Stephen F. Austin athletics director Robert Hill announced Wednesday the promotion of Johnny Cardenas as head coach of the Lumberjack baseball program. Cardenas had served as interim head coach of the ‘Jacks since the position became vacant in early June.
"Since his arrival here I have been very impressed with Johnny's knowledge of the game and his ability to teach our players," Hill said. "He has been our number one recruiter, too, and his eye for talent is top-notch. I have all the confidence that he is more than capable of making SFA a top program in the Southland Conference."
Cardenas was hired in August 2005 and has served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator since his hiring. He has served as a head coach in the Texas Collegiate League for the past two summers, earning TCL Coach of the Year honors in 2007 after leading the Wichita Falls Roughnecks to the Rogers Hornsby Division title. That season he not only tutored the league's player of the year, but also the league's overall batting champion.
"I really feel like SFA and the Nacogdoches community provide a great opportunity, not only as a place where you can build a winning program, but also as a great place to raise a family," Cardenas said. "I am extremely thankful to (SFA President) Dr. Baker Pattillo, Robert Hill and all of the administration for the chance to continue in the positive progress of the baseball program here."
Before entering the collegiate ranks, Cardenas spent five seasons as a head coach in the high school ranks in both Texas and Oklahoma. He landed his first head coaching stint at Colbert High School in Colbert, Okla., where he guided his teams to district championships in each of his three seasons. Twice in that stint he led Colbert to the Class 2A semi-finals in 1999 and 2001. Overall, eight of his players would go on to play at the collegiate level.
Cardenas earned his share of accolades while in Oklahoma, garnering the 2002 SEOBCA Eastern Region Coach of the Year award as well as the 2003 Bryan County Coach of the Year honor.
The Amarillo, Texas, native returned to the Lone Star State in 2003 to take the reins of the Greenville High School program in Greenville, Texas, before eventually making his way to Nacogdoches. While in Greenville, another six players moved on to the college ranks under his watch, including SFA infielder Gabriel Garcia-Serrano.
Cardenas was an All-Jayhawk Conference performer for Seward County Community College in 1989 before moving to TCU where he was an All-Southwest Conference selection. While in Fort Worth, he earned team MVP and GTE Academic All-American honors in 1993 for the Horned Frogs. On top of that, in 1993 he was also named the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame Player of the Year.
Cardenas also enjoyed a career in professional baseball after being picked up by the Seattle Mariners out of TCU. He was then sent to Class A Bellingham where he played on a team that featured future major league stars Raul Ibanez and Jason Varitek, among others.
His professional career continued for six years at a number of stops throughout the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners' organizations before breaking into the major leagues with the Texas Rangers in 1997. During his time in the pros, Cardenas led the Oklahoma City 89ers to the AAA American Association title and the Duluth Superior Dukes to the independent Northern League Championship. He would also represent Duluth in the all-star game in 1997.
SFA will retain Chris Connally as a member of the baseball coaching staff. Connally, like Cardenas, is a TCU alumnus and former Horned Frogs standout on the diamond. He has served alongside Cardenas as an assistant coach for each of the past three seasons.
Cardenas will take over a Lumberjack program that is set to begin its fourth year back after an 11-year hiatus. SFA has compiled a 71-98 record since its return, including a 2006 season that saw the ‘Jacks put together a 31-28 mark and qualify for the Southland Conference Tournament for the first time in school history.
The ‘Jacks have had seven players taken in the professional baseball draft since 2006, which is the second most of any school in the Southland Conference in that time span.