Lamar Community College named Ben Buck its first new head baseball coach in 25 years after an official search.
Buck is a former Lope who plans to meld elements of modern, data-driven baseball with traditional tried-and-true methods developed both as a player and assistant coach under Crampton, who retired after the 2018 season.
"The opportunity to be the head coach at Lamar, where I played, where I've coached before, there's a lot of pride for me in this place and I want to see this place do well," Buck said. "I'm just lucky that Coach Crampton believes I was the right fit for this job."
Buck served as Crampton's pitching coach from 2009 to 2012, and pitched for the Lopes in 2001 and 2002, the latter year as a member of LCC's third-place finish at the JUCO World Series. The Denver native was most recently the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for three years at Tarleton State, a Division II program in Stephenville, Texas. Previously, he held the same titles for West Texas A&M in 2013 and 2014, and was the pitching coach at Regis University in 2012 while serving as the interim head coach in 2013.
Buck said those experiences with Crampton -- both as a player and coach -- helped shape his coaching style, which will help avoid a drastic overhaul to an established program.
"A lot of the things that we did together and he taught me earlier in my coaching career I still do to this day," Buck said. "I think there's going to be a lot of similarities. The transition should be pretty smooth since I've already worked here before."
The biggest change might come with the infusion of new baseball technology designed to help evaluate and develop players. Buck said he'd like to implement the use of Rapsodo, a tracking system that uses radar and a camera to analyze detailed aspects of a ball's flight both from a pitch (velocity, spin rate, break, etc) and off the bat (exit velocity, launch angle, exit direction, etc.). Buck said it's an affordable system that will help in the batter's box and on the mound.
"You're seeing a shift into technology and analytics, so the more advanced you can get on that stuff, the more information you get about your team, the better you can train them," Buck said.
Measurements taken from the batting cage or a bullpen session can be used to identify what players need to improve on, especially in the weight room.
"You can measure a guy, and say he's hitting at 90 (mph exit velocity), then come back in a month or two and see if what you're doing is making progress. If it is, that creates more buy in. We continuously do that," Buck said.
Physical strength and mental buy-in are just two of the many qualities Buck said he will look for in a recruit. Buck knows from his two stints in Lamar and his five-plus years as a recruiting coordinator that there must be a match between the location and culture of a program, and a recruit's mindset. He wants student-athletes with priorities that match his own. Baseball players who want to improve and are willing to work in order to do so.
Buck said he wants recruits that understand "Lamar will develop them as a human, student and baseball player."
"Recruiting to Lamar is special, so you've got to have a unique person that wants to be here," Buck said. "This place really developed me into the recruiter I am. Learning here has allowed me to go out and be successful going other places, and coming back here I kind of already know the landscape. Now I'm just older and wiser, so I should be better."
On the diamond, Buck said he will look for players capable of postseason success.
"We're going to attempt to get the best talent in here we possibly can," Buck said. "Physically good enough to win a district tournament and go to a World Series. That's the physical standard we're trying to set as a benchmark. That's the standard we want to get to."
Buck will have the help of assistant coach Eric Dorton, who played at LCC while Buck was the pitching coach and was most recently the assistant coach at Cloud County Community College.
"He's a young, really good offensive mind on coaching. Good recruiter," Buck said. "I think it's good we're getting two guys back who played here. There's deep care and we have this special feeling about this place and we want to continue what (Crampton) did for 22 years, which is build this thing from the ground up."