Sunshine has appointed last season’s import Jared Van Hoon as player-coach for its return to the Baseball Victoria summer league division 1.
Van Hoon replaces Grant Weir, who guided the Eagles to last year’s division 2 premiership.
“He does have pretty big shoes to fill,” Eagles director of baseball Marc McKenner said.
“Grant Weir is a legend in Australian baseball, so he’s a tough guy to replace, but I think Jared will do a great job.”
Van Hoon was a revelation for Sunshine last year. The 26-year-old American was the ace of the best pitching roster in the division and won the league’s pitching award.
“As a player, he did an outstanding job last year,” McKenner said. “A guy of that calibre is a massive advantage to us to have him back.
“I’ve gone through the rigours of finding imports for the club for the last few years … and usually the imports in their second season are even better. That’s a massive plus for us to get him back, just to have him as a player.”
Van Hoon offers so much more than what you see inside the diamond. He bought into the club’s culture, worked hard around the club and was a leader on and off the field. He had already coached high school and junior college in the US, so the Eagles had no hesitation appointing him as their coach for their move back to the top flight.
“At our presentation night last year, he said he feels like a Sunshine guy,” McKenner said. “He has an idea of where we’re at and what he can bring to the table.”
The Eagles also have a new assistant coach in Jordan Young and his brother Jeremy will be pitching coach. Their dad, Gavin, will work closely with Van Hoon as the bench coach.
The Youngs have arrived to Barclay Reserve after a stint with Waverley in the top division.
After winning their first senior flag in 13 years, Sunshine hopes to establish itself among the elite clubs of Victorian baseball.
The Eagles last season in division 1 was a blink-and-you-miss-it affair, one they are keen to avoid this time around.
“Two years ago, we finished on top of division 2, then we went up to division 1 and came straight back down again,” McKenner said.
“This year, the focus has been figuring out a way to stay in division 1, not yo-yo up and down again because that’s heartbreaking.”