Brett Harker was named Furman’s head baseball coach in July of 2016.
Harker, a Greenville, S.C., native who owns six years of coaching experience — all in the Palmetto State — recently completed his second season as pitching coach at Furman, where he also served as recruiting coordinator for the Paladin program this past year.
He is only the program’s fourth head coach over the past half century but 25th mentor in Furman baseball history, which began in 1891 and spans 116 seasons.
In his first season with the Paladins, Harker mentored right-handed pitcher Will Gaddis, who was named to the 2015 Southern Conference All-Freshman Team and this past season garnered SoCon Pitcher of the Year honors after posting a 10-3 record and 3.45 earned run average. An American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-Region honoree, Gaddis this summer became the first Paladin in over a decade to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Harker also worked closely with Jake Crawford, who tied for the team lead with five saves in 2016 and earned both SoCon All-Freshman and SoCon All-Tournament honors, and freshman right-hander Heath Hawkins, who headlined the dramatic improvement registered by Paladin pitching that was credited with fueling a strong second half run despite season ending injuries to a number of starting position players. Over the final 20 games Furman went 14-6 with a 4.11 ERA after posting 15-24 and 6.79 ERA marks in the season’s first 39 contests.
Furman’s improved on-the-field results were aided last year by the addition of outfielder Jabari Richards, the consensus 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, and prospects for a continued rise are present following a 2016 Harker-directed recruiting effort that featured 10 signees, headlined by 6-foot-5 right-hander Austin Wood from Niwot, Colo., shortstop Dillon Love from Statesville, N.C., and 6-foot-4 right-hander Nik Verbeke from Spartanburg Methodist College.
Harker came to Furman after serving as pitching coach at Newberry (S.C.) College in 2014, where he worked with four all-conference performers. Prior to that he coached pitchers and coordinated recruiting at North Greenville (S.C.) University for the 2013 campaign. In the summer of 2013 he served as pitching coach for the Southeast representative in the Big League World Series, helping the Greenville-based team beat Venezuela in an ESPN-televised championship game played in Easley, S.C.
He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Greenville High School in 2011 and also worked as an instructor/16U travel baseball team manager at the West End Baseball Academy from 2011-13.
Harker starred on the mound at nearby prep powerhouse Hillcrest High School, claiming all-region, all-state, and MVP honors of the 2002 North Carolina/South Carolina All-Star Game en route to earning a baseball scholarship from the College of Charleston.
In three seasons with the Cougars (2003-05) he twice garnered first team All-Southern Conference accolades as a relief pitcher and as a junior was named SoCon Pitcher of the Year and Louisville Slugger All-America, helping the Cougars to consecutive 47-16 and 48-15 campaigns and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances his sophomore and junior campaigns.
He appeared in 78 games and posted a career record of 14-6 with a 4.08 ERA, setting a school season record with 15 saves and finishing his CofC tenure with a program record 29 saves. In 2014 he was inducted into the College of Charleston’s Wall of Fame.
Following his junior season, Harker was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball Draft. He spent four seasons in the Phillies organization, advancing to Double A before being selected in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft by the Florida Marlins, where he competed in both Double and Triple A. In 2010 he played with the Northern League Schaumburg Flyers before completing his professional career with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association.
In 2011 he began his coaching career at Greenville High School, helping the Raiders post a perfect 10-0 region record and No. 3 ranking Class 3A.
He and his wife, the former Tiffany Stevenson of Simpsonville, have a daughter, Emma, 3.
Harbin, who spent the 2015 season as a student assistant at Clemson University, succeeds Jeff Whitfield, who accepted the assistant coach position at College of Charleston earlier this month.
Harbin earned multiple awards and honors during his career at nearby Travelers Rest High School, including All-Region, Western 3A Player of the Year, All- County, All-State and Most Valuable Player. He holds the South Carolina state record for career home runs with 52 and was named Mr. Baseball for the state of South Carolina in 2004. Following high school, Harbin was a standout infielder on three Clemson teams (2005-07) before playing eight seasons in the minor leagues.
The Travelers Rest, S.C. native showed good power at the plate during his three seasons as a Tiger. He was a career .320 hitter with 67 doubles, 30 home runs, 172 RBIs and 31 steals in 194 games (193 starts).
As a freshman in 2005, Harbin burst onto the scene as a second-team All-American, becoming the first freshman to be named to an All-America first, second or third team in Clemson history. He was also a first-team freshman All-American and First-Team All-ACC selection who batted .343 with 28 doubles, four triples, 10 homers and 63 RBIs.
After hitting .319 with 20 doubles, nine homers and 47 RBIs as a sophomore in 2006 in leading Clemson to the College World Series, Harbin earned All-ACC honors for the second time in 2007. He hit .296 with 19 doubles, 11 homers and 62 RBIs as a team co-captain, then was drafted in the eighth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks after the season.
Harbin played almost his entire minor league career in the Diamondbacks’ organization, reaching as high as Triple-A. He also played for Sugar Land (Texas) in the Atlantic (Independent) League in 2014. In 890 career games over eight seasons in the minors, he batted .267 with 891 hits, 206 doubles, 22 triples, 62 homers, 427 RBIs and 38 steals.
Harbin, 29, received his degree in parks, recreation & tourism management from Clemson in 2015 and is married to the former Jennifer Mullinnix of Greenville, S.C. The couple has a son, Landon, born in the fall of 2014.