Sean McNally, a 1994 graduate of Duke University, enters his seventh year as head baseball coach. With a philosophy based on the concept of striving for excellence in the classroom, involvement in the community and achievement on the field, McNally has led the program to great success during his tenure.
With a 171-164-1 record in his first six years, McNally has led his alma mater to four winning seasons and in 2009 became the fastest coach in Duke history to reach 100 wins. McNally's 171 victories are the most wins of any Duke coach through his first six seasons.
McNally coaches the hitters and infielders directly, the same responsibilities he handled at the professional level during his time in player development with the Cleveland Indians. Duke has made steady improvements each year both offensively and defensively under McNally and has quickly earned the reputation as one of the best defensive programs in the nation. Duke has posted fielding percentages of .971 or better in each of the past four seasons, including 2008 when the Blue Devils led the nation with a .978 fielding clip. Duke has committed fewer errors than games played in three seasons thanks to McNally's fundamentals-first approach.
Offensively, Duke has hit .299 or better in three of McNally's six seasons while stealing bases successfully over 70 percent of the time every year. Duke has also finished with the fewest strikeouts in the ACC in five out of six seasons under McNally.
Duke's progression over the past six years has as much to do with coaching as it does with the improved talent brought in during the recruiting process. During McNally's tenure, the Blue Devils have become a mainstay in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft and have had 13 players drafted over the last five seasons. Among that group, Duke has had three players drafted in the first 10 rounds in 2010 fifth-round shortstop Jake Lemmerman, 2008 eighth-round first baseman Nate Freiman and 2007 seventh-round outfielder Jimmy Gallagher.
And while Duke's on-the-field accolades have poured in under McNally, the Blue Devils have made an even bigger impact in the classroom and in the community. In 2011, Duke posted a team grade point average of 3.100 and had an in-season GPA of 3.104. Furthermore, the Blue Devils have annually dominated the All-ACC Academic Baseball Team, which honors the conference's best student-athletes. Duke has led the ACC in selections to the team in three of the past six years and has amassed an ACC-leading 33 selections to the squad since it was conceived in 2006. Additionally, Duke baseball players have garnered over 100 selections to the ACC Academic Honor Roll over the past six seasons for holding grade point averages over 3.00 for the entire academic year.
Among that group is one of the most academically decorated players in Duke baseball history, Academic All-America First Team and ACC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipient Freiman. Freiman, who played at Duke from 2006-09 and ended his career as Duke's all-time home run leader, came to Duke as a pitcher in McNally's first season. After an arm injury in his first and only career pitching appearance ended his prospects on the mound, McNally set out to convert Freiman to a position player. Over the next four years, the 6-foot-8 Freiman made steady improvements as a hitter and fielder and capped his career with a 20-home run campaign in 2009 that vaulted him into the eighth round of the MLB Draft.
Freiman is just one example of McNally's expertise in player development. In three seasons as a hitting coach and manager in the Cleveland Indians system at the A and AA levels, McNally mentored numerous future professional players including Ben Francisco (OF, Toronto Blue Jays), Ryan Garko (1B, Texas Rangers), Franklin Gutierrez (OF, Seattle Mariners), Joe Inglett (2B, Houston Astros) and Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B, Kansas City Royals). McNally served as hitting coach for both Burlington (A) and Akron (AA) in the Indians organization before being promoted to manager of the Burlington Indians in 2005.
Duke's student-athlete development has extended well beyond the field under McNally. In addition to their success in the classroom, Duke baseball players have also taken on a tremendous community service push every year. Each fall, the Blue Devils split up by class and plan, organize and execute their own community service projects. Past initiatives include Habitat 4 Humanity, visits to the Duke Children's Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, the construction of a baseball field at Forest View Elementary School and Duke University's "Read with the Blue Devils" project.
The entire Duke team has also become heavily involved with the Miracle League of the Triangle, a non-profit organization that allows special-needs children to play baseball on a specially constructed field with the assistance of volunteers.
Following his nine-year stint as a professional player and his three-year run as a hitting coach and manager in the Cleveland Indians organization, McNally was named Duke baseball's 24th head coach on July 15, 2005. He immediately set out to rebuild his alma mater's team, which had endured seven straight losing seasons from 1999 to 2005.
In his first year, McNally set the framework for Duke's future success and led the squad to improved overall and ACC win totals. The Blue Devils won two ACC series on the road after going winless in conference road games the year before his arrival. Off the field, 15 Blue Devils earned ACC Academic Honor Roll recognition for holding grade point averages over 3.00 for the entire academic season, while three others earned spots on the inaugural All-ACC Academic Baseball Team.
In 2007, McNally's efforts took hold as he led the group to a 29-25 record that included wins over No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 North Carolina along with series wins over Virginia Tech and Maryland. Duke won six and split two of its 17 series after opening the year with nine consecutive wins. Led by its first All-ACC selection since 2004 in starting pitcher Tony Bajoczky, the Blue Devils won more games overall and in the ACC (8) than they did in each of the previous two seasons. Four of Duke's players hit over .300 for the season, including Freiman (.369) and Gallagher (.360), who was drafted in the seventh round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox. McNally developed Gallagher, Bajoczky and third baseman Brett Bartles all into professional players as each was selected in the 2007 MLB Draft.
Year three of McNally's tenure yielded one of the most successful seasons in Duke baseball's history. Led by a talented group of sophomores, the junior trio of Freiman, catcher Matt Williams and starter Andrew Wolcott, and the senior quartet of Jonathan Nicolla, Kyle Kreick, Ron Causey and Ryan Perry, Duke went 37-18-1 for the fourth most wins in school history. That group posted a perfect 27-0 non-conference record along with 10 ACC wins and three ACC series victories. Additionally, that group led the nation with a .978 fielding percentage after committing only 47 errors in 56 games.
In 2009, McNally's fourth year, the Blue Devils went 15-15 against a nationally-dominant ACC to set a school record for the most conference victories in a season. The Blue Devils, led by Freiman's 20 home runs and Wolcott's dominant run as Duke's ace, took ACC series from No. 1 North Carolina, No. 7 Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Boston College and were not swept in a series for the entire season. The squad made the ACC Tournament for the first time since 2005 and came within one game of reaching the conference championship before falling 11-7 to eventual ACC Champion and College World Series participant Virginia. A school-record seven Blue Devils went on to have their names called in the 2009 MLB Draft, while an ACC-record nine Duke players were named to the All-ACC Academic Baseball Team, including Freiman who was named ACC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America First Team honoree. The 2009 Duke Blue Devils would also set a school record with a .979 fielding percentage after making only 47 errors in 59 games.
Duke's success continued into 2010 when McNally led the squad to its fourth straight winning season and became only the fourth coach in Duke baseball history to post four winning seasons within his first five years. Despite losing a core of seniors that included Freiman, Wolcott, Williams and Kyle Butler and junior outfielder and closer Alex Hassan to the MLB Draft, the Blue Devils still managed to win games against five of the eight nationally-ranked teams they played. For the second straight year, Duke won a series against annual ACC powerhouse North Carolina, which was ranked No. 11 in the nation at the time. Duke would also go on to win the series against No. 17 Clemson, which reached the College World Series, and beat No. 6 Florida State, No. 15 Virginia Tech and No. 22 Georgia. McNally did all this despite fielding a starting lineup that featured a combined five freshmen and sophomores and a pitching staff that relied heavily on ACC Freshman of the Year Marcus Stroman and fellow freshman Chase Bebout.
McNally led his 2011 squad, which was the youngest team in the country, to a 26-win season. Duke earned wins against Georgia Tech and Miami, who were both ranked in the top 15 in the nation at the time of the games. The Blue Devils won the series against favored N.C. State and won six series overall. Duke was best on its home field in 2011, winning 21 games at home. Freshman Chris Marconcini became the fourth Blue Devil to earn Freshman All-America honors during McNally's tenure. In the summer of 2011, Stroman became the first Duke player to make Team USA's final collegiate roster.
During his playing career at Duke, McNally was a four-year starter and served as team captain for his final two seasons. As a senior in 1994, he received All-ACC honors and set single-season school records for batting average (.408) and slugging percentage (.775) while finishing the season with 89 hits, 19 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs and 71 RBI. He ranks among the top five in school history with 17 triples and 181 RBI in his career and among the top 10 in runs scored, batting average, hits, home runs, doubles and slugging percentage.
Following four seasons in the Blue and White, McNally was selected in the 16th round of the 1994 Major League Baseball Draft by the Kansas City Royals and played nine seasons of professional baseball. He reached as high as the Triple-A level with Calgary (Florida Marlins) in 2002, and Buffalo (Cleveland Indians) and Tucson (Arizona Diamondbacks) in 2001. In 1999, McNally was named to the Texas League (AA) All-Star Team after posting a .282 batting average with 36 home runs and 109 RBI. Overall, he played for six professional organizations, including Kansas City (1994-99), Florida (2000), Cleveland (2001), Arizona (2001), Texas (2002) and Montreal (2002).
Following his retirement from professional baseball, McNally returned to Duke as an academic advisor within the athletic department from 2003-04 and managed the "Read with the Blue Devils" community outreach program. He then began his coaching career in the Indians organization before arriving at Duke prior to the 2006 season. Now, in addition to his coaching responsibilities with the Blue Devils, he has taken on several athletic department projects as well. McNally served as the coaching representative on the Executive Committee for the construction of the Strategic Plan for Duke Athletics, a yearlong process in 2007-2008.
In the summer of 2009 McNally was the keynote speaker at the North Carolina High School State Athletic Association (NCHSAA) day-long convention at the Greensboro Coliseum for baseball coaches statewide. He also wrote a chapter for the book Practice Perfect Baseball, published in 2010 by Human Kinetics, along with other accomplished college baseball coaches.
McNally is married to the former Kim Voyticky, an All-ACC performer in track and field at Duke. The couple has two children, a five-year-old daughter named Michaela and a three-year-old son named Jackson.
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