Gregg Swenson has spent the last-eight seasons as the Washington State pitching coach. During that span, he has mentored 10 hurlers while on the Palouse that have gone on to pitch at the professional level. A master of the mental aspect of baseball, Swenson has spent 22 seasons as a coach, including 18 at the collegiate level. He was on the Cougar staff that helped lead Washington State to back-to-back NCAA postseason appearances in 2009 and 2010. Prior to that, the Cougars had not participated in the postseason since 1990. Two decades later, they came within one game of advancing to a Super Regional.
Swenson’s primary responsibilities at Washington State include the development and growth of the Cougar pitching staff, as well as recruiting and practice organization. Having been involved with every aspect of a program during his career, Swenson has handled academics, alumni relations, travel, scheduling and camp organization while with the Cougars. Academically, Washington State produced three-straight Pac-10 Conference Baseball Scholar-Athletes of the Year (2008-10), a Rhodes Scholar candidate (2013), and the top GPAs in program history during his eight seasons on the Palouse.
Swenson’s staffs have twice set the Washington State school record for strikeouts in a season, including the current record of 453 set in 2009. That same season, the Cougars recorded a 2.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the second best in school history. In 2010, Cougar hurlers yielded 9.66 hits per nine innings, their best mark since 1994. During the 2013 campaign, Washington State notched a 4.14 ERA, the best mark since the 1988 squad that won a school-record 52 games.
Four of the top five season totals for saves have come under Swenson’s tutelage, including Adam Conley’s record-tying 12 in 2010. Conley’s Cougar career concluded after he signed with the Florida Marlins after being selected in the second round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He is currently in AA and considered one of the top prospects in the Marlins’ organization. Conley’s selection in the second round (72nd overall) after being drafted in the 32nd round out of high school continues a trend of Swenson’s pitchers moving up in the draft after coming to Pullman.
Turnarounds have been a staple of Swenson’s time at Washington State. In his first season, he inherited a staff that allowed a Pacific-10 Conference-high 6.17 ERA in 2005. During the 2006 campaign, with a staff consisting of 15 underclassmen or first-year players, the Cougars improved their ERA to 4.87 and fanned a then-school record 404. Part of the 2006 squad was Travis Webb.
Before Swenson’s arrival, Webb had a 0-5 record with a 9.08 ERA in 2005. After one season under Swenson’s guidance, Webb went 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA and an opponent batting average of .214. He added eight saves and was an eighth round selection by the Cincinnati Reds. He has pitched in the prestigious Arizona Fall League and is currently at the AAA level in the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization.
After battling injuries that limited him to 30 2/3 innings during his first three seasons at WSU, Jeremy Johnson flourished under Swenson in 2009. Johnson posted a 6-2 record with 10 saves, a 2.90 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 28 appearances. His season was rewarded with a 13th-round selection by the Cleveland Indians after being undrafted out of high school.
Matt Way’s breakout year came in 2009 when he went 8-4 (more wins than his first three seasons at WSU) and posted a 2.43 earned run average, 15th-best nationally. He set a school record with 124 strikeouts, breaking former MLB pitcher Aaron Sele’s record set in 1991. Way, undrafted out of high school, became the Philadelphia Phillies’ fifth round draft pick in 2009.
“Through Swens’s program, I was given every tool and every option to succeed,” Way said. “His enormous dedication to teaching the mental side of pitching has taught me how to stay calm and collected in the most adverse situations both on the pitching mound and in life.”
In 2008, Swenson coached Jayson Miller who went 8-1 with 74 strikeouts in 99 and two-thirds innings and a 4.06 earned run average. He was selected the Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2008. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Miller in the 30th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and the southpaw went on to earn Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year where he recorded more wins that season than walks given up.
“The biggest impact that coach Swenson had on me in the three years as my pitching coach is teaching me the importance of the mental game,” Miller said. “Being successful on the mound is not about having the best stuff; rather, it’s believing you’re better than the guy at the plate.”
A teacher of baseball and life to his student-athletes, Swenson joined Donnie Marbut’s staff in June, 2005, after spending the previous four years as an assistant coach at Washington. While with the Huskies, Swenson helped produce 10 All-Pac-10 players, and saw several of his players drafted by MLB teams. The Huskies also reached three-straight NCAA Championships (2002-04) for the first time in school history.
Overall, Swenson has been on staffs that have produced 11 MLB players, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who was the first player to earn Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors in the same season (2004).
Prior to his tenure at Washington, Swenson served as the head coach at Tacoma Community College, where he also played two seasons (1990-91). Swenson spent five seasons as the Titans’ skipper after joining the staff as the pitching coach in 1996. He led the Titans to the NWAACC Tournament in three (1997, 2000, 2001) of his five seasons at Tacoma. Prior to Swenson’s arrival, TCC had not been to the tournament since 1988 and he was the first coach to guide the Titans to three tournament appearances. He was the NWAACC Western Division Coach of the Year in both 1997 and 2000.
He began his coaching career as the pitching coach at Sehome High School in Bellingham in 1992. As an assistant under hall of fame coach Gary Hatch, Swenson helped the 1992 Sehome club to a second place finish in the state playoffs while both the 1993 and 1995 teams earned fifth-place finishes.
While in Bellingham, Swenson coached the 1993 Bellingham Post 7 American Legion team to a second place finish in the state tournament and also guided the 1994 British Columbia White Rock Tritons to the Washington Palomino Baseball state championship.
Swenson earned a degree in physical education/exercise science and physiology/sports psychology from Western Washington University in 1994. In 1997, he completed his master’s degree in teaching from City University. Swenson and his wife Diane are the parents of daughter, Megan and son, Jacob.