerging suspect to be one of the baseball leaders of the league. He tackles that with enthusiasm, saying without hesitation he looks forward to building a “badass” coaching staff who recruit “badass” players.

“I’ve got to make sure that bar keeps rising over the course of my tenure here,” Sabins said. “I’m fired up to be a part of it.”

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