KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- The University of Tennessee baseball team has hired San Diego Padres Regional Crosschecker Ash Lawson as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, Head Coach Todd Raleigh announced Friday. Lawson will replace Bradley LeCroy who resigned earlier this week to pursue another coaching opportunity.
"While I am disappointed to see Bradley leave, I am extremely excited about adding Ash Lawson to our staff," Raleigh said. "Coach LeCroy did an absolutely fantastic job while he was here and I truly believe that Ash will step right in and continue to move our program forward. His resume both at the college level and the professional level with the Padres speaks for itself and, as a Tennessean, he certainly understands the unique responsibilities and expectations that come with working at the University of Tennessee."
"Ash will be a tremendous asset to our program from day one. He is very familiar with our current players, as well as our commitments in the 2011 class. I believe this will be a very smooth transition. He did a great job at Tennessee Wesleyan as a head coach, was on the fast track with the Padres and has a great reputation for evaluating talent."
Lawson, who hails from Athens, Tenn., was promoted to regional crosschecker by the Padres in January after serving five years as an area scout covering Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. During that time, he signed over 20 players, including three first-round picks and two supplemental round selections. Lawson was named the San Diego Padres Scout of the Year in 2006.
"The Padres were great to me and there is some remorse in leaving, but, like I told our assistant general manager last night, through all my years in professional baseball, the only place that I ever considered leaving for was the University of Tennessee," Lawson said. "Obviously, when Coach Raleigh called me I was excited, happy and honored to even be considered for this job.
"I've always thought this was a goldmine and I think the opportunity to win at Tennessee is unbelievable. You are wearing your state's name across your chest. What kid doesn't want to play at Tennessee? I look at this as a challenge, but my years in professional baseball have shown me what it takes to play in the SEC and what it takes to play in the big leagues. Now it's my job to find those kids and convince them to come play at Tennessee."
Prior to joining the Padres, Lawson was the head coach at Tennessee Wesleyan College from 1999-2004. He led the Bulldogs to three of the best seasons in school history, setting school records for wins in 2002 (38-20), 2003 (41-10) and 2004 (42-16) and winning the Appalachian Athletic Conference title in those three years. Lawson was also named the conference and region coach of the year in 2003.
In 1999, Lawson served as the interim head coach at Bluefield College where he piloted the Ramblin' Rams to the most wins in school history (29), as well as the program's first conference tournament championship and initial appearance in a regional tournament.
Lawson graduated in 1996 from Tennessee Wesleyan. He has also spent time as a volunteer assistant at Elon (1996-98) and has extensive experience in summer collegiate leagues, having served as an assistant coach on teams in the Coastal Plains League, Valley League and Arizona Summer Collegiate League.
Lawson takes over for LeCroy and will assume his responsibilities as recruiting coordinator and infielder's coach. He will also implement a baserunning program and assist Raleigh with hitting.
"This decision was definitely a bittersweet one," LeCroy said. "While I am excited about returning to a place that my wife and I both consider to be home, it is extremely difficult for me to leave Knoxville and the University of Tennessee. I can't thank Coach Raleigh enough for believing in me over the past five years at both Western Carolina and UT and providing me with the opportunity to grow as a coach. I have no doubts that Coach Raleigh, Coach Lawson, Coach Beverlin and the rest of his staff will return Tennessee to the level at which it deserves to be."
Prior to his time in Knoxville, LeCroy worked with Raleigh for two years as an assistant coach at Western Carolina from 2006-07. He also served as a volunteer assistant coach at Clemson, his alma mater, from 2003-05. LeCroy was a four-year letterwinner with the Tigers, helping the squad to four NCAA appearances, including a berth in the 2000 College World Series.
"Bradley and I worked together for several years and he will definitely be missed," Raleigh said. "He was a tireless worker, tremendous coach and a great person. We will miss both him and his wife Meredith as they leave our family."