The interview was back in 2006. Link Jarrett was a young assistant, with a few years at Flagler, Florida State and Mercer under his belt. A recommendation from Mike Martin Sr. went a long way and the East Carolina coaching staff needed a hitting coach.
“I said, ‘That’s our guy.’ Just the way he presented himself, how he came off, knowledge of the game,” recalled Billy Godwin, then ECU’s pitching coach and within five months would take over as head coach. “And then he and I worked together for four years after that. I don’t have enough great things to say about him.”
The interview was the start of a good on-field relationship between Godwin and Jarrett as well as a close friendship. Godwin and Jarrett were a tag team for four seasons, with Godwin as head coach and working with the pitchers while Jarrett was hitting coach, instructed the infielders and held the role of recruiting coordinator. The Pirates reached the NCAA Tournament three times and claimed a Conference USA title.
Jarrett comes across as calm and level-headed in interviews. But Godwin said he has seen the fiery side, too. It’s just that Jarrett picks his moments. “I always felt like he stayed in the now really well,” Godwin told the Osceola this week. “Just always carried himself in a professional manner.”
A frequent description of Jarrett is his attention to detail. There is precision in how he wants the game practiced and played. But he is also willing to adapt to each person.
“Our players absolutely loved Link Jarrett,” Godwin said. “His teams have always hit. And something they always ask, ‘What does he do?’ He’s not a cookie cutter. He works with each kid individually, takes about what they do best and hones it. He just makes each guy a better individual. And it’s not one thing and I would say if anything it’s more approach than working with fine tuning the swing. And I think that within itself, made the players love him because he didn’t cookie cut. They felt like he was their personal hitting instructor.”
Jarrett played in three College World Series with FSU in the early 1990s and he’s back now as Notre Dame’s coach. The Fighting Irish (40-15) will play Texas today at 7 p.m. (ESPN) as part of double-elimination pool play. Jarrett is also considered the front-runner for the opening at FSU as his old roommate, Mike Martin Jr., was dismissed last Friday.
Speaking on Thursday in a pre-CWS press conference, Jarrett said a few of his old FSU teammates made the trip to Omaha to enjoy the experience with him.
“Two of my teammates flew from, one from Key West and one from Tampa to be at this,” Jarrett said. “They’re in my hotel. And you remember the guys on the team. These guys that were here, they’ll remember each other as much as anything that they’ll do within the game, I think.”
Jarrett said more than any specific game or moment, he recalled staying in each moment to get into position for a win.
“I remember how badly at shortstop when you’re trying to close out these games you just would hope that there was a ground ball hit somewhere where you could field it and get an out,” Jarrett said. “And you knew you were one out closer to winning a College World Series. I remember that feeling.”
Jarrett has impressively taken Notre Dame to a Super Regional in 2021 and now guided an upset of No. 1 Tennessee on the road. He has a very good thing going in South Bend, Ind. But coaching up north comes with inherent challenges with an outdoor sport, and Jarrett said it’s essential to adapt.
“You have to have the ability to adapt to your situation at the specific northern school you’re coaching at,” Jarrett said. “I’ve had to change how I practice, when we practice, where, why, how long, how you do your preseason, the fall is probably the only thing that I could take my schematics for how I did it before and do it here.
“But the preseason is totally different. So you better digest what facility capabilities you have, how to use it, how is the time best spent. We didn’t step outside until Friday night at Stetson. So we went the whole preseason and we were never outside. We might have played our best that weekend. It was phenomenal the way they played right out of the gate. Just telling you. So being creative with what you’re doing training-wise to prepare them. If you’re not, you’re not going to get out of the gates and be real good.”
Jarrett wouldn’t have those logistics issues if he were at FSU, of course. The challenge of preparing for the season in South Bend is the constant indoor workouts. But it’s also remarkable to see how the team was rolling early despite playing the majority of the first few months on the road, including ACC series at NC State, Louisville and FSU (the Fighting Irish swept the Seminoles in early April).
“When I got here, pivoting them into the mindset that when you get off the bus on February 15th, and you play that Friday game, that game might be the difference in what happens on that selection Monday,” Jarrett said. “And when I said it to the team, it was the first time I think they realized what I was trying to do with the program from day one. …
“If you’re not ready to go (in) the front-end games, haven’t seasoned you enough get you ready, look at what you could be staring at before you ever play a home game. So is it hard? Probably. Can it be done? Absolutely, you just have to be ready out of the gate and be really creative with the way you train them.”
Godwin recalled days coaching alongside Jarrett fondly. Pitching and defense go hand in hand, and the complementary philosophies meshed well at ECU.
“He and I had like a special ‘click’ because I knew what he was thinking he knew what I was thinking,” Godwin said. “And at times we just navigated the game together. He just always seemed to be one step ahead and always had guys in the right place.”