INA, Ill. (May 11, 2017) - In his first year at the helm, Rend Lake College Head Baseball Coach, Tyler “T.O.” O’Daniel has found success and is looking forward to leading the Warriors into the postseason.
Sporting a 17-10 conference record (.630), the RLC hardballers are seeded fourth going into postseason play on Friday, leading off their playoff berth with a game against Lincoln Trail at 3 p.m. at John A. Logan College (JALC). In addition to the Warriors and Lincoln Trail, the playoff pod also contains JALC and Southwestern Illinois College.
“I like our chances. We finished fourth in the league, but we have beaten the first, second and third seeds during the regular season, so we have shown that we can win. Our conference is very competitive, and anybody can win on any given day, but we have the team to win the whole thing. It’s just a matter of showing up and taking care of business,” O’Daniel said.
Taking over the team after former head coach Tony Etnier left to pursue a career in finance, O’Daniel has seized the opportunity to put his own fingerprint on a team that he not only played for during his college career, but also helped coach as an assistant for several seasons.
O’Daniel, who played for Etnier, said he learned a lot of important lessons from the former coach.
“Tony expected a lot from us. He was tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just like my dad, he expected nothing but your best, and he knew how to get it out of you. We respected him and played hard, because of his expectations,” he expressed.
“Although it is not directly associated with baseball, one of the most important lessons that I learned from Tony is that a healthy balance is necessary between your family and your job. Tony was able to maintain a successful program, while still being a great father and husband, and I hope that if you ask my wife, she will be able to tell you that I can do the same. I am thankful that I was able to play for Tony, coach beside him, and learn as much as possible from him and his experiences as a coach.”
Taking what he learned from Etnier, O’Daniel is incorporating those lessons into his own strengths of patience, competitiveness and love of player development.
He said he is guided by his father’s mantra of, “never expect perfection, but demand excellence.”
His new role also allows O’Daniel to utilize his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, and experience from his former position with the team as the Strength and Conditioning coach, to mold incoming Warriors into great athletes.
“I love to see guys come in as raw, fundamental high school graduates, then get them to work extremely hard on the field and in the weight room, and leave Rend Lake a completely transformed athlete. We pride ourselves on player development and maximizing the potential of these players, I am not doing my job if I can’t help these guys grow, not only as players, but as young men that will be moving on and representing our program at four-year institutions and beyond. Every year we move guys on to four-year universities / colleges and it is simply because our expectations are high and our players are required to be respectful young men, get it done in the classroom, put in work in the weight room, and get it done on the field,” he said.
Graduating RLC with his associate degree and then transferring to play for the University of Indianapolis, O’Daniel had plenty of success on the diamond as a player.
He got his start in Warrior red when he came to Ina on a baseball scholarship after graduating from Marshall County High School in Calvert City, Ky., in 2008.
As a player, O’Daniel was forced to redshirt his freshman year after hip reconstruction. But, he battled back to become an everyday starter at third base during his sophomore season. He still holds the Rend Lake College single-season hit-by-pitch record with 25. O’Daniel’s 2011 season batting average of .386 landed him 11th all-time for single-season batting average, while his career average of .369 puts him in the top 10 RLC hitters.
Following RLC, O’Daniel played for the University of Indianapolis and had some major success at that level, leading the 2012 Greyhounds in hits, SAC hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, RBI's, SLG, and HBP. He was named First Team All-GLV, Second Team Daktronics All-Midwest Region, NCBWA Midwest Region First Team, ABCA All-Midwest Region Second Team and was named to the 2012 Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team.
In 2013, O'Daniel was named to the Tino Martinez NCAA Division 2 Player of the Year Watch List and named pre-season All-American. He led the Greyhounds to a 46-16 record, 2013 GLVC and Regional Championship. He led the University of Indianapolis in hits, doubles, home runs, HBP, total bases and SLG. O'Daniel finished his playing career being named First Team All-GLVC East Division, ABCA/Rawlings First Team All-Midwest Region, NCBWA First Team All-Midwest Region, Daktronics First Team All-Midwest Region, NCBWA Honorable Mention All-America, and Capital One Academic All-District 4 First Team.
He returned to RLC in 2014, serving as the Rec Director and the Conditioning Coach for all Rend Lake College athletic programs. O'Daniel also been an assistant baseball coach for the Warriors since the 2014-2015 season.
“I hope that my players enjoy playing for me as much as I enjoy coaching. I expect a lot out of my players, because I put a lot of time and effort into them and the program. Being able to give players an opportunity to continue their baseball careers, and then helping them to make the most of that opportunity, is the most rewarding part of coaching,” O’Daniel said.