Brett Harker was named Furman’s head baseball coach in July of 2016.
Harker, a Greenville, S.C., native who owns six years of coaching experience — all in the Palmetto State — recently completed his second season as pitching coach at Furman, where he also served as recruiting coordinator for the Paladin program this past year.
He is only the program’s fourth head coach over the past half century but 25th mentor in Furman baseball history, which began in 1891 and spans 116 seasons.
“After an exhilarating three week search, we are proud to announce Brett Harker as our new head baseball coach,” said Buddie. “The deeper into the search I moved, the more clarity I gained that Brett had all of the intangibles I believe will make him the perfect fit for Furman Baseball. His background as a collegiate All-American and professional player, coupled with his great passion for Furman, gave him a leg up on the competition. I have supreme confidence we will see great things from this rising star in the collegiate baseball world.”
“This is an exciting time for my family and for me, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to lead the Furman University baseball program,” said Harker. “We often tell recruits, ‘There is no better time to be a Paladin,’ and I am thrilled to experience that first-hand today. I am excited to make this transition and build on the foundation left by our amazing alumni and the strong nucleus of returning players. I look forward to continuing the tradition of helping produce and recruit some of the top student-athletes in the country and am ready to lead Furman Baseball to new heights.”
In his first season with the Paladins, Harker mentored right-handed pitcher Will Gaddis, who was named to the 2015 Southern Conference All-Freshman Team and this past season garnered SoCon Pitcher of the Year honors after posting a 10-3 record and 3.45 earned run average. An American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-Region honoree, Gaddis this summer became the first Paladin in over a decade to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Harker also worked closely with Jake Crawford, who tied for the team lead with five saves in 2016 and earned both SoCon All-Freshman and SoCon All-Tournament honors, and freshman right-hander Heath Hawkins, who headlined the dramatic improvement registered by Paladin pitching that was credited with fueling a strong second half run despite season ending injuries to a number of starting position players. Over the final 20 games Furman went 14-6 with a 4.11 ERA after posting 15-24 and 6.79 ERA marks in the season’s first 39 contests.
Furman’s improved on-the-field results were aided last year by the addition of outfielder Jabari Richards, the consensus 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, and prospects for a continued rise are present following a 2016 Harker-directed recruiting effort that featured 10 signees, headlined by 6-foot-5 right-hander Austin Wood from Niwot, Colo., shortstop Dillon Love from Statesville, N.C., and 6-foot-4 right-hander Nik Verbeke from Spartanburg Methodist College.
Harker came to Furman after serving as pitching coach at Newberry (S.C.) College in 2014, where he worked with four all-conference performers. Prior to that he coached pitchers and coordinated recruiting at North Greenville (S.C.) University for the 2013 campaign. In the summer of 2013 he served as pitching coach for the Southeast representative in the Big League World Series, helping the Greenville-based team beat Venezuela in an ESPN-televised championship game played in Easley, S.C.
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Greenville High School in 2011 and also worked as an instructor/16U travel baseball team manager at the West End Baseball Academy from 2011-13.
Harker starred on the mound at nearby prep powerhouse Hillcrest High School, claiming all-region, all-state, and MVP honors of the 2002 North Carolina/South Carolina All-Star Game en route to earning a baseball scholarship from the College of Charleston.
In three seasons with the Cougars (2003-05) he twice garnered first team All-Southern Conference accolades as a relief pitcher and as a junior was named SoCon Pitcher of the Year and Louisville Slugger All-America, helping the Cougars to consecutive 47-16 and 48-15 campaigns and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances his sophomore and junior campaigns.
He appeared in 78 games and posted a career record of 14-6 with a 4.08 ERA, setting a school season record with 15 saves and finishing his CofC tenure with a program record 29 saves. In 2014 he was inducted into the College of Charleston’s Wall of Fame.
Following his junior season, Harker was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball Draft. He spent four seasons in the Phillies organization, advancing to Double A before being selected in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft by the Florida Marlins, where he competed in both Double and Triple A. In 2010 he played with the Northern League Schaumburg Flyers before completing his professional career with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association.
In 2011 he began his coaching career at Greenville High School, helping the Raiders post a perfect 10-0 region record and No. 3 ranking Class 3A.
He and his wife, the former Tiffany Stevenson of Simpsonville, have a daughter, Emma, 3.
Full Name: Brett Keaton Harker
Born: July 9, 1984, in Greenville, S.C.
Wife: Tiffany Stevenson of Simpsonville, S.C.
Children: Emma (3)
Hillcrest High School, 2002
College of Charleston, B.A. Communications, 2006
Hillcrest High School, 1999-02
P, Four-year letterman, All-Region, All-South Carolina, South Carolina vs. North Carolina All-Star Game (MVP)
College of Charleston, 2003-05
P, All-Southern Conference (2004 & ‘05), SoCon Pitcher of the Year (2005), Louisville Slugger All-America (2005)
NCAA Tournament (2003 & ‘04)
Career Record: 78 Appearances, 14-6, 4.08 ERA, 29 Saves (1st in CofC history)
Philadelphia Phillies, 2005-08
2005 Major League Draft (Philadelphia, 5th Round, 17th Pick, 157th Overall Selection)
Florida Marlins, 2009
2009 Major League Rule 5 Draft (Florida/New Orleans Zephyrs, 25th Pick, Triple-A Phase)
Schaumburg Flyers (Northern League), 2010
Senadores de San Juan (Puerto Rican Winter League), 2010
Lincoln Saltdogs (American Association), 2011
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT FURMAN HEAD COACH BRETT HARKER...
“Brett Harker is a man of high character and possesses leadership that you want in a head coach. I have known him for many years and believe he is a rising star in the coaching profession. I am extremely excited to see him accomplish great things at Furman University.”
Monte Lee, Head Coach, Clemson University
“Having worked closely with coach Harker over the past two years as my pitching coach, I have seen the positive influence he has had on the pitching staff. And now as the head coach he will have a powerful impact on the whole program.”
Will Gaddis, Furman Pitcher
“Brett commands tremendous respect in the Southern Conference due to his knowledge of the game and the way he goes about his business. He was a first class assistant coach and person and will be just that as a head coach. He will bring tremendous energy to Furman’s baseball program and take it to the next level.”
Bobby Moranda, Head Coach, Western Carolina University
“Coach Harker is someone I have the utmost respect for because of his commitment and loyalty to the players he coaches. He is a tremendous family man who treats his players like his own. He is the ultimate competitor who will find a way to be successful at anything he does.”
Russell Triplett, Head Coach, Newberry College
“As a former player for Coach Harker, I am extremely excited he has been named head coach. Not only does he have a strong vision for Furman Baseball, but he is equipped with the coaching ability to take the program to new heights. His innate ability to connect with players creates an environment of learning and development unlike any other I’ve played in. I could not be more pleased with this news.”
Ted Andrews ‘16, Furman Pitcher
“Coach Harker made me a better person off the field and a better player on it. Without him I wouldn’t have had the chance to begin my professional baseball career, and for that I’m forever grateful. Furman University could not have made a better decision, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future of this program.”
Matt Solter ‘15, Furman Pitcher, Augusta Greenjackets
“As a former Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year, Brett Harker was a coach’s dream. He was a tenacious competitor and always found a way to make his teammates better with his positive energy. As a coach he will be a player’s dream. He will combine an electric personality with high-level communication skills and a passionate work ethic. His enthusiasm for Furman Baseball will be contagious, and the future is bright for the Paladins.”
Scott Foxhall, Pitching Coach, N.C. State University
“First and foremost about Brett is he is a first class coach who represents his program and family as well as anyone. The respect he has gained in the coaching community begins with his high character and the personality to connect with everyone from administrators, to coaching peers, and to players in his program. He has quickly established himself in the coaching profession as one of the best assistants in the region because of his ability to recruit and develop pitchers in his program. We are ecstatic for him to be given the opportunity to lead the Furman program and look forward to having him in our league in his new role.”
Todd Interdonato, Head Coach, Wofford College