Trent Pratt was sitting at home on his off day, digesting the team’s recent sweep of Santa Clara, when he got the call from BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe saying he should probably make his way back into the office.
Holmoe, in a hurry on the other end, explained as much as he could. BYU’s head baseball coach Mike Littlewood had just resigned in the heat of a 17-12 season — and 10 years of head coaching experience had walked out the door with him.
“It was shocking,” said the 43-year-old Pratt. “Deputy athletics director Brian Santiago and Tom Holmoe came and talked to the team and told them what was going on. Then we talked to them after that.”
As Holmoe faced the need for an immediate, interim replacement, Pratt was the natural option. So Pratt has embarked on his first head coaching gig, trying to hold together the pieces of a potential NCAA Tournament team.
The last nine days have seen Pratt go from assistant to interim head coach. The team has traveled to Nebraska, winning three one-run games. Then the group came back for a midweek derby against Utah, losing another four-hour, one-run affair.
“There were a lot harder decisions to make,” Pratt said. “Pitching decisions. That is when [being head coach] hits. I’ve never played in this many [close] games.”
And it is probably good things have started to settle in. Because while this has been an unusual coaching transition, it is also serving as a glorified job interview. If Pratt can somehow shepherd this group back to the NCAA Tournament — for the first time since 2017 — the job will likely be his.
Not that the interim boss is thinking that far ahead.
“It’s about right now,” he said. “You start worrying about the future and you get in trouble. We told our players, our job is today.”
Pratt has long been thought of as Littlewood’s heir apparent, even if it wasn’t under these circumstances.
Their relationship dates back decades, with Littlewood finding Pratt as an eighth-grade prospect. Back then, Littlewood showed up to a local travel baseball game and told Pratt he should transition from shortstop to catcher, an easier path to professional baseball.
Pratt ran with it, going to play at Auburn and Arizona State. Eventually, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 12th Round and bounced around in the minors for four years. Each offseason, Pratt would workout at Dixie State where Littlewood was the head coach and his brother, Kyle, played shortstop there and won a national title in 2004.
When his playing career ended, Littlewood called Pratt to be a graduate assistant. At the time, he was driving a delivery truck taking toiletries around to Zion National Park. But from there it has been the equivalent to a coaching marriage.
Pratt spent six years in St. George. When Littlewood moved to BYU in 2012, Pratt also followed.
“I’m sure all former players would say that he’s next in line,” former BYU pitcher Riley Gates said. “In my personal opinion, I always think the best coaches are former catchers and that’s what he was.”
But even a decade of preparation can’t fully prepare someone for this type of ascent. Pratt well knows there will be challenges ahead with BYU, having to alter course in the middle of the season.
BYU is currently sixth in the conference, but a contender for the postseason. Its resume — beating teams like Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Ohio State early in the season — gives BYU a chance if it can stay competitive down the stretch.
Everyone thought Littlewood would be leading that charge. Instead, it is a journeyman, first-time head coach. A guy who from eighth grade to Zion National Park has followed Littlewood step-by-step. A guy who thought one day he would take over, just not now.
But hey, when is anyone ever truly ready for a coaching change.
“It helps to have continuity,” Pratt said. “I think it would be hard to bring new people in during the middle fo the season. They know us. We know them. Man, I hope they keep playing hard for us.”
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