Head Coach for the Wilmington Sharks, Russ Burroughs, kicks off his second year with the team. In his first season, Burroughs led the team to 32-22, finishing 5th place overall in the CPL. With an impressive start to his Sharks career, Burroughs already has the highest winning percentage in the team's history. We caught up with Burroughs for a Q&A and learned what a day in the life of a baseball coach looks like, what advice he has for young players, and why this Tennessee native loves the Port City.
Story By Chris Martin, Photographs By Kari Hodges
Tell us a bit about your background.
I'm originally from Nashville, Tennessee, and played college baseball at Lipscomb University. I was lucky enough to play professional baseball for four years in the independent leagues and international baseball. I was a left-handed pitcher and a designated hitter. During the off-season, I'm the Head Baseball Trainer at Nashville Baseball Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. I've been instructing baseball for over 14 years now. I also work with SideArm nation, where we travel across North America, teaching people how to throw SideArm properly.
How did you become head coach of the Wilmington Sharks?
After the 2019 season, I was coaching the Edenton Steamers, who at the time was still in the Coastal Plain League. They had decided that it was in the organization's best interest to switch leagues. The Sharks previous general manager found out and reached out to me about the head coaching vacancy here with the Wilmington Sharks. It was a no-doubter for me. I loved everything the Sharks stood for in an organization. I was hired in the fall of 2019, and I've been here ever since. (It's technically my third year as head coach, but with Covid, this is only my second year actually coaching here).
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up between 6:30, and 7:30 am and go straight to the coffee machine. I'll start checking out our opponent for that night and make a lineup and scouting report. Once that task is completed, I'll head to the gym to get in a lift and do cardio. Then back home for a quick lunch. Early work for our guys starts at 3 pm. We play 6 days a week, so practices are sparse. Early work allows them to get individual things accomplished to become better athletes. We then take batting practice on the field at 4 pm, and the guys have about an hour to hang out in the locker room to relax before the game. The game time is at 7 pm. I wake up the following day and do it all over again. With road games, you've got to consider bus time rides and things like that. We usually will leave anywhere between 11:30-2 depending on where we travel that day.
What is your coaching philosophy?
My coaching philosophy on-field is heavily focused on pitching. I come from a pitching background, and I believe that pitching wins championships. My coaching philosophy off-field is creating relationships with my players. Creating consistency with my players. Letting them know that they can count on me to be in their corner every step of their life, whether baseball-related or something else.
Do you have a vision for the Wilmington Sharks?
I want the organization to be a staple for summer baseball. I fully believe that we can be the top destination for athletes all over the country to come and play here. We've got a great community, surrounded by beaches and a historic downtown – what athletes wouldn't want to come here and spend their summer playing baseball.
What are you looking forward to the most this season?
Creating relationships with my players and learning who they are and what they're about. And coaching these guys to get them to the next level.
How is the team looking?
It is still early in the season, but I am happy with how our pitching staff has been able to keep us in every game so far. Likewise, I am thrilled with how our defense has played. We are still trying to figure out each other's strengths and weaknesses. It usually takes a few weeks to determine what we have and what we don't have. But after the first week of the season, I'm impressed.
What advice do you have for young up-and-coming players?
Just have fun. Play baseball because you love the game, not because someone tells you that you have to. Play as much as you can and just enjoy the game. There's going to come to a point where that love will turn into passion, and once that passion kicks in, you can take your game to the next level.
When you're not coaching, what do you like to do
In my spare time, I enjoy working out, running, hiking, playing the piano, traveling around, and exploring new places with no agenda. Sometimes the soul just needs to explore freely. Favorite places in Wilmington are definitely Wrightsville Beach, Jimmys Bar, and Hell’s Kitchen is my go to spot when I just wanna get away and have a drink. Wake n Bake is my sweet indulgence.
Words to Live By?
“I’ve had a lot of worries in life, most of which never happened," Mark Twain
Three songs on your playlist?
You: Dj Regard, Tate McRae, and Troye Sivan
Catch Russ Burroughs and the Wilmington Sharks in action see the schedule for upcoming games.