Keilitz leaves mark at HPU
Resting prominently on the desk of High Point University vice president of athletics Craig Keilitz is an antique baseball mitt, the kind no bigger than a hand, and a scruffy, well-worn baseball.
Keilitz says the glove is from 1918 and the baseball is older, gifts given to him by a friend, Don Hauser, when they worked together in the athletics department at Wake Forest University.
“Don knew of my passion for baseball and baseball collectibles,” said Keilitz, who comes from a baseball family and played collegiately at Central Michigan.
Picking up the two items, Keilitz fired the ball into the mitt and kept doing it repeatedly for demonstration purposes.
“I call it my thinking mitt,” Keilitz said. “When people hear the sound of the ball hitting this mitt, they know I’m trying to come up with a solution to something and it could be time for them to really go to work.”
Starting on July 1, the popping sound will be heard in a new location. That’s the day Keilitz officially becomes director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, succeeding his father, Dave, who held the position while baseball coach at Central Michigan.
In his new job, Keilitz will use his love of the game to help oversee amateur baseball from the college level down through high school and will help serve as liaison between the college ranks and Major League Baseball.
He won’t move back to Michigan to do it. Instead, he is establishing a new five-person office for the organization in a location off Piedmont Parkway.
“I’m looking at it as a chance to do an incredible job in amateur baseball and oversee the ACBA,” Craig Kelitiz said. “There is a part of me that thinks it is exciting to follow my father. But I didn’t look at it that way when I had an opportunity to take the job. I looked at having a very good skill set to do a very good job, and my passion for baseball is so strong, it’s going to be an incredible job for me. I would be interested in it if I didn’t have the opportunity to follow my dad, let’s put it that way.”
He is leaving HPU after running the athletic department for six years, overseeing an upgrade in the program. He does have some regrets about moving on.
“There’s not one single thing that I don’t like about High Point,” Craig Kelitz said. “Usually when a person leaves a job, they are looking to leave. Between (HPU president Nido) Qubein, our vice presidents, administrators, coaches and student-athletes, I’m actually sad to leave.
“The thing making it nicer is I’m not leaving town and will be able to be a part of what is going on here. I think we’ve put together something special between our coaches and student-athletes and administration, and we’re just starting to see the great things that are happening.”
During Keilitz’ tenure, HPU added men’s and women’s lacrosse. He hired new coaches in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, baseball, women’s soccer and volleyball while keeping those in men’s soccer and track. He oversaw facility upgrades in the Millis Center that included $2 million for the basketball arena and improvements to the coaches’ offices and locker rooms, installation of state of the art turf at Vert Stadium, and start of construction on the Athletic Performance Center at Vert — a $9 million project that includes new offices for soccer and lacrosse, academic services and training facilities. That building is scheduled to be completed shortly after Keilitz leaves.
The accomplishments on the field include first-time Big South championships in men’s soccer (regular season, 2010), women’s cross country (2011), volleyball (2010 tournament), men’s basketball (2014 regular season), women’s lacrosse (2013) plus another women’s basketball regular-season championship this year, and two tournament and two regular-season championships in women’s soccer.
He has also served on the NCAA Sports Championship Management Cabinet which decides how many teams as well as dates for tournaments.
“He gets it — he knows that it is more about wins and losses, that it is about relationships,” said DeUnna Hendrix, who was elevated to women’s head basketball coach after Jen Hoover left for Wake Forest. ”He’s great leader and a great person who took a chance on me.”
Keiltiz said he is most proud of “the quality of our student athletes. They come in as young kinds and leave ready to conquer the world and then see the graduates come back and see what they are doing in their jobs or with their families, I’m most proud of that.”
HPU athletes had a GPA of 3.11 at the end of 2013 fall semester with 61 percent having of a GPA of 3.0, according to the school.
“As for the athletics. Dr. Qubein has given us the opportunity to grow the program into a top level Division I program,” Keilitz said. “In my opinion, everything we do at High Point is first class from putting on championships, to put on events, to educating our student athletes, to the way they are treated as students, it’s all first class.”
In his new role, Keilitz will direct a number of committees in addition to his small staff in the central office. Serving seven levels of amateur baseball (NCAA Divisions I, II and III plus NAIA, junior college, high school and youth), he will oversee an annual convention that has 5,500-6,000 attendees, will work with MLB on coordination of the amateur draft and will work with the NCAA on rule changes and matters such as maximum number of games and practice periods.
“I’ll be the front person on getting what the coaches, athletic director and commissioners feel is important for the sport of baseball,” Keilitz said. “I’m excited about those opportunities to see what the coaches want to have done and make sure it’s the right thing for the game of baseball and taking it forward and see if I can get it done.”
Before he leaves, he will have input on the picking of his successor.
“I’ve been asked to identity people,” Keilitz said. “So many things have changed in the last six years, that it’s such an appealing position. A number of people have called and asked ‘Is it as good as I have heard’ and I say ‘Absolutely.’ I think it’s one of the best jobs in the country.”