Head Baseball Coach
University of Connecticut
Jim Penders has worked with the University of Connecticut baseball program in 18 of the last 20 years, being associated with the Huskies as a student-athlete, an assistant coach and now head coach. He enters his seventh season at the helm of the program in 2010 after leading the UConn ball club to a 36-24 overall record in 2009 and an appearance in the BIG EAST Championship final against Louisville. In six seasons as head coach for the Huskies, Penders' overall coaching record is 204-152-2 (2010 season included).
Last season, UConn recorded 14 conference victories, and in so doing, won seven of their nine total BIG EAST series on the year. The Huskies took two of three games from South Florida, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Villanova. Entering the 2009 BIG EAST Baseball Championship as the sixth seed, the Huskies beat West Virginia 6-1 in their opening game, before eliminating South Florida with two wins in back-to-back games. Despite falling to Louisville in the Championship final, the Huskies picked up multiple accolades en route to the title game, including freshman George Springer being named the 2009 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, becoming UConn's first-ever player to earn that honor in program history.
In 2008, Penders guided the young UConn ball club to a 27-28 overall performance as the Huskies picked up 11 BIG EAST Conference wins, including a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh to end the 2008 season. In 2007, Penders and the Huskies earned a spot in the BIG EAST Championship game after battling their way through the BIG EAST Tournament by upsetting three higher-seeded teams. UConn's appearance in the title game as the eighth-seed marked the lowest seed in BIG EAST Tournament history to reach the final game. In addition, Penders guided the Huskies to their third straight season with 34 or more wins, as his 2006 and 2007 squads ended the year with 39 and 34 victories, respectively.
After the 2006 season, a year in which the Huskies went 39-18-1, Penders led his program to a second place finish in the BIG EAST and earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year, and NEIBA Coach of the Year honors, while his team was named the NEIBA Team of the Year.
In July of 2003, Penders became just the fifth head coach in the program's history since 1924 joining Sumner Dole (1924-35), J.O. Christian (1936-61), Larry Panciera (1962-79) and Andy Baylock (1980-2003). Penders was an assistant coach for the Huskies for seven years from 1997-2003 as UConn posted winning seasons in each of those campaigns. As an assistant coach, Penders coordinated the Huskies recruiting of student-athletes, served as a hitting coach and worked with the catchers and outfielders.
A standout on the baseball field for Connecticut during his undergraduate career, Penders was a four-year letter winner as a Husky. He was co-captain of the 1994 UConn squad that won the BIG EAST Conference tournament, and the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Championship in both his junior and senior years. He hit .354 with seven home runs and 46 runs batted in as a senior in 1994. He earned First Team All-Northeast, All-New England and All-BIG EAST in his senior year as a catcher. During his UConn career, the Huskies played in the championship game of the BIG EAST Tournament three times. Penders helped the Huskies to 99 wins over his four seasons, including a 30-18 record in 1994. He also excelled in the classroom as a three-time BIG EAST Academic All-Star.
Penders was a four-year member of the UConn Captains' Council and served as that group's president during his senior year. Penders graduated from UConn in 1994 with a degree in political science and added a master's degree from UConn in 1998 from the School of Education. Penders worked in Washington, D.C., from 1994-96 as a political fund raiser for U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
Penders returned to UConn for the 1997 season as a graduate assistant baseball coach and became a full-time assistant coach for the 1999 season. He also founded and directs the Connecticut Baseball School. The popular camp holds sessions during the summer and winter vacation periods, along with a one-day fall session in October every year.
The connection between the Penders family and UConn athletics runs deep. Penders' father, Jim, and uncle, Tom, both graduated from UConn and played on the Huskies' 1965 College World Series team. Jim is a 1966 UConn graduate and has been the baseball coach at East Catholic High School since 1969, where he coached his three sons. He was an infielder for the Huskies and had a career batting average of .279, including a .323 mark his senior year. He was a captain of the '65 squad and the only player to hit over .300 for the Huskies that season. Jim has won four Connecticut high school state championships at East Catholic and was named the national high school coach of the year in 1996. In the summer of 2008 he was inducted into the National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and in June of 2009, the baseball field at East Catholic was named in his honor.
Tom, a 1967 UConn graduate, was the head men's basketball coach at Tufts (1971-74), Columbia (1974-78), Fordham (1978-86), Rhode Island (1986-88), Texas (1988-98) and George Washington (1998-2000). He currently is the head coach at the University of Houston. Tom was a two-sport star at UConn in baseball and? basketball as he played in two NCAA tournaments (1965 and 1967) and the 1965 College World Series. Penders' extended family also includes a prominent former Husky. His former classmate, teammate, battery-mate and 1994 Lawrence R. Panciera Most Valuable Player, Aaron Quinn, is now his brother-in-law. Quinn pitched for the Huskies from 1991-94 and married Penders' sister-in-law, Courtney in 1999.
Penders' younger brother Rob is the head coach of Division II St. Edward's University of Austin, Texas. His grandfather Jim was the longtime baseball coach at Stratford (Conn.) High School from 1931-68 and won four state championships, a record matched by Penders' father at East Catholic. He was also the head of the physical education department and the town's recreation director. The Stratford High School baseball and football complex is named in his honor.
Penders is also actively involved with several baseball clinics around the globe as he has presented as a featured clinician in Regensburg, Germany to German baseball coaches for International Sports Group/Major League Baseball International. In addition to Germany, in January of 2008, he ventured overseas to instruct Swedish coaches in a three-day national clinic in Leksand, Sweden. In January of 2009, he flew to the Czech Republic for more presentations. Penders has also spent several years working at the World Baseball Convention in Uncasville, Conn., the Be The Best You Are Clinic in Cherry Hill, N.J., as well as conducting a catching clinic at the ABCA National Convention in Nashville, Tenn. in 2004.
In addition, Penders contributed a chapter in the published book, Gold Glove Baseball, in which he dissects catching techniques.
A native of Vernon, Conn., Penders was an all-state performer in baseball at East Catholic High School and served as his senior class president. Penders and his wife, Brooke, reside in Old Wethersfield, Conn., and have three children - a daughter, Tess (8), and sons, James Henry "Hank" (6), and Charles Edward "Charlie" (2).