Grafton earns promotion to top baseball assistant

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
by Wes Bloomquist ||

TYLER – UT Tyler head baseball coach Chris Bertrand has announced the promotion of Erik Grafton to the position of full-time assistant coach for the Patriots who won the 2015 American Southwest Conference Championship and advanced to their fifth NCAA Division III tournament appearance.

Grafton has worked on Bertrand’s coaching staff for three seasons and has earned a promotion after each season. Along with Grafton’s advancement, Bertrand has announced the addition of Cade Bowen, Derek Hassell and Garrett Nelson and the return of Wade Pope and Colby Allen.  Grafton will serve as the program’s recruiting coordinator, strength and conditioning coach and outfield coach. On game days, Grafton will be the third base coach.

“I cannot think of someone more deserving of an opportunity than Erik is for this one,” Bertrand said. “He has truly earned this in every way. He is a tireless and selfless worker, and he is a fiercely loyal man. I am proud to call him a friend and colleague, and I know that our players feel the same way, because Erik’s work has earned their respect as well. He has been an instrumental part of our success, and we are confident that it will continue. I look forward to the continuous building of Patriots Baseball with Erik by our side.”

Grafton, a graduate of Hendrix College, lettered three years for the Warriors as a catcher and an infielder. In 2007, he was named to the All-Academic Team in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. In 2011, Grafton finished his Master's degree at the University of Central Arkansas and was a volunteer assistant with the UCA Baseball team.

Prior to UT Tyler, Grafton was an assistant coach with the Conway High School baseball team in Arkansas and a private baseball and softball instructor in Martin, Tennessee.

Bowen joins the program as an assistant coach and will serve as the program’s pitching coach. He comes to UT Tyler after two years on the LSU-Shreveport coaching staff and after pitching for Bertrand and the Pilots in 2011. As a senior, Bowen made 25 appearances and posted a 2.12 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings of work.

“I am extremely excited to have Cade join our staff,” Bertrand said. “I think he is a great fit for our group.  I have long admired his work ethic, his passion for the game, and his fierce competitiveness.  In speaking with him about this opportunity, it became clear that he had a genuine desire to make an investment in our program, and I am glad that he has found a home with us. Our familiarity with each other should make for a fun transition, and I am excited to work with him on this side of the business.”

Hassell will serve as a volunteer assistant this year and will work with infielders and hitters. Hassell has previous collegiate coaching experience as a head coach at Carroll University and as an assistant at TCU, Charleston Southern and Furman. Hassell played for Carroll where he established a program record for most hits in a season while batting .415 in his senior campaign. During his senior season he tied an NCAA DIII record by reaching base in 19 consecutive at bats without recording an out. He is the husband of UT Tyler women’s basketball coach Kendra Hassell.

Nelson joins the baseball coaching staff as student assistant after a four-year playing career for the Patriots. Nelson, who had six home runs, seven doubles and 30 RBI during his senior season, will work with hitters and infielders, as well as assist with sports field maintenance. A Huntsville native, is a kinesiology major at UT Tyler and hit one of biggest home runs in UT Tyler history in 2015 when he connected for a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to lift the Patriots to a 6-5 win in the ASC tournament.

Pope (Sports Field Maintenance and Assistant Baseball Coach) and Allen (Student Assistant Coach) also return in their same roles this season. The Patriots went 34-12 throughout the 2015 season, including posting a 24-6 conference record and then winning the conference tournament title. Following the season, Bertrand, Grafton, Allen and Pope were named the ASC Coaching Staff of the Year. UT Tyler has won the conference championship in two of three seasons under Bertrand and his coaching staff.