John Rittman tabbed to lead Clemson softball program
CLEMSON – Clemson’s first pitch as a fledgling softball program is 27 months away, but John Rittman’s first pitch will come sometime Saturday morning.
“I’m going out tomorrow to hit the (recruiting) trail,” Rittman said.
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Rittman, who was introduced Friday morning as Clemson’s first softball coach, will carry plenty of street cred.
A longtime head coach and a member of the coaching staff for the USA Softball Women’s National Team, the 54-year-old Rittman comes to Clemson after serving as associate head coach at the University of Kansas for the past two seasons.
Prior to that, Rittman was head coach at Stanford, where he guided the Cardinal to 18 consecutive winning seasons and 16 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. He had an overall head coaching record of 750-351-3 at Stanford.
Among Rittman’s recruits to Stanford was pitcher Carley Hoover, the former Daniel High standout and daughter of former Clemson volleyball coach Jolene Jordan Hoover.
He’s looking forward to uncovering similar talent in a state that has a strong softball tradition at the high school level.
“No question it behooves us to recruit locally,” Rittman said. “Kids that are local have grown up with Clemson, most of them dream about attending Clemson, so that’s an easy sell. It’s finding the athletes who can compete in the ACC and for national championships, but we are definitely going to turn over every rock, looking for that talent.”
That effort begins immediately, even though a stadium is only in the planning stages and a first pitch won’t be delivered until February of 2020. A roster also must be filled by what most likely will be a combination of high school standouts, transfers and junior college players to help get the program off the ground.
“There are some kids now that Clemson has started softball who are going to take a second look,” Rittman said. “And there are a lot of people who transfer nowadays for a number of reasons and the junior college route can help even out the scholarships.
“I am thrilled for this opportunity. I knew that the next job I applied for would have to be a special job. I’ve been here twice, and we’ve already fallen in love with the place. The opportunity to build something new, the newness of everything is just attractive. It was easy sell for me. This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
One that athletic director Dan Radakovich was eager to provide.
“John Rittman is a proven winner and nationally respected coach, and the right person to lead our new softball program at Clemson,” Radakovich said. “I can tell you without question that this was an incredibly deep candidate pool. The interest from Power 5 head coaches and top assistants was remarkable. One name kept popping up and we kept hearing, ‘If you have a chance to get John Rittman, your search is done.’”
Rittman also had assistant coaching stints at Washington, Minnesota and Oregon. He and his wife, Lorie, a former softball player at Oklahoma, have two sons – Justin, a senior fullback at UCLA, and Jake, a standout wide receiver and kicker at Lawrence Free State High School in Lawrence, Kansas.