Steve Lienhard, a former Oklahoma State and professional pitcher with family ties to Kansas University, was named an assistant KU baseball coach on Wednesday.
Lienhard is a native Oklahoman who pitched four years at OSU and six years in the minor leagues.
"I'm excited as I've ever been about anything," Lienhard said Wednesday from his home in Wichita. "My wife said, 'I've never seen you pursue anything as hard as you've pursued this.' It's true. I'm really excited."
Lienhard's uncle, Bill, played basketball at KU in 1951 and '52 and still lives in Lawrence. Steve Lienhard fondly recalled his childhood trips to Lawrence to see his uncle.
"He's always been very nice to me," Lienhard said. "We made many trips to Lawrence. He has children about the same age as we were. We always made the trip to Lawrence every year. It was one that I loved."
A native of McAlester, Okla., Lienhard walked on to Okie State's baseball program. He played four years for the 'Pokes and made three appearances in the College World Series. As a senior co-captain in 1987, Lienhard was 9-3.
Lienhard spent six years in the minor leagues, advancing as high as the Double-A level. A 28th-round pick in the '87 draft by the San Francisco Giants, Lienhard was the California League pitcher of the year in 1989.
Lienhard served as a pitching coach in the Giants' organization from 1992-'94.
"I've been coaching the last four years professionally," Lienhard said. "It took away from my family so much. I was always interested in Division One."
When Dave Bingham retired as the Jayhawks' head coach last summer, Lienhard sent in a resume, hoping to be hired as an aide under new coach Bobby Randall.
But Randall filled the vacancy with former major-league Mike Boddicker. But Boddicker only lasted a couple weeks.
"Coach Randall and I kept talking," Lienhard said, "and things kept getting bigger from there. In the meantime, I got an offer from the Brewers to coach with them. I had already taken the job, but I called their minor-league director and said there was an opportunity with Kansas.
"I went up (to KU) to interview, and everybody there was just very nice to me. I hit it off with a lot of people. Everything snowballed. It's just a great situation for me."
Lienhard, eight-year assistant Wilson Kilmer and volunteer coach Rick Sabath complete the staff.
"(Lienhard) is a proven winner who brings in a lot of Big Eight and professional baseball experience," Randall said. "Combined with the experience and knowledge of Wilson Kilmer, I think they will help enhance the caliber of our program."
Lienhard will work at a KU baseball clinic this weekend. KU will open its spring practices on Monday.
"It's a good situation for me,," he said. "I'm only 2 1/2 hours from my family. My wife's a teacher, and she'll stay in Wichita until the semester's over with. Then she's coming up. I'm hoping to make a long-time commitment to KU."