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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

How Nathan Choate is building WSU baseball

Vision starts with returning seniors
WSU+baseball+head+coach+Nathan+Choate+poses+for+a+picture+with+Assoicate+Athletic+Director+Mitch+Straub+and+WSU+President+Kirk+Schulz%2C+June+29%2C+2023+in+Pullman%2C+WA-Courtesy+WSU+Athletics
WSU baseball head coach Nathan Choate poses for a picture with Assoicate Athletic Director Mitch Straub and WSU President Kirk Schulz, June 29, 2023 in Pullman, WA-Courtesy WSU Athletics

The 2024 WSU baseball season will be the first season under the guidance of new head coach Nathan Choate. The seniors on the team came in under one head coach, but Choate and his staff were able to retain a lot of those players, thanks in part to the culture and community that Pullman already set. 

“There’s so many things that are centered around the university [in Pullman]. You get more pride in the university through the community here than anywhere I’ve been,” Choate said. 

Prior to Choate’s hire, Brian Green led the team for three seasons. For current seniors, they came in during Green’s first season. But now, they end their careers with another first-year head coach. 

Although they could enter the transfer portal and look for potentially greener pastures, most chose to stay on the Palouse for one last season. 

“I hopped on a couple of Zoom calls with Choate this summer. His energy and his desire to win and compete. Plus, his toughness just kind of drove me to want to come back,” senior shortstop Kyle Russell said. 

Choate said he came not trying to convince them to stay, but rather, he wanted to bring them into his vision and allow them to make the decision about what would be best for their careers. 

“It’s not their fault as players that they were here for three to four years and their coach left. I’m a big believer that I cannot convince them to stay beyond telling them my vision for the future of the program,” Choate said. “We chose them. They didn’t necessarily choose us. I think there’s some pressure from getting them to buy in.” 

Choate brings a new culture to WSU, including cementing some team rules that even the most tenured players have bought into. One of those rules includes hair. The once long flowing hair of Russell is now a shorter cut. 

“I like it and it’s a good change. I think it’s a good change for me,” Russell said. “It’s a good discipline. It shows a lot of discipline in us as a team.” 

Before taking the job at WSU, Choate spent three and a half seasons as head coach at Loyola Marymount. It was his first head coaching gig and he went 85-103-1 overall, his best season being the 2023 campaign, where the team went 29-24 and won the West Coast Conference. 

While his head coaching experience is relatively short, he served as an assistant at multiple programs for over two decades.

A pitching specialist, Choate made stops as an assistant at Esperanza High School in California, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Grand Canyon, San Diego and Loyola Marymount before his promotion. 

Several of the returning players from 2023 are on the pitching side, notably including Grant Taylor, a senior with 157.1 innings of work as a Coug over three seasons. 

“There are some guys here with some really good stuff and just need to take that next step forward. Part of that is maturity, which is helped by them being a year older,” Choate said. 

Taylor had his lowest ERA at WSU during the 2021 season, a 3.04 ERA over 26.2 innings. While his workload has increased over the past two seasons, his ERA has continued to increase and his walks per nine increased from 2022 to 2023. 

At Loyola Marymount, Choate led a staff that allowed the sixth-lowest walks per nine as a team in the entire nation, a part of the game the Cougs 2024 staff is focusing on adjusting to. 

“Choate is very real. You know, he just spoke the truth. There was no hiding and he sold his vision,” Taylor said. 

While the team lost some offensive pieces, Choate said he is excited to see players step up to fill those roles in the lineup and get them back to where they were producing last season. Choate also keeps his team focused on the defensive side, emphasizing clean play while minimizing errors, just like he emphasized minimizing walks with the pitching staff.

Looking beyond the 2024 season, Choate is leaning on the seniors to accomplish their goal of leaving the program better than they found it. 

“The biggest thing for recruiting is finding the right people and people that want to be here, people that want to be a Coug and people that want the chance to prove themselves,” Choate said. 

Choate said he does not want to take too much credit when it comes to convincing players to stay, rather giving credit to the history of the program. 

“The fact that so many players decided to stay and finish their career here says more about Washington State [University] baseball and the school than me,” Choate said.

Despite Choate giving credit to the program, the players recognize his vision and are playing for him and the rest of the staff.  

“The coaches really care for us. Not just as athletes, they really care about us as people, which is really nice,” Russell said.

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.