Asked about becoming the first African-American coach in the University of Memphis Tigers baseball history, Kerrick Jackson’s eyes began to fill with tears.
The show of emotion came during a news conference June 8.
“The fact that we are in 2022, and are still talking about firsts, and that I am that first, it really means a lot,” Jackson said.
The hire makes Jackson the third African-American baseball coach in Division 1 baseball outside of the historically Black colleges and universities. The other coaches are Elton Pollock at Presbyterian College and Edwin Thompson at Georgetown University.
Jackson’s arrival to the University of Memphis coincides with the retirement of longtime baseball coach Daron Schoenrock, who stepped down after 18 seasons.
In addition, the University of Memphis now features three Black coaches among their primary sports, with Katrina Merriweather and Penny Hardaway spearheading the women’s and men’s programs, respectively.
Prior to being chosen by Memphis Athletic Director Laird Veatch and associate athletic director Blair DeBord to succeed Schoenrock, Jackson served as the president of the Major League Baseball Draft League.
In addition, he coached Southern University from 2018-2020, guiding them to a SWAC championship in 2020.
As a former baseball agent and someone who has been in the coaching ranks for more than 20 years, Jackson’s credentials made him a name that could not be overlooked.
“As we were in the process of looking for our new head coach, one name that we kept hearing was Kerrick Jackson,” Veatch said during the news conference. “When we talked with him, it was obvious that he went from being one of the candidates to being the candidate for this position.”
Jackson’s familiarity with the Memphis area appealed to Veatch and DeBord because he scouted the area while associated with the Washington Nationals organization.
Jackson also visited the Bluff City while coaching at Southern University in 2019.
He told his wife he saw the potential of U of M baseball becoming a dynasty in the making.
FedEx Park, the home stadium for Memphis baseball, has received more than $3.5 million worth of renovations. Jackson expects his team to embrace the expectations that come with such an investment.
He has spoken with members of the Tigers baseball squad, and it’s abundantly clear that only their best efforts will be accepted by him.
“The goal is Omaha,” Jackson said, referring to the venue where the top eight teams in college baseball convene for the College World Series.
“If someone does not think that it is something that can be done, he shouldn’t be here. Plain and simple.”
Omaha seems a long shot for the Tigers in their current state, as the team last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2007.
But Jackson remains unfazed by the challenges associated with building up a baseball program at Memphis.
“This is a place I think can win, and win big,” he said. “You’re going to get the best out of these players, on and off the field.”