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Former UCR baseball player Troy Percival helped the Angels win the World Series. Now he will be the head coach for the Highlanders

UC Riverside Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Jim Wooldridge today named former Highlanders standout and 14-year major leaguer Troy Percival the fifth head baseball coach in UC Riverside’s six decades of NCAA competition.

“As we went through the hiring process for this position, it became clear that we had a special candidate in Troy Percival,” said Wooldridge. “First and foremost, a coach is a teacher and a leader, and Troy’s former coaches and teammates from both his collegiate and professional playing days all spoke very highly of him in that regard.

“Troy is a also winner who has seen just about everything one can as a baseball player at every level of competition. When he speaks to his team, his players know that he speaks from experience.

“And lastly, Troy is Riverside. He has life-long ties to the university, to the community, and to the region, and that is of particular importance as it relates to recruiting and generating interest and excitement around our baseball program here in the Inland Empire.

“All of this combines to make Troy the perfect coach to lead UC Riverside Baseball back to the top of the Big West Conference and to the NCAA Tournament.”

Percival was a catcher during his three years with the Highlanders, and was drafted after his junior year by the California Angels in the sixth round of the 1990 Amateur Draft.

Troy Percival pitches during the final game of the World Series for the Angels.

Troy Percival pitches during the final game of the World Series for the Angels.

Following a year as a catcher in the minors, Percival was converted to a relief pitcher, and during his rookie season of 1995, he finished fourth in American League Rookie of the Year balloting, going 3-2 with three saves and a 1.95 ERA, striking out 94 batters in 74.0 innings. The Angels made him their full-time closer in 1996, and he rewarded them by recording 36 saves and striking out 100 batters in 74.0 innings. Percival earned his first of four All-Star nods that season as he finished fourth in the league in saves.

Two years later he would notch 42 saves, the second most in Angels history at the time, en route to his second All-Star selection. Percival recorded 30 or more saves in each of the next six seasons, including the 2002 campaign where he went 4-1 with a 1.92 ERA and 40 saves. He also was credited with seven saves during the Angels 2002 postseason run, including Game 7 of the Halos’ World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants.

By the time his professional career ended in 2009, Percival had 358 saves on his big-league résumé, which is still ninth on Major League Baseball’s all-time career list.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to take over as the head baseball coach at UC Riverside, and I’d like to thank Jim Wooldridge for the confidence he has shown in me,” said Percival. “It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time to be a collegiate head coach. I truly believe that the most formative years for a baseball player are your collegiate years, and I can’t think of any better place to live out that dream that back here at UCR.

“I played at UCR, I’ve remained active with the program over the years, and I know the importance that Highlanders baseball has in the community. Part of what makes UC Riverside Baseball so special is that the coaches never stop coaching. They are still there for you long after you’ve left the program, and I plan on carrying on that legacy during my time here as head coach.

“On the field, our goal is to take the program to a level where every year we are battling for a Big West Conference Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and I believe that is well within our reach.”

Since his retirement from major league baseball, Percival has worked as a volunteer pitching coach for Riverside Poly High School in Riverside (2010-12), and for the past two seasons has been the head coach at his high school alma mater, Moreno Valley High School. He also spent a year working in the Angels organization as a roving pitching instructor.

Percival has remained active with the Highlanders since being drafted by the Angels, working out with the team in preparation for spring training, and attending alumni games and golf fundraisers for the program. He also famously paid for and built the Highlanders’ locker rooms at the Riverside Sports Complex prior to the 2007 season (read the LA Times story).

Fans who purchase baseball season tickets in the next 40 days will receive a free Troy Percival autographed baseball, and will be entered to win a trip to an Angels game with Coach Percival. To purchase tickets, or for additional information, please contact the UC Riverside Athletics Ticketing Department at (951) 827-4653.

The Highlanders recently unveiled plans to renovate the Riverside Sports Complex. To view artist renderings of the renovation, please visit the UC Riverside Athletics Association website. Those interested in making a contribution towards the project should contact Eric Buskirk at (951) 827-6882 or via email at eric.buskirk@ucr.edu.

The UC Riverside Baseball Team is coming off of a 2014 campaign that saw the Highlanders finish fifth in the Big West Conference, which earned four NCAA postseason berths. UCR’s 26 wins on the year came against the 18th toughest schedule in the nation as ranked by boydsworld.com. That win total includes eight victories over 2014 NCAA Tournament Teams. UC Riverside had six players selected in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, and another who signed as a free agent.

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