By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- He has been an assistant college baseball coach at two area schools since 2003, hoping to one day become a head coach.
That time arrived this week when Bridgewater native Greg Zackrison was hired to take over the Bridgewater State University program, replacing Rick Smith, who retired last month after winning 550 games over 25 seasons.
Zackrison, a 1996 graduate of Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, spent 12 years on the coaching staff of Tom Frizzell at Massasoit Community College and four years working for Pat Boen at Stonehill College.
Now, Zackrison is in charge of the Bears, a team he followed as a youngster living in the town and pitched against while at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
"It's really cool because of the history and tradition that Bridgewater has had for a long time,″ said the 40-year-old Zackrison Thursday afternoon. "Growing up, that was one of the local programs that every kid wanted to go to. It's really cool to get the job and get back to being one of those options that a local kid wants to go to.″
Zackrison, who lives in Raynham with his wife Amy and daughter Lyla, picked up plenty of experience at Massasoit and Stonehill and has been a head coach in two summer leagues.
After being an assistant coach for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League, Zackrison spent four years as the head coach of the Oneonta Outlaws of the New York Collegiate Baseball League (2009-12) and is now in his sixth year coaching the Plymouth Pilgrims of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
Zackrison got into coaching while pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice at Bridgewater State in 2003, returning to Massasoit to help his former coach, Frizzell.
He spent 11 years there before going to Stonehill and went back to Massasoit this past season for Frizzell's final year.
"After I was doing it for long enough, it was always a dream to be a head coach in a program of my own,″ said Zackrison, who pitched two years each at Massasoit and UMass-Dartmouth.
Baseball has been a big part of his life for more than three decades, and Zackrison is ready for a new chapter in the sport.
"You grow up playing the game, and it's something that's in my blood, I guess,″ he said. "You get a passion for something and baseball just happened to be it. It's just one of those things I always enjoyed being around and have been around since I was six years old and now.″
Zackrison takes over a Bridgewater State program that has had five straight losing seasons, and he is ready to hit the recruiting trail to find players who can help turn things around.
"I hope I bring a new energy, a new style,″ he said. "I bring a lot of experience. I'm always learning. I'm a college professor at Massasoit, so I'm always reading and learning.
"With the summer ball I've coached, I'm always learning from the players, new ways of doing things. I'm always evolving and figuring out new and better ways of doing things and keeping the ball rolling.
"I think we're going to have to get out there, get more recruits, set an example of how I want to get things down, change the culture and bring a little more high energy.″
Zackrison will be Bridgewater State's first baseball coach other than Smith since the 1993 season when Glenn Tufts, now a scout for the San Francisco Giants, was running the program.
"We are extremely excited to bring in coach Greg Zackrison to lead the team into the next era of Bears baseball,″ said BSU's director of athletics, Dr. Marybeth Lamb, in a statement. "His experience both in recruiting talent and developing fine young men is well known throughout college baseball in New England.″