Baseball: Brainerd grad rising through the college coaching ranks

Drew Sannes took over as head coach at a community college at age 24.

Drew Sannes.jpg
Drew Sannes.

Drew Sannes wasn’t expecting to be a college baseball head coach at age 24.

When the 2014 Brainerd graduate finished his masters and playing career at Concordia University, St. Paul he knew coaching was something he wanted to do.

“But now it’s kind of taken on a world of its own,” Sannes said. “I was fortunate to have a couple opportunities to pursue in the coaching ranks and ultimately decided to come down to North Iowa Area Community College.”

Sannes arrived at NIACC in 2019 and he was put in charge of helping hitting coach Shawn Schlechter.

After Schletcher was hired by the Minnesota Twins organization to be the high Class A Fort Myers Miracles hitting coach, Sannes was promoted to hitting coach.


Schletcher wasn’t the first NIACC coach to leave for the pros. Assistant Brett DeGange, who was the pitching coach for the Trojans, left to serve as a pitching coach for the New York Yankees’ Dominican Summer league affiliate.

DeGange and Sannes were teammates at the University of North Dakota before the baseball program was cut at UND.

“He kind of pushed me in this direction,” Sannes said of DeGange, “and that’s how things kind of fell in place.”

It didn’t stop there however, as the current head coach of NIACC at the time, Travis Herget, left to take a job with the Philadelphia Phillies as an assistant pitching coordinator, making Sannes interim head coach.

“I had the opportunity to take over and it’s been a whirlwind, to say the least, for the past 18 months,” Sannes said. “It transpired quite quickly. Brent took the job with the Yankees last October, then three weeks after that Shawn took the job with the Minnesota Twins minor league system. Then six week after that, I was going to move into a position where I was the hitting coach behind Travis at that time, but he had an opportunity to go to the Phillies and it left me an opportunity to fill big shoes, but I’m thankful for it.”

He was named full-time head coach by NIACC for the 2021 season, dropping the interim tag. He led the Trojans to an 8-7 record before COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season.

Being a young college coach, Sannes isn’t intimidated by coaching college players. He just sees it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a coach.

“We are just building connections and building relationships, whether some of them are four years younger then me or six years younger than me,” Sannes said. “If I can guide them through some of the experiences I’ve had and shed some lights on some things that happen within the game of baseball, it’s something that’s really special.”


Sannes played his high school baseball at BHS under head coach Lowell Scearcy.

“I played underneath him for three years and was actually a part of the team that got his 700th victory,” Sannes said. “I learned a lot from him.”

He helped coach many Legion and VFW baseball teams in Brainerd. When he was attending Concordia-St. Paul, he coached the Edina Legion team.

After high school, Sannes went to the University of North Dakota to play baseball. After redshirting and playing one season, UND cut the baseball.

“It’s an experience that I wish on no one,” Sannes said of his thoughts during UND cutting the baseball program. “It’s very tough and challenging because it’s a place you thought you were going to represent for four years. There’s a lot of emotions during that time, but it was a blessing in disguise.”

Having a season unexpectedly end like it did at UND helped Sannes navigate through the COVID-19 waters of 2020, which saw seasons across the country unexpectedly end.

“It’s all been a whirlwind,” Sannes said. “You take the hits as they come and make sure everything is in place for the kids.”

He still finished out his undergraduate studies at UND before getting his masters at Concordia University, St. Paul.


Despite the shortened COVID-19 season in Sannes’ first season as head coach, NIACC sent 10 of their 13 sophomores to Division I schools, something Sannes is proud of.

“That’s tied for school record and I think at the time it was just a testament to everything we’ve done here and everything done before me here,” Sannes said. “Also just wanting those kids to be happy and have those experiences that they didn’t get to have here because of the shortened season.”

Sannes has been a college head coach for 18 months and he feels that there is nothing that can be thrown at him that can rattle after the 2020 madness.

Moving forward, Sannes is looking to continue to build the NIACC program. He said there are already two players on the team for 2021 committed to Division I schools. With the pipeline that the NIACC coaches have had to the big leagues recently, Sannes could be next.

“As of right now, I am trying to be where my feet are,” Sannes said. “I have a really positive opportunity right now, and we have a really good recruiting class coming in this next year that we are looking to blend with the sophomore group. We will see where the chips will fall at the end of this.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at


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