A baseball fanatic who has observed the daily routines of major league players and coaches while throwing batting practice, been the hitting coach for a college team that was ranked 10th in the country and hit a collective .360 and, perhaps more important, helped over 300 area prospects earn college scholarships is the new Director of The Hitting Zone at Rend Lake College and Baseball Coach for the RLC Warriors.
Bob Simpson was appointed to both positions Friday morning during a special meeting of the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees.
As the primary instructor for The Hitting Zone, a dedicated baseball/softball training facility for area youth as well as Warrior and Lady Warrior teams, Simpson will be expected to devote a minimum of 25 hours each week in the facility teaching the game he loves. The rest of his full-time position will be spent marketing a complex which opened last fall.
As Baseball Coach he becomes the eighth person to head a program which has enjoyed considerable success since the inception of Rend Lake College in 1967. It is a stipend position.
Most recently, the Harrisburg native has been a consult for a company that operates several similar facilities in the Western states. His résumé indicates the position he is giving up is that of Director of Operations and Senior Hitting Instructor for Line Drives of Arizona, located in Scottsdale.
Prior to that - surrounding a two-week venture to Major League Scouting School in 2001 - he started Future Swings, Inc. Between 1996 and 2002, he owned and operated Marion-based Future Swings and helped produce 20 All-State baseball players and over 200 all-conference performers.
In fact, with a crowded schedule and large waiting list he was unable to serve, Simpson was a much-needed and willing resource person for college officials in The Hitting Zone planning process. Little did he know then he would someday be employed by the college.
As a birddog scout, he has acted as a contact for head scouts regarding Southern Illinois pro prospects and has attended hundreds of games to track the progress of potential college recruits and pro prospects since 1997. He also has assisted running tryout camps for the Mets, Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies.
The lone Head Coaching tenure on his record came in the summer of 1995 with the Demopolis (AL) Braves, a semiprofessional team comprised of college players from various teams throughout the South.
Both before and after that, he stuck around for a couple of years as an Assistant Coach following graduation from SIC and later at Berry College in Rome, GA. He concentrated on hitting and infield defense in the Juco ranks from 1992-94, where he coached in the Illinois Junior College All-Star Game just four years after having the opportunity to play in it. Three players were drafted and seven others continued their careers at the four-year level during his return home.
At Berry College while completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from 1994-96, he coached hitting (.360 team average one season) and the outfield and was in charge of recruiting. Five of his signees the first year were from Southern Illinois; one of those recruits eventually was named All-America and Conference "Player of the Year," while three made all-conference.
Simpson’s career literally grew from the ground-level up . . . After graduating from SIC where he was a two-time All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference selection and All-Region XXIV pick, he spent parts of 1990 and ’91 as a member of the grounds crew for the Arkansas Travelers, the Double-A affiliate for the St. Louis Cardinals. From 1991-94, part of his duties with the Harrisburg Park District was managing batting cages and providing hitting instruction, along with field maintenance.
Even though his forte would appear to be working with hitters, Simpson also knows something about pitching. He was "Most Valuable Pitcher" for Harrisburg High School during a career which resulted in three all-conference nods and a record for stolen bases.
He also threw batting practice to several Cardinal players in 1997-98 and worked with some of the players’ children on their hitting.
References listed by Simpson include ultra-successful HHS Bulldog Coach Jay Thompson, who recently announced his retirement; SIUC Coach Dan Callahan, and four Major League scouts.
He was tabbed for the position "contingent upon a review of any previous employment contract that could affect employment at Rend Lake College."
Simpson was one of 24 candidates to succeed Chris Moddelmog, who spent two years as Head Coach for the Warriors and one as Director of The Hitting Zone. Three were interviewed by President Mark S. Kern, himself the father of three sons who played baseball at the college level and/or professionally, CEO of the RLC Foundation Pat Mitchell and Athletic Director Tim Wills.