Embarking on his 16th season overall and 10th as head baseball coach in 2019-20, Mike Diaz is no stranger to leading Centenary College to success.
Overseeing the baseball program upon its move to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference for the 2013 season, Diaz has guided the Gents to a stellar 81-29 (.736) conference mark and the SCAC Regular Season Championship in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. In 2017, the Gents made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, becoming only the third Centenary athletics team (and the first in more than a decade) to reach NCAA postseason play.
In nine seasons with Centenary baseball, Diaz is 210-161-1 overall (.566 winning percentage). He won his 200th game as head coach at Centenary on March 9, 2019 at Redlands, a 5-3 win.
Player accolades under Diaz's guidance the past nine seasons include four MLB Draftees, an SCAC Freshman of the Year from 2013-2015, an SCAC Player of the Year in 2013 and 2017, an SCAC Pitcher of the Year in 2015 and 2017, 65 All-Conference selections, 25 All-Region winners, 23 All-Tournament honorees, seven All-Louisiana players, two Freshman All-Americans, and three D3baseball.com and an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-Americans.
Diaz himself was the SCAC Coach of the Year in both 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. He was also named the West Region Coach of the Year by D3Baseball.com in 2017.
For the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the Diamond Gents were atop the SCAC standings for all but approximately 48 hours.
In 2018, the Gents finished 15-3 in conference play for the second straight season to claim its fourth SCAC Regular Season Championship in the past six seasons. Like in 2015, needing a series win at home against a nationally-ranked foe in the final SCAC series of the year, the Gents delivered. Centenary took 2-of-3 from top-ranked Trinity to claim the regular season crown. Eight Gents were named All-Conference, while three players were named to the All-Tournament and three picked up All-Region honors.
The 2017 season was a banner year. The Maroon and White climbed to as high as sixth in the national polls, the highest ranking in program history. Centenary won the SCAC Regular Season title by three games over Trinity and Texas Lutheran. The team went on to win the SCAC Tournament and play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Junior Chris Zapata, named the SCAC Hitter of the Year after leading the nation with 71 RBI's, was named First Team All-American by both D3baseball.com and the American Baseball Coaches Association. The Gents 35 wins were the second-most in school history. Michael Schimpf also finished his Gents career as Centenary's first First Team Academic AllAmerica by CoSIDA to go along with his Second Team All-American honor by D3Baseball.com.
For the season, seven Gents were named All-Region by both D3Baseball.com and the ABCA, while 12 Gents were named All-Conference 13 times. The Gents finished in the top-10 in nine different statistical categories, including finishing second in both triples and triples per game. The 28 runs scored against Rust on February 5, was the second-most runs scored in a game in program history, while the 17 runs in the third inning of game one against Northland March 5 was the most in Gents baseball history.
The 2016 season saw Centenary finish the season 26-13 (10-8 SCAC). The .667 winning percentsage was the best mark in more than 25 seasons and was the second-best percentage since the 1960's. Eight different players received nine All-Conference accolades, including Michael Schimpf (outfield) and Kaleb Kirk (starting pitcher) receiving First Team recognition and Dakota Brown (relief pitcher and outfielder) grabbing two Second Team honors.
American Baseball Coaches Association named Schimpf, Kirk and Chris Zapata to the All-Region squad in the West. Schimpf received All-Region accolades from D3baseball.com. Brown was named All-Louisiana First Team Utility while Schimpf was named to the Second Team as an Outfielder by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA)
Academically, Schimpf became just the fourth Maroon and White athlete and the first in five years to be named Academic All-America, as Presented by CoSIDA.
In 2015, Diaz led the Gents to a 24-17 record (15-3 SCAC) and their second conference championship in three seasons. Taylor Henry – who was drafted by the N.Y. Mets in the 21st round – was named SCAC Pitcher of the Year and an All-West Region honoree by both D3baseball.com and ABCA/Rawlings. Henry led the SCAC in both saves (nine, 15th in the nation) and strikeouts (85, 21st in the nation). He finished second in the conference and 28th in the nation in ERA (1.59) while finishing seventh in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (12.3).
Also in the 2015 campaign, Chris Zapata was named SCAC Freshman of the Year. Centenary claimed nine All-Conference accolades and five All-Tournament selections.
Diaz led the Gents to a 19-22 record in 2014 while going 11-7 in SCAC play. Six Gents were named All-SCAC First Team with Aaron Quintanilla being named SCAC Freshman of the Year. Quintanilla along with Chris Jones, also an All-Conference First Teamer, were named to the ABCA All-West Region Third Team. The Maroon and White also claimed three All-Conference Honorable Mention and two SCAC All-Tournament honorees.
In 2013, Diaz helped guide the Gents to an SCAC conference crown with a record of 15-5 and an overall mark of 26-15. The 26 wins in 2013 and 24 the preceding year marked the first back-to-back winning seasons for the Maroon and White since the 2009 and 2010 programs boasted a combined 63 victories.
The successful campaign saw a school record 10 All-SCAC selections, including the Player and Freshman of the Year in third baseman Craig Littleman and pitcher Paul Arcement, respectively. The Gents also saw eight players earn SCAC Pitcher and Player of the Week laurels along with Tyler Clakley, Ryan Gasporra, Nick Parrott and Arcement being named to the SCAC All-Tournament Team.
In 2012, Diaz guided Centenary to a 24-15 record in its first season in the American Southwest Conference.
In his first season at the helm of the program, Diaz helped develop breakout seasons for freshmen RJ Talamantes and Pete Rajkovich. These two were named Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-Americans, while Talamantes was honored as a First Team All-Summit League selection at third base and Rajkovich a Second Team All-Summit League honoree in center field. They were each named to the All-Louisiana team as well.
Diaz, along with his staff, played an integral role in Seth Lugo's career as he was drafted by the New York Mets as a right-handed pitcher in 2011. Undrafted James Hoyt and Lugo both made their Major League Baseball debut in the summer of 2016, becoming the first time the Gents have had a pair of players in the Majors at the same time.
Prior to being named head coach in 2010, Diaz served as an associate head coach for five seasons. In this role, Diaz was instrumental as the hitting coach and infield play specialist while coaching third base. He also oversaw the team's strength and conditioning program in addition to working as the team's recruiting coordinator.
While at Centenary as an associate coach, Diaz has helped guide the Gents to a 141-125 record and a pair of 30-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. From 2005-2010 as both an associate and his first season as head coach, he helped guide Centenary to six straight conference tournament appearances.
As the recruiting coordinator, Diaz was fortunate to bring in and work with four All-Americans and 25 All-Conference players – including the 2010 Summit League Pitcher of the Year in Boone Whiting – and several All-Louisiana Sports Writers Association selections. Also under his direction, 13 players have signed professional contracts.
Mike Diaz at a Glance
Albertson, '98, Bachelors of Arts Degree in History and Social Studies Education
Western Michigan, '03 Master of Arts Degree in Physical Education
Children: Malia and Matteo
2010-present - Centenary Head Coach
2005-10 - Centenary Associate Head Coach
2001-04 - Western Michigan Assistant Coach
2000-01 - Kalamazoo College Assistant Coach
1999-00 - Univ. of Pacific Volunteer Assistant Coach
1997-98 - Albertson
'98 NAIA National Championship team
First Team All-Cascade Conference second basemen
1994-96 - Big Bend CC
First Team All-NWAACC second basemen