Dec. 21, 2013
By Jon Cooper
An optimist believes that when one door closes another opens.
Tony Plagman is such an optimist, and with good reason.
Plagman saw his window of opportunity to be a Major League Baseball player apparently close rather cruelly when he suffered a knee injury last December while working out. It was an injury that forced him to sit out the entire 2013 season as he tried to rehab and get back into the Detroit Tigers chain. While rehabbing, he realized it was time to start considering Plan B.
With his positive outlook, it didn’t take long for him to land on his feet, when a door opened back at his alma mater.
Wally Crancer, a teammate of Plagman’s during his freshman season on The Flats and an assistant coach at Tech last season, took an assistant coach job at Purdue. Plagman placed a call to Georgia Tech Coach Danny Hall, interviewed, impressed, and was hired.
His dream of becoming a coach was set into motion.
“I had the best four years of my life playing at Tech and I’m really happy to be back,” said Plagman. “I knew I always wanted to get into coaching after I was done playing.
“Playing for Coach Hall and Coach Prince and now helping them coach is really cool,” he added. “I’m very thankful to be able to do it. Seeing it from this side is a lot different and it’s definitely a learning experience. I’m pretty much helping the hitters, working with the outfielders, throwing BP, hitting ground balls, hitting fly balls. Wherever they need me I’m there.”
Plagman was a superb player in his four years at Georgia Tech (2007-10). He started all four years, primarily at first, was a Third-Team All-American as a senior, a two-time All-ACC performer (’09, ’10), and four-time All-ACC Academic Teamer. He left Tech third in career home runs (55, two behind school leader Jason Varitek), second in total bases (513), fifth in at-bats (858), sixth in RBIs (219) and games (235), seventh in hits (282) and doubles (56), and eighth in runs scored (213). His 21 homers in 2010 tied for the sixth-best season in Tech history, while his 78 RBIs that season tied for 10th and he led the team in homers in his sophomore and senior seasons. Plagman turned down the Yankees, who drafted him in 2009 in the 46th round, choosing to play his senior season. Following that season he was selected by Detroit in the ninth round.
While leaving his playing career behind was tough, he left with no regrets.
“It was a blast,” said Plagman, who reached Double-A in 2012. “The Detroit Tigers organization was great to me and I was definitely thankful for the opportunity. It’s definitely a grind. It’s really hard playing 140 games a year, living on the road and being in a bunch of different, strange cities for six, seven months out of the year but it’s definitely worth it. It was a lot of fun.”
Plagman found that baseball can still be fun as a coach during the fall, when he wore the white jersey in the White & Gold World Series. It was just a little different perspective for him.
“It was a ton of fun,” said Plagman, who was an assistant on the victorious White team — ironically, he won three times as a player for the Gold team. “Being a player in the White & Gold World Series is fun in itself. Not being able to play and still being a part of it, coaching a team, cheering them on and putting plays on, it was an awesome experience. I got to coach third base, which looks easier than it is. It’s definitely tough. Thankfully, my team hit the ball really well so it made my job a little bit easier. But it was cool to see the guys compete and do well. So it was fun.”
Plagman expects to coach first base during the 2014 season. He knows he’ll be learning on the job but can’t wait to get started.
“I’ll definitely be excited. I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous because coaching first base, when we’re on offense will be tough and staying in the game and making sure our guys know the situation and all that,” he said. “But it will definitely be a different kind of nervous. I remember playing and that first at-bat of the year, stepping in the box and having butterflies. There’s not a feeling like that. So I know it will be different but it will still have the same feel and be exciting all the same.”
Defensively, he will continue to work with the team’s first basemen, having worked with junior A.J. Murray during the fall.
“A.J.’s a great kid and he’s a very hard worker. I spent some time with him this fall,” he said. “When they get back in school and we start practice back up we’ll definitely get some more first base work in. First base is definitely a different position than any other. I’m just glad I can help out there.”
Plagman wants to make sure Tech fans don’t forget how good a fielder he was in his playing days and insists he’ll be ready to continue his tradition of excellence fielding his position, albeit from the coach’s box.
“You’ve just got to be aware with some of our guys,” he said. “Some of them are pretty strong and can hit the ball pretty hard on a line. So you’ve just got to be heads-up at all times.
“There’s a lot of pressure on some of us coaches to make some of those plays,” he added, with a laugh. “It’ll be fun. Hopefully I can show off a little bit. We’ll see.”
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