WICHITA, Kan. – Head softball coach Kristi Bredbenner announced Friday morning the hiring of new volunteer assistant coach Kevin Hooper to the Wichita State softball program.
“We are excited to announce a great addition to our coaching staff,” Bredbenner said. “Kevin Hooper, Wichita Wingnuts manager and former Shocker baseball great, has accepted the volunteer position with the Shocker softball program. Coach Hooper might be stepping into new territory coaching softball but the familiarity he has with Wichita State and what it takes to not only be an outstanding student-athlete but successful coach is going to make an impact on our program immediately.”
Prior to joining the Wichita State coaching staff, the Lawrence, Kan. native, served as manager for the Wichita Wingnuts. In his time with the Wingnuts, Hooper has led theteam to six-consecutive winning seasons, five division titles, and three straight berths in the American Association Championship Series.
In just his first season as manager of the Wichita Wingnuts in 2008, Hooper helped lead the Wingnuts to a 58-38 (.604) record clinching the division. Seven of the players under Hooper were chosen to play in the American Association All-Star game at Grand Prairie. Also, five of his players were selected to be a part of the league’s Postseason All-Star Team. With such a tremendous season, Hooper was voted the American Association’s Manager of the Year.
In 2011, the Wingnuts made a return to the postseason. The team led the league in hitting (.311) while they also ended the season third in ERA (4.52).
Beginning in 2012, under the direction of Hooper, the Wingnuts began breaking many team and league records. During the 2012 season, the team had a record 11-winning streak. In 2013, the team set an American Association Record of 68 wins which was broken a year later with the Wingnuts recording 73 wins. After their record-breakingseason in 2014, Hooper was again named Manager of the year for the third time in his career.
Although Hooper has taken this new position as the volunteer assistant coach for Wichita State softball, he will continue to manage the Wichita Wingnuts.
“The Wingnuts have 17 regular season games and hopefully a couple weeks of playoffs after that,” Bredbenner said. “Until the season is completely over, Coach Hooper will come to practice in the free time that he has; however, once the season ends he will be able to make it full time to practice and games.”
Prior to a career in professional baseball, Hooper was a four-year standout for the Wichita State baseball team. He was a big part of the 1996 baseball team that made a trip to the College World Series and he earned first team All-America honors in 1999. Hooper finished his career at Wichita State with a .358 batting average andranking in the top 15 in Shocker history in runs (fifth, 287), hits (11th, 310), doubles (12th, 58), triples (ninth, 17), and walks (sixth, 189).
After Hooper’s college baseball career was over, he was selected in the 1999 MLB Draft in the eighth round to the Florida Marlins. It did not take him long to work his way through the minor leagues. In just his third professional season he had already made his way to Triple-A with the Calgary Cannons.
On July 9, 2005 Hooper made his MLB Debut with the Detroit Tigers. In 2006 Hooper returned to Triple-A but it was not long until he earned another call to the MLB in 2006.
After his MLB career was over, Hooper then returned to Wichita, where he played for the Wichita Wingnuts during their inaugural season. That season, Hooper collected his 1,000th career base hit and also won the American Association batting title.
After that season Hooper was named the Wingnuts second manager in team history. Hooper now lives in Valley Center with his wife Lindsey and their two daughters Lucy and Laney.
“Coach Hooper will help with all aspects of the team but his primary focus will be the infielders,” Bredbenner said. “For four years, Hooper played middle infield for the Shockers, leaving a legacy of grit, determination and success. That is the attitude that we have tried to instill in Shocker Softball over the past four years. Having a coach like Kevin Hooper will reinforce that mentality even more.”