Tom Lipari grew up wanting to pitch for Creighton.
His father, Ted, played for the Bluejays in the mid-1970s and later was an assistant coach at the school. Tom Lipari remembers attending Creighton games when the school played its home contests at Booth Field in east Omaha.
"I was a big Creighton fan," Lipari said, "but when I graduated from Benson in 1997, I was 6-3 and 155 pounds. I wasn't ready to play at that level."
Lipari headed off to junior college in Iowa, beginning a baseball odyssey that included stops as a player at the University of New Orleans and five professional outposts as well as coaching assignments at four schools.
After spending the past two seasons at Pittsburgh, the 33-year-old Lipari is coming home to serve as Creighton's new pitching coach.
"In the back of my mind, I always knew that if there was an opportunity at Creighton, I'd have to look at it," Lipari said. "At the same time, even though my wife Rebecca and I are both from Omaha, I don't know if we'd be coming home if we didn't have a good feeling about the program.
"But given what Coach Servais has done, we feel very good about this move."
Ed Servais is equally excited about having Lipari join his staff.
"It's nice to get a guy with Tom's background," Servais said. "I like the fact that he played professionally, because our guys want to hear what the pro life is about and he'll be able to share that with them.
"He's very organized as a coach and he believes in an individualistic teaching method with his pitchers. He's able to teach at a level that takes into consideration where a kid is at in his skill development. That, and his organization, makes for a good combination."
Lipari officially begins work at Creighton on Monday. He replaces Rob Smith, who resigned in June to become head coach at Ohio University, and joins Servais' other new assistant, Spencer Allen. Allen, hired last month, replaced Craig Moore, who followed Smith to Ohio.
"I'm really excited to be working with Spencer," Lipari said. "I've only known him for a few weeks, but it seems like a few years. We're a lot alike in that we'll work hard every day. We're in no hurry to get home until the work is done."
Lipari played his first two seasons of college baseball at Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa. As a freshman, he helped the team finish third at the Junior College World Series.
The Chicago Cubs selected him in the 14th round of the 1998 draft, but he opted to remain in school. After junior college, Lipari headed to New Orleans, where he became the first pitcher in program history to throw a nine-inning no-hitter. As a senior in 2002, he became the fourth New Orleans pitcher to record 100 strikeouts in a season.
He signed as a free agent with San Diego, pitching two seasons with the Padres organization and one with the Houston Astros. His final two professional seasons came as a member of the Sioux City Explorers of the independent American Association.
Lipari started his coaching career in Sioux City in 2005 with Morningside College. He spent two seasons at Morningside, two seasons at Michigan State and two seasons at Youngstown State before moving to Pitt in 2011.
In addition to the chance to return home, Lipari welcomes the move to Creighton for a reason any pitching coach would love. The Bluejays' home field, TD Ameritrade Park, has a reputation for being a tough place in which to hit home runs.
"At Pittsburgh, they build the new field on the highest point of campus and the wind always seemed to be blowing out to left field," Lipari said. "A lot of routine fly balls turned into some monstrous home runs.
"From a pitching coach's viewpoint, that was frustrating. It's finally nice to see a ballpark that's conducive to pitching."
His first staff at Creighton will include a lot of new faces. The Bluejays lose their three weekend rotation pitchers as well as three of their top four relievers.
"I think it's a good thing from a coaching standpoint," Lipari said. "I've taken jobs in the past when I've had a lot of junior and senior pitchers on board. Sometimes, those guys are comfortable with how things were done in the past and have a hard time changing.
"We'll be working with a lot of new kids at Creighton. I'm a new guy, too. We'll have to get used to each other. We're all starting fresh with a clean slate."
That excites Servais, who has led Creighton to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament.
"I'm as fired up as I've been in a long while with the possibilities we have," Servais said. "We have a lot of talented kids coming into the program, and we have a great opportunity to teach. It should be fun."
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