Jonathan Hadra, a four-year letterman and 2004 graduate of VMI, recently concluded his second season as the head coach of the Keydets. In a year that saw 69% of the team's at-bats taken by freshman and sophomores, Hadra's team finished ninth nationally in home runs, helped by Second Team All-Conference first baseman Collin Fleischer and All-SoCon Freshman Team outfielder Matt Pita. The squad also finished in the top-40 in Division I in slugging percentage (28th), doubles (18th) and walks (39th).
True freshman starting pitcher Josh Winder was also a standout, as he broke two long-standing program records. In the SoCon Tournament play-in game, Winder struck out 10 Citadel Bulldogs to post a new Keydet postseason best. He also (in an early season game against Binghamton) became the first Keydet pitcher in the modern era to pitch 10 innings in a contest.
Hadra was named the 20th head coach in VMI baseball history on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. He had served as associate head coach for the Keydets previously and was the acting head coach for 10 days following the resignation of Marlin Ikenberry.
In his first season at the helm of the Keydets, Hadra accomplished something not done since 2003, as the Keydets won a main draw game in a postseason tournament. They did it thanks to a go-ahead home run by catcher Matt Winn, who was one of the team's individual stars. Winn was a Johnny Bench Award finalist and a Third Team All-American, the first Keydet upperclassman to make an AA team outright. Winn (14th round, Giants) and Jordan Tarsovich (22nd round, Dodgers) were drafted. In addition, the Keydets set a new team record for stolen bases, helped by Tarsovich's league-leading total and also hit the second most home runs in school history, all in spite of missing three weeks due to weather postponements.
“First and foremost, I want to thank General Peay and Dr. Diles for providing me the opportunity to be the next head coach of the VMI baseball program," stated Hadra at the time of his hiring. "This is an opportunity that I am extremely excited about, and I will continue to work hard, with my staff and the players, to represent VMI in a first class manner. I have been a part of this program for ten of the last fourteen years, and have a lot of pride in the commitment that we have made to improving the facilities, increased scholarship budget, and higher quality equipment. None of these would have been possible without the continued support and vision of General Peay, Dr. Diles and our donors."
Hadra, the 2010 SE Baseball Assistant Coach of the Year, has spent six seasons on this, his second tour of duty with the Keydets. He rose from assistant to to Associate Head Coach prior to the 2014 season. He has worked with the infielders and hitters during the majority of that time, as well as serving as the program's recruiting coordinator since 2011.
Hadra's mentorees include VMI's first conference player of the year in baseball, Rob Dickinson, who hit .399 during his POTY 2013 season and Sam Roberts, VMI's all-time hits leader. Hadra was instrumental in the program's 2010 success that saw the team earn only its second national ranking ever, as he tutored an offense that included Roberts and future major leaguer Cory Spangenburg, who earned multiple Freshman All-American honors during his only season at the Institute.
More recently, Hadra saw Brandon Angus have a breakout 2014 season at the plate, earning Second Team All-Big South honors with a .333 batting average. Defensively, Hadra's infielders helped the team post the third-best fielding percentage in school history (.966) during that 2014 season.
Hadra also spent the 2009 season at Bradley before returning to VMI, where he had worked in 2005, for the 2010 season. At Bradley, Hadra worked to bring in a freshman class of 16 that was named one of the top recruiting classes in the nation by Collegiate Baseball. Included in the haul were a pair of Junior College All-Americans, a High School All-American and three players that were drafted by MLB clubs.
Prior to this stay at VMI, Hadra spent three years as an assistant at Western Kentucky under current Old Dominion head coach and VMI Hall of Famer Chris Finwood. In fact, Hadra continues a trend that has now seen three of VMI's last four head coaches be former Finwood associates, whether it be as assistant coaches or former players.
At WKU, Hadra oversaw outfield instruction, base running and bunting while coaching first base. In 2008, the Hilltoppers were picked seventh in the league's preseason poll, yet made just the third NCAA Tournament appearance in program history after capturing the conference tournament championship. Also that season, the WKU defense ranked third in the nation with a .976 team fielding percentage.
During his 2005 season at VMI, Hadra worked with the outfielders and assisted instruction in base running, bunting and positional defense.
As a cadet, Hadra was a four-year letterman who graduated with a degree in Economics and Business. Hadra served as team captain his senior year and helped the Keydets break the school record for wins during his junior season. His sophomore season, meanwhile, saw VMI finish with a 16-14 mark in the Southern Conference, breaking the program standard for most conference wins.
Hadra is married to the former Allison Toth, and the couple has two children, son Colton and daughter Kennedy.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT JONATHAN HADRA
"I think it's a home run of a hire. It's a no-brainer. It's important that VMI chose a hire that represents everything about VMI, but also represents what college baseball is all about. Jonathan is a passionate, hard-working, very loyal person and is a great family man. He does everything in a first-class way, and I can't be more proud of him. If there's anybody who can take VMI to the next level, it's ‘Hadge’. I'm very happy for him and his family, and I think VMI will be very, very happy with this decision." - Western Kentucky Head Coach Matt Myers
"Coach Hadra is is mentally tough, hard working, smart and a great communicator. He is a man that I would want my son to play for." - Tom Slater, Hadra's head coach at VMI and current roving minor-league hitting instructor for the New York Yankees
“I am so excited and happy to see that VMI has hired Jonathan to be the next head baseball coach at VMI. From Donny White and Paul Maini to Tommy Slater and Marlin Ikenberry, ‘Hadge’ will continue the tradition of outstanding men that have led the Keydets baseball program. I have no doubt that he is ready for this next chapter in his coaching career. I was fortunate enough to work with Jonathan for three years at Western Kentucky and watch him grow as a young coach. As an alumnus and a colleague, I am so proud to see him get this opportunity.” - VMI Sports Hall of Famer, former head coach and current Old Dominion head coach Chris Finwood
"Playing for 'Hadge' was one of the easiest things that took place on the field. He is the most down to earth person, coach and mentor I have ever had the privilege to interact with. He always knew how to bring out the positive in any situation. He understands the pressures of being a cadet and truly knows how to help ballplayers succeed at the Institute." - Former Keydet player and 2013 Big South Player of the Year Rob Dickinson
“Coach ‘Hadge’ is a phenomenal coach. I'm glad to find that it's going to officially be him taking over. If anyone can follow in Ike's steps and keep the Keydets moving in the right direction, it's him. He may have been our hitting coach but he was great at instilling confidence in all of us, even the pitching staff. He has a bulldog personality that permeates everything he does. He wasn't a guy you wanted to cross - I think he'll be able to infect the team with that mentality and that will only benefit the guys heading into a new conference. He’s the perfect man for the job with the conference switch coming into effect. Hadge will definitely help create an image for VMI in the SoCon as a team that demands respect for their abilities, as well as the way the handle themselves on and off the field. I expect great things from VMI baseball with Coach Hadra at the helm.” – Former Keydet player and former Frontier League Pitcher of the Year Adam Lopez
“Coach Hadra’s first year back at VMI was my rat year, and it has been awesome to see him develop as a coach. He is a lunch pail kind of guy that will be in the office, ready to work, day in and day out, so that's what he expects from his guys. My favorite thing about Coach Hadra is that he doesn't sugar coat things, he's gonna shoot straight and that’s what you look for in a leader of a program. If you’re terrible that day, he’ll let you know, but at the same time, when someone rises to the occasion, Coach Hadra will be the first guy to pat him on the back.” – Former Keydet player and former Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres minor leaguer Coby Cowgill
“Playing under Coach ‘Hadge’ is when I really took my game to the next level. He has an knack for getting the absolute best out of a player. His knowledge of the game is incredible as well as the respect he gains from his players. I couldn't have been luckier to play under Coach during my tenure on the VMI baseball team. – Former Keydet player George Piccirilli
“I am extremely excited for Coach Hadra to get this opportunity. It's always good to have a VMI guy leading the program, and with his experience and knowledge of the VMI way he will do well.” – Former Keydet player and former Oakland A’s minor leaguer Sam Roberts
"I am very thankful for having the opportunity to play for Coach Hadra. He is a class act and a players' coach. It is not often you have a coach who keeps in touch after your playing days are over, but Coach Hadra does so. I appreciate all he has done for me on and off the field. I wish him and the Keydets the best of luck." - Former Keydet player Graham Sullivan