Panther Baseball Coaches Corner
Rick Hitt begins his 15th year at SFSC. In 2011 Hitt surpassed the 400 win mark in a 4-3 victory vs State College of Florida. Entering his 25th year of coaching overall, Hitt has had the great fortune of coaching many talented players and outstanding young men.
Hitt and his wife, Jayma, recently celebrated their 22nd anniversary together. Jayma and daughters Sydney, 17, and Cassady, 15, are fixtures at Panther Field every day and are the Panther coach’s biggest fans.
Hitt was recently selected as the NJCAA Coaches Association president. During his tenure, Hitt will represent all NJCAA coaches across the country at various forums, will work to solidify International Baseball competition, sit on the ABCA Executive Committee, serve as the liaison between two-year and four-year coaches, and conduct the NJCAA Executive Committee meetings each year.
“I am honored to have been selected as the Coaches Association president. I look forward to the years ahead and the continued advancement that the community college game can possibly make. Many outstanding people have held this post prior to me, so I look forward to continuing all of their fine work.”
During Hitt’s tenure at South Florida, the Panthers have qualified for the postseason four times, including a region tournament berth in 2004. Over the last 13 years, 110 players have matriculated to four-year institutions or signed professional baseball contracts, a statistic Hitt is proud of. “We all love winning baseball games each year,” he said. “I do not know anyone in this business that doesn’t, but helping players realize their goals in advancement is something very special. I think all of us as coaches take great pride in those statistics as well.”
As a pitcher at Santa Fe Community College, Hitt helped lead the Saints to the NJCAA World Series in 1985 under NJCAA and ABCA Hall of Fame Coach Harry Tholen. Hitt completed his playing career at St. Thomas University, playing for current Louisiana State University head coach Paul Maineri. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports administration in 1988.
Never one to make predictions, Hitt holds true to one approach: “The only guarantee I can make is that we will work as hard as we can to help prepare our players and represent our institution at a high level both on and off the field. I look forward to the challenges that this season will bring.”
Coach Andy Polk begins his fifth year as an assistant coach at South Florida State College. He assists in all aspects of the program but primarily works with the pitching staff. As a former Panther player, he helped lead the team to the 2004 Regional Tournament. That team won a school record 38 games, and in his two years at SFSC, the team won 71 games. He was selected to play in the State All-Star Game in Lakeland during his sophomore year.
Following his SFSC career, Polk moved on to Division II Florida Southern College, where he helped the Moccasins to the Regional Tournament in 2006. He then transferred to NAIA Webber International University, where he finished his playing career and degree. Following his college career, he signed a professional contract with the Charlotte County Redfish of the South Coast League. He finished his professional career as a 2008 Frontier League All-Star for the Chillicothe Paints.
Coach Polk is SFSC’s student life coordinator and recently finished his master’s degree in sports management at Webber International University.
Volunteer Assistant Baseball Coach
Coach Knott begins his first year as the volunteer assistant with the Panthers. A Sebring High School graduate, Knott played college baseball at Edison State College and Stetson University. In 1997, Knott signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks and made his big league debut in 2001. Knott played professional baseball for 10 years.
Knott and Alejandra have been married 11 years, and they have two children, daughter Isabella, 10, and son Jacob, 5.
“I am extremely excited and honored to be joining the SFSC staff and athletic family. I look forward to assisting with the continued success of the program and helping to produce quality young men.”