After seven seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania baseball program, John Yurkow was promoted in July 2013. He recently completed his second year as the W. Joseph Blood Head Coach of Baseball at Penn in 2015.
In 2015, Yurkow guided Penn to a 22-15 overall record, with a 16-4 Ivy League mark. The 16 wins in league play were the most in program history. The Quakers fell to Columbia, 4-2, in a playoff game to determine the Ivy League Gehrig Division title.
The Quakers led the Ivy League in earned run average on the mound and slugging percentage at the plate, while finishing second in batting average and home runs offensively. Penn finished 14th in the country in slugging percentage with a .494 mark.
Senior catcher Austin Bossart was named Co-Ivy League Player of the Year, the first under Yurkow, and the fifth in program history. He was also a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award recognizing the nation's best catcher.
The Quakers had five players selected First-team All-Ivy, three Second-team All-Ivy, and two named All-Ivy Honorable mention. The 10 players recognized as All-Ivy is the most in program history, breaking last seasons mark of nine players earning All-Ivy recognition.
In addition to the accolades on the field for Penn, senior pitcher Ronnie Glenn and senior first baseman Matt McKinnon were named to the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District® Baseball First-Team. Glenn also finished as one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award® and was a national semifinalist for the Athletes for a Better World’s Wooden Citizenship Cup.
In his first season at the helm, the Quakers finished with a 24-17 overall record, the seventh most wins in program history, while going 15-5 in the Ivy League, the most Ivy wins for the Red and Blue since 1989.
Penn finished tied atop the Ivy League Gehrig Division at the end of the regular season and faced off against Columbia, falling 4-0, in a one game playoff for the right to play in the Ivy League Championship series.
A program record nine players were named All-Ivy at the end of the season, with four first-team selections, two second-team selections, and three named honorable mention. Throughout the course of the spring, the Quakers earned four Ivy League Player of the Week awards, also a program record.
After beginning the season 2-9 with eight of their nine losses coming by two runs or less, Penn would win 13 of its next 15 games, including 11_straight, pushing them to 8-0 in the Ivy League. In the midst of their 11-game winning streak, Penn was also named CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s National Team of the Week on April 8th.
Offensively, Penn led the Ivy League in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, doubles, and home runs. On the mound the Quakers were first in the Ivies in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and second in strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP.
“After conducting a national search, we ultimately decided that the best candidate was right here within our staff,” said Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky at the time of Yurkow's hiring. “John knows our program and its players, he understands what it takes to get the best players here to Penn, and I am excited to promote him and have him lead our program going forward.”
“Over the past year that I have observed our baseball program, I have watched John Yurkow and seen that he has a very good working relationship with our players and staff,” said Senior Associate Director of Athletics Tony Vecchione, who oversaw the coaching search. “He is a tireless recruiter and has brought us some exceptionally talented players. I am looking forward to working with John as our head baseball coach.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity, and I cannot express properly how excited I am,” said Yurkow. “I want to thank Steve Bilsky, Tony Vecchione, and the entire Penn administrative staff for having the confidence in me to be the next head coach of the Penn baseball program. I also want to thank all of the current players and alumni who have been supportive of me during the search process.
“Penn is a great place to work, and Philadelphia is a fantastic place to live. As a local product, I am excited to take on this endeavor and lead the next generation of Quaker baseball. Over the past seven years I have developed the utmost respect for what it takes to be a standout student-athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, and I cannot wait to begin my new role with the tremendous group of talent we have.”
After one season at Penn, Yurkow was promoted to recruiting coordinator for the Quakers prior to the 2008 season. His hard work in that area has paid dividends -- after having just two players earn first-team All-Ivy from 2004-09, the program has had 11 players receive the honor since 2010 in addition to an Ivy League Player of the Year (Tom Grandieri, 2010) and an Ivy League Pitcher of the Year (Paul Cusick, 2011). Also in that time, two Quakers have been chosen in the Major League Baseball draft -- Cusick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, and Vince Voiro twice (2011 by the San Diego Padres, 2012 by the Oakland A’s).
This past season, Ryan Deitrich was named the Big 5 Player of the Year while Mike Vilardo was the city’s Big 5 Rookie of the Year. In 2009, Derek Vigoa was the Big 5 Rookie of the Year. During the past five seasons, 15 players have been named to the All-Big 5 Baseball Team.
Yurkow arrived at Penn after serving as an assistant at Duke University from 2001-05. He began as a volunteer assistant, then was promoted to assistant coach and co-recruiting coordinator in January 2003. His responsibilities included all aspects of the team offense and teaching the hitting philosophy as well as overseeing infield play. He also served as an assistant at Rowan from 1999-2001.
Yurkow was a four-year starter at Rowan University where he played second base. During his career, he helped lead the Profs to the NCAA Regional championship four times. In Yurkow’s senior year, he garnered NCAA Division III All-America honors as he led the Profs to a 36-8 record and the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship. He was also a two-time selection to the NCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region team, in 1998 and 1999. Yurkow was an NJAC All-Conference selection in 1998 and 1999 and the NJAC Tournament MVP in 1999.