Panther Baseball Coach’s Corner

Rick Hitt
Head Baseball Coach

Head Baseball Coach Rick HittRick Hitt began his 26th year as the longest-tenured coach in Panther Baseball history this past August. In May 2022, Hitt was inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. Hitt is currently in two additional Halls of Fame, the Santa Fe College Hall of Fame as a member of the 1985 State Championship and National Tournament Team, and the Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA) Hall of Fame. Hitt began his coaching career 35 years ago as an assistant coach at Sebring High School.

In the past 14 years, Hitt has completed terms as the NJCAA Coaches Association secretary and vice president and served five years as the Association’s president which included six years as a member of the NJCAA National Team staff. Hitt is currently the FCSAA State Baseball Chairperson for Region 8 in Florida and served 16 years on the FCSAA State Baseball Committee. Hitt also serves as the Region 8 Men’s Director for Athletics.

In June 2017 at the American Baseball Coaches Association National meetings in Omaha, Hitt was selected as the fourth vice president of the ABCA, an extremely prestigious honor as he became only the third NJCAA coach in the two-year system to be selected to join the ABCA presidency. At the 2022 Convention and Board of Directors meetings in Chicago, Hitt assumed the reigns of the ABCA Coaches Association presidency. “It was a complete honor to become the ABCA president. It is a tremendous organization with incredible people.”

Hitt is a member of the ABCA Executive Committee, ABCA Board of Directors, and the ABCA Standing Committee, serving coaches of the sport at all levels.
In his tenure as a head coach, Hitt has seen over 188 players move on to four-year school and/or professional baseball. Hitt’s expectations of the players are simple: “Dedicate yourself to being an outstanding young man and representative of SFSC daily, commit to academic accountability and graduation, and play the greatest game in the world as hard as you can play it each day you get the chance. The growth that occurs within this process has the opportunity to stay with you as you venture on in life.”

Hitt and his wife Jayma recently celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary together. They have two daughters, both SFSC graduates: Sydney and Cassady. Both daughters have joined their mother as teachers in the Highlands County School District where Jayma is currently in her 36th year as an elementary educator.

As a pitcher at Santa Fe Community College, Hitt helped the Saints to a third-place finish in the 1985 NJCAA World Series playing for NJCAA and ABCA Hall of Fame coach Harry Tholen. Hitt completed his baseball playing career at St. Thomas University, where he played for former LSU coach and 2014 ABCA Hall of Fame inductee Paul Mainieri.

“I was blessed to have played for two highly respected coaches and outstanding people during my collegiate career,” Hitt said. “It is not often one can say they played for two coaches who are Hall of Famers. I am very grateful for the opportunity they provided me.”

Most recently, Hitt and his wife Jayma were honored to have been selected to serve on the board of the Kim Gose Cancer Research Foundation, established by the Gose family following the passing of Panther fan and friend Kim Gose. The local organization provides funding to families as well as funding for cancer research.

When not at the ballpark, Hitt enjoys spending time at home with his family and pets.

Hitt and his players look forward to the ride in 2024. “It is a great game, and one of the reasons why is the enjoyment of taking the ride with a great group of people around you,” Hitt said. “My hope is our players will embrace that and enjoy the opportunities this season presents.”


Andy Polk
Assistant Coach

Coach Andy Polk enters his fourth season back at South Florida State College but his 13th total. Polk was the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Webber International University from 2017-2020.

At Webber, Coach Polk’s pitching staff has ranked in the top 21 in the NAIA in earned run average (ERA) during each of his first two seasons and ranked in the top 20 in walks per nine innings each year with a top-10 ranking in 2018. Also in 2018, the Warriors’ pitching staff set a new program record for strikeouts with 439.

Polk has coached several All-Conference performers during his time at Webber, including the 2019 Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-American, Zak Spivy. Spivy led the nation both years at Webber in Complete Games and Innings Pitched. Polk’s staff also set numerous school records, including strikeouts (individual and team), wins (individual and team), and walks per game (individual and team).

Before Webber, Coach Polk spent nine years as an assistant coach at South Florida State College. He assisted in all aspects of the program but primarily worked 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 NCAA 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 holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Business Administration with a focus on sports management from Webber International University. He lives in Sebring with his wife Candra, their daughters Lilah June, and Frankie, and their dog Zeus.