Jeff Kaier: Leading Danes Baseball to Champions
The following Q&A is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with UAlbany Baseball’s Associate Head Coach, Jeff Kaier ahead of the 2019 season, his eighth as an assistant coach and second in his current position. In this interview, we discuss what motivates him, how he treats his players individually, how his 2007 NCAA Tournament appearance as a player made an everlasting impact on him and more.
What is your first baseball memory?
Probably when I was five or six years old when I started playing tee-ball. Before, it was organized with my family, with my dad—who would play catch with me, and we would hit off the tee. And throughout my whole life, my dad and I would hit all the time.
What has your father taught you? Anything specific to just get you through life?
Yeah, absolutely. I think my first memories of coaching were from him. And I think just understanding the game and understanding how to deal with people—he’s a general manager of a business and has to deal with people all the time—he’s really taught me a lot more than just baseball. In this profession, that’s big. When I was playing, our better teams were those that had good team chemistry. I was able to deal with a lot of different people with different personalities, and kind of keep everybody together on the same path.
And how do you keep so many groups of people together to win a championship?
It’s a difficult thing to do and we’re in the process of doing it now. We have 11 new players on our roster, and there’s 11 different stories that go with each of those players. We need 35 guys pulling the rope the same way to accomplish our goals—and if one guy’s not, that’s hurting the rest of the team.
What motivates you on a daily basis?
Well, I’m lucky enough to be in a profession that I really, really love. Seeing [my players] succeed in all areas—not just baseball—but after college. That motivates me. And also the motivation from a baseball standpoint is to get back to a regional. I was lucky enough to be in one in 2007. I think we’ve been close the past couple years. And we’re hoping this is the year—it’s something that the players can take with them and have with them for the rest of their life. That’ll keep you motivated on a daily basis.
What was it like to be a part of a team that went so far in UAlbany history?
When you see your name pop up on ESPN2, where you’re going to a regional, it’s something you never forget. When I look back at it now—and that’s what I tell our guys—I look back at it now, it’s just something I’ll never forget and it’s tough to understand when you’re that age, and that’s what we try to get our guys to understand, like at the end of all of this, this is what everybody is working for. And if we can get here, it’s something that you can take with you for the rest of your life and you’ll never forget.
Since baseball is such a big part of your life, and you have a [communication] degree, what else would you picture yourself doing if it wasn’t in the sport of baseball?
It’s funny you ask that. I’m always listening to sports talk radio, and that’s something with a communication degree that I’d be really interested in. Something in that field is very interesting to me just being able to talk sports.
If you had to tell yourself one thing to your younger coach-version of yourself, what would you tell yourself to get you to the point you are at now and to grow further?
Maybe when I first started, I was more like ‘This is more of the way we need to do it,’ but over time, it’s kind of evolved into understanding everyone’s personality, and that’s what I would say is just getting to know each guy, staying in contact with them once they’ve committed to the school and learning their background. There’s endless things, and getting to know them really makes them respond. That’s what I think is important and what I would say to myself back then to this point now that I think has helped in the evolution of my coaching career.