Dickinson gets to work with UVA pitching staff

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Drew Dickinson says it's about an 11-hour drive from the University of Illinois to the University of Virginia.

The UVA baseball program's new pitching coach knows first-hand. Dickinson drove the first 10 hours from Champaign on Sunday, then the rest of the trip on Monday morning -- in time to make a staff meeting and then practice at Disharoon Park.

"It's gone so fast," Dickinson said Friday of his first week on the UVA coaching staff. "It's been a whirlwind."

Dickinson was announced as the Cavaliers' new pitching coach last Friday. He had spent the past eight seasons as pitching coach at Illinois. He also pitched for the Illini, earning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors as a junior in 2002.

Before heading down to the UVA bullpen on Friday afternoon, Dickinson said there were several reasons why the Wahoos' opening was the right next step in his career. But the biggest was the chance to join a program that has reached the highest pinnacle of college baseball under head coach Brian O'Connor -- and takes the field each season with those same lofty expectations, despite back-to-back seasons without an NCAA regional appearance.

"It's a national championship program. It's a top-15 program. Just look around," Dickinson said. "They have a good staff. They know what they're doing here. I'm just happy to be a part of it, and I'm happy to learn as much as I possibly can. And hopefully I can add some value as well."

Dickinson says his first priority this week has been getting organized, and getting to know the pitchers on the UVA roster. He compared that process to getting to know new recruits.

"I just want them to be themselves, take ownership and accountability of what they do, and every time on the field, just compete," Dickinson said. "It's a new beginning for me, with them. And I think for them it could be the same way. A new coach, it's almost like a fresh start for them."

Dickinson coached 15 MLB Draft picks at Illinois, including a pair of first-rounders. His 2014 Illinois pitching staff set a new school record with a 3.25 ERA -- only for Dickinson's 2015 staff to break that record, with a 2.55 staff ERA.

When asked on Friday to describe his style as a pitching coach, Dickinson called himself "one of the guys."

"That's the best way I can put it," he said. "I like to be close with my team. I'm very excited, intense. High energy. And I just want my guys to be the best version of themselves they can be, and I'll do anything I can to make that happen."

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