Mike Birkbeck, a former major league pitcher, was promoted to Associate Head Coach in July, 2004. The 2013 season marks his 17th season as pitching coach for the Kent State program.
Prior to coming to Kent State, Birkbeck spent 14 years playing professionally. His last 10 seasons were spent at the AAA or major league level. He also spent parts of two seasons playing in the Japanese major leagues with the Yokohama Baystars in Yokohama, Japan.
In 2012, Birkbeck helped guide a young, retooled Golden Flashes’ pitching staff to a school-record 47 victories, the Mid-American Conference championship, MAC Tournament title, NCAA Gary Regional crown, Eugene Super Regional title and a berth in the school’s first-ever College World Series. Birkbeck was named 2012 Baseball America/American Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in November 2012 for his successes.
The 2012 pitching staff featured three professional draftees;
JR. RHP Ryan Bores, JR. LHP Michael Clark and SR. LHP David
Starn. 2012 All-MAC selections as pitchers included first
teamer and MAC Conference Pitcher of the Year SR. David
Starn. Starn was also selected as the MAC Tournament Most
Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. In
addition, JR. Ryan Bores, FR. Brian Clark and SO. Tyler Skulina
were selected to the All MAC Second Team. Starn and Brian
Clark were also selected as postseason All-Americans by Collegiate
The Golden Flashes have now won six MAC regular season titles, eight MAC tournament crowns and have appeared in eight NCAA Regional Tournaments during Birkbeck’s tenure, including twelve championships in the last thirteen seasons. In those 16 seasons, KSU has won 584 games, an average of 37 wins per year and have now won 30 or more games in a season fourteen consecutive campaigns.
Birkbeck has worked with 37 student-athletes who have been drafted or signed into professional baseball, including 2011 First Round Draftee Andrew Chafin. Five of his former hurlers, Matt Guerrier ’99 (Twins), John VanBenschoten ‘01 (Pirates), Dirk Hayhurst ’03 (Padres),Andy Sonnanstine ’04 (Devil Rays), and Chris Carpenter ’08 (Cubs) have all appeared in the major leagues. In addition, he has mentored 28 All-MAC, 14 All-MAC Tournament, nine All-Region and nine All-American honorees.
Several Golden Flash pitchers have broken single-season or career pitching records under his guidance. 2007 saw RHP Jason Seelman author the best single-season ERA in Kent history, allowing three earned runs in 33 innings for a .82 ERA. Other notable record setting performances include: Justin Gill ‘11, career appearances (97); Kyle McMillen ‘11, who smashed the single-season and MAC single-season saves record (18), Dan Adams 2000 career saves mark (29) and single season appearances (31); and Andy Sonnanstine ‘04, single-season wins (11) and single-season innings pitched (125) in 2004. In addition, the 2012 pitching staff established a new school record for strikeouts with 543 and SR. LHP David Starn eclipsed the single-season strikeout mark with 127 and he tied the single-season wins record (11) along with SO. RHP Tyler Skulina (11) . Starn also established new career records in wins (29), innings pitched (341) and strikeouts (347) supplanting former Flash major leaguer Dirk Hayhurst ‘03 in the latter two categories.
Birkbeck assists in the evaluation and recruitment of pitchers and is directly responsible for the pitching staff’s off-season winter individual throwing workout programs. He also coordinates the Flashes’ winter and summer youth pitching camps and assists with the throwing portions of all other camps.
Coach Birkbeck is a member of the Orrville Sports Hall of Fame, University of Akron Sports Hall of Fame, Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame, the Richmond Braves 10th anniversary All-Diamond Team and Richmond’s All-Century Team. In summer 2001 he also was inducted into the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame and the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame.
Birkbeck, a 1985 graduate of Akron University with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing, was a four-year letter winner, two-time captain, the 1982 Ohio Valley Conference MVP and an All-American with the Zips. He still holds the Akron career victories record with 24 wins and is also a member of the Ohio Valley Conference’s All-Time team.
A native of Orrville, OH, Birkbeck, his wife Suzanne and son John, live in Plain Township, Canton, OH. John is currently a SO. RHP for the Golden Flashes.