Back in Full Swing
Former UMD All-Star Steps Up to the Plate as Head Coach
By Maggie Haslam
Photos by Chris Lyons/Maryland Athletics
For former terps star Matt Swope ’02, watching catcher Luke Shliger break his record for runs scored from the dugout of Penn State’s Medlar Field felt almost as sweet as when he set it 20 years earlier.
As assistant head coach for Maryland Baseball, he helped Shliger deliver an all-star season that led to his selection in the MLB draft—one of seven Terps to earn that honor in 2023.
The full-circle moment was just one highlight of the team’s second consecutive Big Ten championship. Now Swope is swinging for a threepeat, but from another position: head coach.
Swope in June replaced Rob Vaughn, who headed to Alabama. He spent the offseason bolstering Maryland’s staff and refilling his roster with promising recruits, but what won’t change is how the team works.
“When we had our first practice a couple of weeks ago, all I wanted to see was: Did it look the same? Did it feel the same? And it did,” Swope says from the dugout on a fall afternoon. “For me, it was about the energy, the processes, helping these players be the best they can be. And if you feel that same spirit, you’re in good shape.”
Swope is the first Maryland baseball alum to coach at his alma mater since Tom Bradley ’72, who recruited Swope from nearby DeMatha High School. He has more than 15 years of experience with the Terps, where he played outfield and set seven all-time offensive records including career home runs and RBIs.
“For me, it was about the energy, the processes, helping these players be the best they can be.”
Matt Swope, UMD Baseball head coach
He played for the Montreal Expos’ farm system and then for an independent Frontier League team before returning to UMD in 2013. As part of the coaching staff, he revolutionized how Maryland recruited athletes, looking beyond skill to passion and commitment; Swope’s strategy brought in players like Nick Lorusso and Matt Shaw—the No. 13 overall pick in last summer’s MLB draft, the highest ever for a Maryland player—and cultivating some of the best hitters in the program’s history.
“My job isn’t to be the same coach to everyone,” he says. “It’s to get the best out of each of them.”
In his new role, Swope will focus on what has helped Maryland garner the reputation of a “hitter’s school,” including the use of a unique physical analysis to evaluate and coach players individually, a tactic no other team in the world is using. Based in neuroscience, the process developed in Switzerland looks at an athlete’s balance, coordination and other natural tendencies (like how they cross their arms or what part of their foot hits the ground first) to pinpoint one of 13,000 possible profiles. In addition to his own players, Swope and his coaches have evaluated dozens of major league clients. (He also has a book in the works on this approach.)
“When I tell you it is a complete and utter game changer, you just look at what we’ve done,” he says.
The team’s offense has exploded over the last three years, setting records for runs scored, home runs, hits, RBI, slugging percentage and walks.
Swope expects the construction of a new practice facility to enhance his efforts, a place where he’ll be working his players daily in preparation for opening day.
In the meantime, the DJ will still crank up the “Star Wars” theme when the Terps are introduced, the lights still will flicker dramatically when they score a home run, and fans will still spill their popcorn when they cheer. But Swope says it’s a new era for Maryland baseball.
“It’s a dream come true,” he says. “I tell people, this is it.”
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