Oswalt joins SA Vols as pitching coach

Roy Oswalt
SDN staff

It was a major win for Starkville Academy baseball and its players when former Mississippi State All-Southeastern Conference shortstop Thomas Berkery took the job with the Volunteers just a few weeks ago.

As exciting as that was for the players, they’re getting a double shot of excitement in the fall. Berkery confirmed to the Starkville Daily News that he’s added another wealth of knowledge to his staff in the form of former Major League pitcher and three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt as the team’s pitching coach.

Berkery didn’t know how responsive Oswalt would be to the idea initially but was surprised to find out that the baseball lover jumped at the idea of it.

“When Roy and I first talked, I kind of laid it out that whatever he could do would be a bonus for me," Berkery said. "He seems to be all out for it. It’s going to be great for me to have two sets of eyes on game situations and if I’m focused on the hitters, he can help me out.”

The biggest asset to both of the two coaches’ expertise comes from years in the game, of course. However, Berkery believes what will help them the most in this current avenue are the years they’ve spent after their life in baseball.

Berkery has taught hitting lessons over the last few years and also spent time coaching his son’s Little League games. Oswalt has also worked with his girls preparing them for softball at Starkville Academy. Those moments have been invaluable, Berkery said.

“What I really like about the dynamic between Roy and I is that we’ve both been around the game since we’ve retired,” Berkery said. “My son is 9 and I’ve coached him. I’m giving him the same information that I’m going to give my players and Roy has worked with his daughters as well. We’re going to be prepared to teach the game how these players need to be taught.”

Oswalt grew up in Weir, just down the road in Choctaw County. The last few years have been in Starkville where he and his family have settled and his children attend Starkville Academy. Prior to retirement from baseball, Oswalt enjoyed a highly-decorated career.

The Weir High School standout had to go to junior college at Holmes and had plans to join Mississippi State’s program before signing his major league contract in 1997. Oswalt’s MLB career began with the Houston Astros in 2001 and he stayed with the club until 2010.

In 10 years with the Astros, Oswalt was an All-Star three times, the National League leader in wins in 2004, earned run average in 2006 and the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2005. He finished his career with a run through Philadelphia, the Texas Rangers and Colorado before retiring from the MLB in 2013.

With all of those accolades, Berkery said it would be impossible not be excited for what’s ahead for his program. He certainly couldn’t hide his emotions on the subject.

“This doesn’t happen that you get a guy like Roy Oswalt to coach your team,” Berkery said. “This is huge for Starkville and we’ve got some guys coming up that need the knowledge and the pitching to help them become better players. He’s going to be teaching these kids at Starkville Academy what Nolan Ryan taught him. That’s incredible.”