Big Red grad named head baseball coach at Waynesburg
WAYNESBURG, Pa. — Steubenville native Perry Cunningham has a fairly simple goal for his new role as head baseball coach at Waynesburg University.
“Just win,” said Cunningham, a 1999 graduate of Steubenville and a product of the highly successful Big Red baseball program. “Simplistically, this can be achieved through maybe a little more structure in practice and cleaning up some of the little things that have gotten away from us.
“My biggest goal is to institute the Waynesburg Way — the way we’re going to do things going forward. Baseball is meant to be fun, but let’s not make any mistake about it — winning is what is fun, especially at our level.”
Cunningham takes over for Mike Humiston, who stepped away from the program after 16 years as the head coach. The Yellow Jackets’ new bench boss has been with Waynesburg for 14 years, serving as an assistant coach and director of baseball strength and conditioning.
“Baseball has always been a part of my life,” said Cunningham, the son of Perry, who passed away in November of 2017, and Marian Cunningham. “To be presented with this opportunity at Waynesburg, it’s obviously something I am excited for. Being an assistant for as long as I have been, there are certain things I plan to do differently. I hope they have the impact that will allow us to win a little more.
“I want to thank President Douglas G. Lee, Provost Dana Cook Baer, J.D. and Director of Athletics Adam Jack for this opportunity. I truly appreciate them putting their trust in me to lead the Waynesburg baseball program and playing a bigger role in the lives of our players on and off the field.”
After graduating from Big Red, Cunningham continued his baseball career at Davis & Elkins College. He was a three-time All-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection. As a senior, he was named WVIAC Pitcher of the Year and the Davis & Elkins Male Athlete of the Year.
Cunningham spent 2003 in the Northeast League as a member of the Allentown Ambassadorsbefore signing with the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints of the Frontier League. From 2004 to 2007, heenjoyed one of the finest careers ever by a Frontier League pitcher. He compiled a career record of 37-21, with a career 3.54 ERA over 497.2 innings pitched and 78 starts. At the time of his retirement from baseball, Cunningham ranked second in league history in wins (37), starts (76) and innings pitched (497.2).
His coaching career began in 2004 as a volunteer assistant at D&E. The following season, he coached at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Va., prior to joining Waynesburg before the 2008 campaign.
“We are very fortunate to have a coach like Perry Cunningham positioned to lead the baseball program,” Jack said in a release from the university. “As impressive as Perry’s baseball playing and coaching resume is, I am most excited about his mentoring of student-athletes, as he will foster an atmosphere of growth and excellence for years to come.”
The Yellow Jackets, who compete in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, finished the 2021 season with a 12-20 record.
“The conference is competitive, and what coach Jeff Mountain has done at Washington & Jefferson is outstanding,” Cunningham said. “I always say we get better as a conference by chasing him (W&J went 37-3 in 2021 and finished 13th in the Division III baseball poll). They have been the unquestioned leader. There has been a group of us and I feel like Waynesburg has been in the mix, fighting for the for the other three conference playoff spots. Some years we made it, but most years we fell a game or two short.
“I’ve talked to our players about the little things that happen in a game and how the summation of five to eight of those little things have added up to wins and losses. If we could have done a few things differently here and there, it would have been the difference between making a post-season tournament or being on the outside looking in.”
When it comes to filling his roster going forward, Cunningham said he would like to recruit more players from the Ohio Valley.
“That’s something I talked with our administration about,” he said. “We have a pretty big draw from western Pennsylvania. A lot of the relationships I have are with coaches in the eastern part of Ohio.
“I’m looking forward to getting some more kids from the Ohio Valley. I know the competitive spirit those kids have and a lot of them are looking for an opportunity to play, I was one of them. That’s what I hope I can provide.”
Cunningham and his wife, Pam, are the owners of Back Roads Energy. They have two sons, Cooper and Cade.
In the university release, Cunningham expressed his gratitude to Humiston for bringing him into the Waynesburg baseball fold.
“Coach Hum created a family atmosphere,” Cunningham said. “There was an unwavering message that academics come first. He and I always talked about the rewarding part of seeing teenage freshmen turn into educated, independent young men who grow in all of the different aspects of life. Those will continue to be cornerstones for our program.”
Cunningham continues to maintain a close relationship with Fred Heatherington, his coach at Big Red. In fact, Heatherington was one of the first to hear of Cunningham’s new duties.
“Big Red baseball is very proud of all of its former players especially the ones who fought adversity like Perry did,” Heatherington said. “He went from being cut his freshman year to becoming a top-notch pitcher at the high school and college levels, and he was successful in the Frontier League.
“He is a man of high quality and character. We wish him the best.”