Mike Littlewood says BYU interim skipper Trent Pratt more than ready to coach
Former BYU head coach goes way back with interim head coach, calling him very knowledgable about the game and ‘one of the best people’ he knows
In a matter of hours, Trent Pratt went from a longtime assistant and third base coach to the man in charge of BYU baseball. Even on an interim basis, Pratt has more control of a team than he has ever had — and his former boss believes he is ready.
“Trent is one of the most knowledgeable baseball guys I’ve ever been around,” said former BYU baseball head coach Mike Littlewood. “He understands the game at a level deeper than most ‘baseball’ people.”
Littlewood resigned last week citing personal reasons. While he hasn’t offered much about his abrupt departure 29 games into his 10th season in Provo, he has a lot to say about his replacement.
“Trent is a grinder in every aspect of college baseball,” Littlewood said. “He’s a tireless recruiter and spends hours and hours of individual time with hitters and catchers. He is one of the best people I know.”
Littlewood, Pratt and assistant coach Brent Haring won 262 games together at BYU, including WCC championships in 2016, 2017 and 2019, with Littlewood earning WCC Coach of the Year in 2019. Pratt was also at Littlewood’s side for six seasons at Dixie State, where they won 181 games together.
“There were a handful of series at Dixie that I missed because I was working March Madness (as a basketball official) and Trent took over during those times,” Littlewood said. “He has the experience at the college level of being a head coach on the field.”
During his unexpected debut last week at Nebraska, Pratt guided the Cougars (20-13) to wins in three of four games, with each one decided by a single run. BYU is 10-3 against Power Five programs, including a 10-3 win at Utah (20-14-1) on March 15. Pratt will get his first taste of the rivalry game Tuesday night when the Cougars and Utes meet at 6 p.m. MDT at Smith’s Ballpark.
“I have known Trent since he was in the eighth grade and I was coaching at the Mountain West Baseball Academy,” Littlewood said. “He was playing shortstop, but coach Steve Cramblitt and I saw qualities that would make Trent an incredible catcher.”
Pratt switched positions and his game took off. He played two years at Auburn and two years at Arizona State before being drafted in the 12th round of the 2002 MLB draft by Philadelphia.
“As soon as Trent was done playing and expressed an interest in coaching, I brought him on at Dixie immediately,” Littlewood said. “Until you sit at the seat as the head coach, you really can’t understand all that is involved. But Trent is a very intelligent guy and will figure things out quickly.”
In addition to his new interim head coaching duties and coaching third base, Pratt keeps a close eye on his favorite position — and the two freshmen who are developing behind the plate.
Collie Reuter, from Olive Branch, Mississippi, has 26 starts. Mason Strong, from Santa Clara, Utah, has six. They are both the present and the future for BYU baseball as the Cougars finish up competition in the WCC next year before joining the Big 12 on July 1, 2023.
“Trent is one of the best catching instructors in the country,” Littlewood said. “And he has a unique way of taking a hitters’ individual strengths and building upon them. He has an eye for identifying weaknesses and works with them at a personal level to get the most out of each hitter.”
Ozzie Pratt fits that mold. The freshman second baseman from Oxford, Mississippi, leads the team in hitting with a .329 batting average.
In addition to losing Littlewood, BYU is without Andrew Pintar, who was lost for the season (shoulder) and won’t have home run hitter Cole Gambill (foot) back in right field for several more weeks. Both Pintar and Gambill were named to the All-WCC Preseason Baseball Team.
The top six teams in the WCC qualify for the conference tournament in late May with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
BYU is 6-6 in league play and three games behind second place San Diego (9-6) and LMU (9-6). The Toreros play a three-game series in Provo starting Thursday. The Lions play at BYU May 19-21 during the final week of the regular season.
Pratt’s support staff remains intact with Haring, a 14-year assistant for Littlewood, pitching coach Michael Bradshaw, director of baseball operations Tuckett Slade and student assistant coach Noah Hill all still in the fight.
“I really felt like I had the best staff in America. Bar none,” said Littlewood.
Despite the coaching change and the injuries, the Cougars still have a lot to play for, and for Pratt as interim head coach, he may be playing for a whole lot more as BYU looks to the future. This is a moment he has been preparing for, both on and off the field.
“All of our former players know him and they have been so good to us. They are the main reason why the facilities are what they are and why the product on the field is what it is,” Littlewood said. “The program simply cannot survive without the support of the donors and former players, and I know Trent understands that.”