Thursday, August 4, 2022
Oklahoma City University
Lytle Becomes OCU Head Coach
Lytle has contributed heavily to winningest program since 1991
Lytle has built a sterling reputation as one of the finest hitting instructors and assistant coaches in the nation over the past 34 years at Oklahoma City. Since 1991, OCU owns the most victories in college baseball with 1,535.
During his tenure, Lytle has contributed to OCU accumulating 14 50-win seasons, 14 NAIA World Series appearances, three national runner-up finishes (2002, 2003, 2004), and the 2005 national championship. The Stars have the single-season NAIA record for wins with 73 in 2004.
Oklahoma City has won 14 Sooner Athletic Conference regular-season championships, 13 SAC Tournament titles, six NAIA Championship Opening Round crowns, five regional titles, three area titles, and one district crown with Lytle’s aid.
“I am extremely excited to announce that Keith Lytle will be the next head coach of the OCU baseball program,” Oklahoma City director of athletics Corey Bray said. “There is no one better suited to continue the tradition of excellence established by Denney Crabaugh and no one better able to lead the program through this difficult transition. Keith was with DC every step of the way and played a major role in creating the winningest program in college baseball since 1991. Keith fully understands what it takes to recruit and develop student-athletes who will graduate from OCU, win championships and make significant contributions to their communities and chosen career fields after graduating from OCU. Keith is a character-driven coach who will continue to be a tremendous mentor to the young men currently in the program and those who will become Stars in the future. Please join me in congratulating Keith on this well-deserved promotion.”
Lytle has mentored eight national players of the year award winners (Miguel Beltran, Mario Delgado, Cross Factor, Nick Klusaw, Ted Ledbetter, Allen Thompson, Kirk Walker, and Brent Weaver) among 89 NAIA all-Americans. Lytle has coached 149 future professionals, 71 taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, and five who have reached the major leagues. Freddy Sanchez, the 2006 National League batting champion, blossomed under his tutelage, resulting in Sanchez leading the San Francisco Giants to the 2010 World Series championship and becoming a three-time all-star.
“It was a labor of love when Denney and I started,” Lytle said. “We realized what we wanted to put together. We started to puzzle together the ingredients to the program we wanted. Denney shared that with me in building it together. When he called me the heart and soul of the program, he undersold himself. We all had talents and gifts we equally invested in the program. He was truly the heart and soul of the program.”
Lytle joined OCU the same year Denney Crabaugh became head coach in 1989. Crabaugh consistently recognized Lytle as a key factor in the success of the Stars baseball program, which went 1,601-493-2 during that time. OCU owns the team national record for home runs and consistently has been ranked among the national leaders in most hitting categories. Oklahoma City student-athletes achieved 83 NAIA scholar-athlete awards, 21 CoSIDA academic all-America honors, and two CoSIDA academic all-American of the year accolades in that time.
“I knew Keith was a good baseball guy,” Crabaugh said at Lytle’s OCU Athletics Hall of Fame induction. “The stats and stuff have proven, all the home run records and all the wins and championships, they speak for themselves. What I have come to appreciate about Keith is his passion and love for the game of baseball. And more importantly, his passion and love for the players we’ve had in our program. And by looking across here all the alumni who have shown up, baseball parents and people here, I can tell you, that love is not one-sided.
“He was the first recruit I have ever had, and I say he was the best recruit I ever had. I would also say, he’s been the heart and soul of the baseball program. He has poured his heart and his soul into this program and into our guys.”
Lytle said, “Obviously taking over under these circumstances, this is a difficult situation for me. It’s hard to express the loss of a brother who I’ve had for the past 34 years. We’ve built something special here with this program. It’s going to take me a long time to get comfortable looking across the hall and not seeing Denney.”
Lytle became the first OCU Athletics Hall of Famer who spent his time at the university as an assistant coach his entire tenure in 2011-12. He entered the NAIA Hall of Fame, another honor rare for an assistant coach, in 2013-14. In 2003, he was named the AFLAC national assistant coach of the year, and in 2018, he was honored as the inaugural NAIA assistant coach of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
From 1988-95, Lytle coached in the Shenandoah Valley League. He led the Harrisonburg Turks (Va.) to the league championship in 1991.
Lytle has experience coaching at the Triple-A level with the Texas Rangers organization. Lytle served three years as assistant hitting and first base coach with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. Lytle coached Nelson Cruz when he was named the Pacific Coast League most valuable player in 2008. In 1990-91, Lytle worked as a bullpen coach for the Oklahoma City 89ers.
Prior to coming to OCU in 1989, Lytle served as an associate coach at New Mexico State. Before that, he was a pitcher and first baseman for the Aggies. He graduated from New Mexico State with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1986.
Lytle is married (Jane) with one son (Joe Jackson). Joe Lytle has played baseball professionally.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT KEITH LYTLE
“Keith Lytle is a major contributor to the legacy of the OCU baseball program. Keith will continue to impact the lives of young men. Overall class act.” – Joe Blackwell, Southwestern Christian coach
“Keith is, without a doubt, the right guy to take over the program for the legendary Denney Crabaugh. He obviously knows what it takes to win as he recruited and developed one of the top offensive teams in the nation year in, year out. We definitely had some intense battles with those guys over the years, and we always knew that the Stars were going to be prepared and tough to beat. Keith not only knows how to win, but he is also a great friend, leader and developer of men.” – Nathan Blackwood, Lubbock Christian coach
“Keith is a big-time recruiter who has committed his life to the OCU baseball program. He will continue to lead OCU in the right direction.” – Lonny Cobble, Oklahoma Christian coach
“This is a very tough time for OCU students, athletes, and alumni. There are some massive shoes that need to be filled, unfortunately. I don’t believe anybody can fill that spot as DC did, but if anybody can, it’s definitely Keith. With him at the helm, OCU will continue to be the powerhouse it has been a year in and year out. Excited to see what the future holds for Keith and OCU.” – OCU alum Brent Weaver, 2009 NAIA player of the year