Mike Gillespie is entering his 21st season as the head baseball coach at Southern Wesleyan University in 2016. He also serves as an assistant athletics director. He was previously an assistant on staff in the fall of 1996 before being promoted to the head coach in time for the spring season in 1997. Prior to his stint at SWU he was an assistant baseball coach at Pickens High School.
Gillespie inherited a program that had significant turnover with four head coaching changes within a four year span.
"I can still remember meeting with each recruit and his family that first year," stated Gillespie. "I told all of them that they would probably never get the recognition they would deserve once we got the program back on its feet. I will never forget that first class and what they mean to this baseball program. They are the foundation of what we have going."
The program saw the fruits of their labor in 2001 as the program tied the school record for wins in a season at 23. In 2004, the Gillespie guided the team to an 11-0 win over Southern Polytechnic on March 26, 2004 that broke the school record for wins. That 2004 team finished the season with 29 wins.
In 2007, the squad set yet another record as they won their 30th game of the season, defeating Shorter College 14-1 on April 14, 2007. This team went on to win the NCCAA National Championship on May 19 as they defeated Faulkner University 9-6. That win game the team 40 wins and set a new standard of excellence.
"Everything involved, from winning the National Championship, to setting the school record for wins, to watching the Stadium Project from ground up has been the total dedication of so many people," stated Gillespie. "I have always told our players that everyone involved from day one of this baseball program can be proud of all the accomplishments we have noted over the course of the program's inception back in the late 80's. So many people have dedicated many years to what we have now. God has blessed us and He has definitely enlarged our territory. The greatest thing about it all is that there is so much more out there for us to experience."
Since 2001, Gillespie has watched 10 former players continue their playing career after SWU. Former players Luke Syfert(2001), Blake Honeycutt(2003), David Travis(2004), Justin McKim(2004), Wes Thompson(2004), Kyle Kmiecik(2004), Kellen Kmiecik(2008), Dustin Smith(2008), Kody Hightower(2008) and Tim O’Callaghan(2014) have all made their way into the professional ranks.
Nine players have been honored as NAIA Scholar Athletes during Gillespie’s tenure including Chris Heller (2001), Davey Blackburg (2007, 2008), Ben Douglas (2007), Guy Howard (2008), Jason Garner (2009), Aaron Plummer (2011), Daniel Baxley (2012), Kendall Ray (2012, 2013) and Stephen Wyatt (2013, 2014).
The 2007 national champion team brought home a number of awards as Kody Hightower and Ben Douglas were named MVPs of the tournament. They were joined by Brandon Brown and Kellen Kmiecik on the All-Tournament team. Hightower was also named NCCAA All-American in 2007.
Hightower was also named to the NAIA 2nd Team All-American in 2008 as well as NCCAA All-American for the second straight year. In 2009 Craig Turner was named NCCAA All-American
David Travis has the distinction as the first SWU player to be drafted in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, going in the 13th round of the 2004 draft to the Montreal Expos. Travis was also named as an honorable mention NAIA All-American that year.
In 2003, Gillespie was named SWU Staff Member of the Year and in 2004 he was named the Georgia Alabama Carolina Conference baseball Coach of the Year as well as the Male Sports Coach of the Year. In 2007, he was awarded the NCCAA National Coach of the Year after leading the Warriors to the national championship.
Academics is a major priority with the SWU baseball program and that is evident by the continued growth in the squad's GPA. An academic support system for the program, created in 2000, has been instrumental in keeping graduation rates high. The team's grade point average has risen from a 2.23 in the spring of 2000 to a 3.19 for the fall 2014 semester.
Outreach to the local community is a staple of the baseball program under Gillespie. In addition to a summer baseball camp series, he is also the founder of Baseball & Books and the Chapter Captain of the local All Pro Dad organization of which Tony Dungy is the National Spokesperson. The SWU baseball program initiated "Soup by the Field" in 2008 to help serve those in need within the local community.
Since 1998 Dr. C. Keith Connor Field has been transformed from just a field to a stadium. The addition of a sheltered batting cage, improvements to the outfield fence, dugouts, and surrounding bank are several of the minor improvements to the facility. Lights were installed for the 2002 season and a small clubhouse was constructed for the 2004 season.
Through the aid of dedicated Warrior fans, the baseball program experienced an incredible upgrade in 2006 with the Baseball Stadium Project. This project, with first phase being dedicated on April 8, 2006, now boasts a presidential suite that includes a climate-controlled viewing area and private box seating. The improved baseball facility also includes restrooms, concessions and a press box. This project was made possible through the vision, contributions and donations of many local businesses and individuals in the Central/Clemson community and beyond.
Most recently, the program has re-modeled the home dugout and construction is due for completion in January 2015 for a permanent clubhouse attached to the home dugout. Summer 2015 construction plans call for enlargement of the hitting facility.
Gillespie served two years - 2005-06 and again in 2013-14 - as the baseball chair in the Southern States Athletic Conference and also served on the rating committee.
In the summer of 2008 Gillespie coached the AIA Fire in the Alaska Baseball League. The Fire is one of several teams that is associated with Athletes in Action.
Gillespie played three years for Central Wesleyan College (now known as Southern Wesleyan University), after transferring from Western Carolina in January of 1990. While at CWC he was a two-time captain and also earned all-district honors.
Gillespie is married to Tammy L. Gillespie and they reside in Pickens, S.C. with their three children, Kirkland, Kaylee and Kaci.