TAMPA — For the second time this summer, USF baseball coach Lelo Prado is filling a spot on his staff with a familiar name with major-league experience. Prado announced Tuesday that former Rays, Angels and Tigers pitching coach Chuck Hernandez has been hired to coach the Bulls' pitchers.
"(Hernandez is) the final piece of the puzzle that I believe is going to help to where we want to go. … You know it as well as I do that in this game, pitching decides everything," Prado said. "I've known (him) my whole life, and I think he brings something to the program that a lot of the people around the country don't have, a professional guy who has developed pitchers his whole life."
Hernandez, 49, a Tampa native, has 31 years of experience as a player and coach and has known Prado since they were kids growing up in Tampa. He said Prado has tried to hire him for years, and finally convinced him this summer. He joins the Bulls after working with the Phillies' team in the Gulf Coast League this season.
"I used to strike him out in Little League all the time," said Hernandez, a Tampa Catholic grad who was the Rays' pitching coach in 2004-05 and spent the next three seasons with the Tigers. "We've probably joked about this, he and I, for the last 25 years of our professional careers. Finally this year, he hit me for the 20th time probably, I said, 'Let's sit down and talk about it.' It's a new frontier for me."
Prado also hired former USF standout and major-league catcher Chris Heintz, who was managing the Twins' team in the GCL, as hitting coach this summer. Hernandez has two of the Big East's top returning pitchers in Randy Fontanez and Andrew Barbosa, who both were drafted but returned for their senior year.
NICE RAISE: Ever since the long-awaited USF-Florida football game was announced in 2002, the "guarantee" figure to be paid to the Bulls has been reported as $500,000. But with the game being rescheduled from its original date and the market changing for such games, Florida agreed to renegotiate the payout, and the total was upgraded last month to $700,000.
That's the biggest check the Bulls have gotten for a football game.
ALMOST A GATOR: Junior S Jerrell Young is a rare Bull who has attended a Gators game in Gainesville — he took an official visit to Florida in September 2005 during his senior year at Gibbs, catching a Gators win over Tennessee.
"It was loud," Young said. "It's going to be rockin' there. I'm looking forward to it."
Young was recruited by then-UF assistant Charlie Strong, now Louisville's coach, but he said he didn't strongly consider the Gators because they wanted him to play running back and he had his heart set on safety.
THIS AND THAT: USF picked up four points in this week's USA Today football coaches poll, making the Bulls an unofficial No. 47. … Former USF signee Mike Hayes, a running back who was released and signed with Houston, had two touchdowns in the Cougars' opening win against Texas State. Another former USF signee, Adaris Bellamy of Dunedin, rushed for a team-high 38 yards for Youngstown State in Saturday's loss to Penn State.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/greg auman.