Former Tennessee baseball strength and conditioning coach Quentin Eberhardt is returning to Knoxville in the same position after spending the last six months with the Chicago Cubs, sources told RTI.
Eberhardt was a member of Tony Vitello’s inaugural staff in Knoxville, serving as an integral cog in the revival of Tennessee baseball.
“Missing the family,” Eberhardt told RTI on why he decided to return to Tennessee. “The guys, the staff, everything about it. A lot of it was that and then talking with Tony. It made sense, no brainer. Call it unfinished business from the past two seasons if you will.”
The Columbus, Ohio native spent four seasons at Tennessee before leaving in January to be the head major league strength coach for the Chicago Cubs. Watching the Vols’ historic 2022 season and its disappointing ending from a far gave Eberhardt the fire that led him back to Knoxville.
“Watching and keeping an eye on it, (I) was so proud,” Eberhardt said. “To see some of the guys’ seasons come into fruition. Trey Lipscomb, who had grinded so hard and been so patient. In this day in age when most young men would transfer Trey bought his time, waited his turn and became a leader and had the season of a lifetime. Probably one of the best seasons in Vol history. Seeing guys like Will Mabrey, it all coming to fruition. It’s what we grinded for in the past four-and-a-half years.
“Obviously having the unfortunate loss in the supers at home on our home field. It brings back the feelings we had the year before against Virginia and Texas. That’s when the feelings of coming back and unfinished business and those things come into play.”
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Vitello didn’t name a full time replacement for Eberhardt due to the proximity between the strength coach’s departure and the start of the 2022 season.
The fifth-year head coach’s patience pays off as Eberhardt’s change of heart led him back to Tennessee.
“Amazing organization. Some amazing people,” Eberhardt said. “From Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins, David Ross, the leadership from the players and veterans. The Jason Heywards the (Marcus) Stromans, the Ian Happs, the Wade Mileys, the Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras. The tone that those guys set on a daily basis to help the young guys. The Christopher Morel’s of the world. That’s everybody in between. It’s amazing. It’s nothing that was bad. My time here with these guys was incredible. … I’ve built some forever relationships that won’t go anywhere.”
Continuity has been a consistent theme of Vitello’s coaching staff in Knoxville. Hitting coach and recruiting coordinator Josh Elander has been a member of Tennessee’s staff since Vitello’s first season. The same is true for pitching coach Frank Anderson. Anderson came to Knoxville after an abundance of stops in his storied coaching career and is staying with the Vols despite Texas offering him a raise this offseason.
Eberhardt described his relationship with the 43-year old head coach with the word “family” and their relationship played a key role in the strength coach’s decision to return.
“I love that guy,” Eberhardt said. “You know he’s got your back. You know he’s going to fight for you. He’s going to be right there by your side in the battle throughout the grind. He’s not one of those guys that figure heading. He’s the definition of leading by example. We’re very similar in how we view things. Not just on the field but off it in life. You have to lead by example and be the example that you set. It makes it easy when from the top down everyone’s pulling the same side of the rope. He has passion. He cares. It’s everyday so that’s what embodies him. I’m the same way.
“We jokingly argue about who’s more competitive. I won’t say he’s more competitive than me but we’re just as much. No one wants to win more than us.”
Eberhardt’s return rounds out a coaching staff that includes Anderson, Elander, former Tennessee pitcher Richard Jackson as well as support staff members Ricky Martinez (graduate assistant), Chad Zurcher (director of baseball operations), Luke Bonfield (director of player development), Sean McCann (video coordinator) and Jeffrey Wood (associate director of sports medicine).