New softball coach starts recruiting Saturday, knows the paw is at 1 o'clock


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Rittman poses with head baseball coach Monte Lee Friday
Rittman poses with head baseball coach Monte Lee Friday

CLEMSON – John Rittman is still getting used to finding his way around Clemson, and he wants to use baseball coach Monte Lee as a sounding board for Clemson’s time-honored traditions. One thing he does know, however, is that the Tigers’ iconic paw is supposed to be turned toward 1 o’clock.

Rittman was introduced as Clemson’s softball coach at a press conference in the McFadden Team Room Friday. He will begin to recruit immediately, and play will start in the spring of 2020. Construction of the softball complex will likely begin after the 2018 football season, but Rittman knows he has to start the recruiting process now.

“How are we going to build this program? It starts with recruiting,” Rittman told TigerNet. “We are going to recruit locally regionally and nationally the best student-athletes to one of the best public schools in the country. This is a beautiful and vibrant community and a passionate fan base. Tons of coaches were interested in this position, so I am humbled to the first head coach. We are going to see the opportunity of being something new. We are going to build it by setting high standards in the classroom, on the field, and in the community and it will shape our culture for years to come.

“It all starts tomorrow. I hit the recruiting trail to start recruiting our first class. I am excited to wear the Clemson gear, the Clemson paw and I can't tell you enough how much I am appreciative of this opportunity to lead this program going forward.”

Rittman said he would build the program from the middle out – start with pitching, catching, shortstop and centerfield and add pieces from there.

“We will make a plan as we move forward and look at the kids that want to play here. I would love to have as many as possible (the first year),” Rittman said. “I would love to have a good mix of freshmen, maybe some junior college kids, but trying to even out that pool so in four years we aren't recruiting the JC ranks anymore.

“The signing period starts next week, so I don’t know if I will have another coach in place yet. We are in the middle of the academic year, but I hope to have everything complete by the summer. I have recruited nationally for years, and I have a lot of connections that I will draw on so we can recruit nationally here. Obviously, there is a lot of top-notch talent here in the state of South Carolina, and we will start there. Hopefully, I will be at the Florida St. game with a couple of recruits.”

Rittman said he’s already spoken with Lee but wants to lean on all of the school’s coaches for guidance.

“I think, as a coach, I need to learn all the traditions,” he said. “The paw has to be turned to 1 o'clock and all of these things. I am going to lean on all the coaches and learn as much as I can about Clemson. I know they can help me in the recruiting process.”

Rittman comes to Clemson after serving as associate head coach at the University of Kansas for the past two seasons. Rittman joined the Jayhawks after 18 seasons as the head coach at Stanford University and ten years on the United States National Team coaching staff (2001-08, 2016-present).

Under Rittman, the Cardinal recorded 18-consecutive winning seasons, made 16-straight NCAA appearances, notched 13 40-win seasons and produced at least one All-American in 15 of his last 17 seasons. As head coach, Rittman accumulated a 750-351-3 overall mark, coached a national player of the year, 16 All-Americans, earned five Super Regional appearances, two Women's College World Series appearances and maintained a spot in every regular-season National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top 25 poll for more than a decade.

The past two years, Rittman has served on the staff of USA Softball team which won gold at both the 2016 Women’s Softball World Championship and the 2017 Pan Am Games. He also worked with Team USA from 2001-08, coaching the 2004 Olympic gold medal winners in Athens and the 2008 silver medalists in Beijing. Team USA also won gold medals at the Pan Am Games and the U.S. Cup in 2003.

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