Growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan, Tanner Spencer learned how to work.
He applied that to his playing days on the baseball diamond and later as an assistant coach.
Now, the 25-year-old former Minot State pitching coach, will bring that same approach to Bismarck as the new head coach of the University of Mary baseball team. Spencer will assume control of a program Mark Moriarty took from five wins to 17 in just one season. Moriarty was hired last month by the Minnesota Twins as a minor league pitching instructor.
“I think being a baseball player or coach from the North, there is something to that out-work mentality we have,” Spencer said. “I view this as a terrific opportunity to build new relationships with our players, with our alumni and with the community. I’m just really excited to serve the University of Mary.”
Spencer has already been an assistant coach at two NCAA Division II universities. Prior to being hired at Minot State last season, he was the pitching coach at his alma mater, Nebraska-Kearney. He also spent two summers as the pitching coach for the Moose Jaw Miller Express in the Western Major Baseball League in Canada.
Originally from Craik, Saskatchewan, Spencer is very familiar with the Highway 83 corridor. Craik is about 4 1/2 hours northwest of Minot.
“Every time I drove down to the junior college I played at in Kansas, I drove through Minot and Bismarck,” said Spencer, the eighth baseball coach U-Mary has had since the program started in 1994-95. “Spending the last year at Minot State, I do feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the area.”
Spencer, a college pitcher, was in charge of pitching and recruiting at Minot State last season as the Beavers won a school-record 38 games under head coach Scott Eul.
Spencer understands his age may raise eyebrows, but he feels prepared for the challenge.
“I’ve had some unique experiences to learn from some really good people along the way,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready.
“Building relationships is the true art of coaching. Gaining the trust of your players, having them know that you’re there to support them in every way, when you can build that trust, I believe that leads to success.”
Spencer embraces the new age theories in player development, especially as it relates to pitching, that Moriarty brought to U-Mary. When Moriarty was hired by the Twins, Spencer placed a call to congratulate him, which was the first step in the process of coming to Bismarck. Moriarty was the pitching coach at 2018 NCAA Division II national champion Augustana before being hired by U-Mary athletic director Dale Lennon.
“I have so much respect for what coach Mo (Moriarty) did in terms of how he puts the players first and how he focuses on player development. He really laid the ground work for success,” Spencer said. “With what he’s done and the resources Mr. Lennon and the university have committed, I feel really good about the future of our baseball program.”
Lennon was seeking a coach that embraced the new wave of coaching techniques.
“Tanner’s understanding and appreciation of how technology can be used to develop players mirrors what coach Moriarty has already started,” the U-Mary AD said. “Tanner is ready to be a head coach.”
Spencer plans to employ many of the same philosophies that have taken Minot State from 10 wins in 2016 to back-to-back seasons of at least 34 victories. Last year, the Beavers played for the Northern Sun tournament championship.
“Scott (Eul) always puts his players first. They love him and they love to play for him,” Spencer said. “And the other thing that really stands out is the attack mentality they have. They’re the aggressor at all times.”
Spencer won’t have to wait long to see how it translates. The Marauders’ first game is Jan. 31 in Texas.
“What’s really nice is the coaching staff, other than coach Moriarty, remains intact and I think that group, with what they’ve done has been exceptional,” Spencer said. “I’m really looking forward to working with them, and all of our players, to hit the ground running.”
Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org