Chris Cates returns to USF baseball coaching staff

USF baseball saw postseason success with Chris Cates on its coaching staff, making the NCAA tournament twice in three seasons. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Chris Cates returned to his role as an assistant coach on Monday after spending three seasons away from USF baseball.

His hiring marks the third addition to the Bulls’ coaching staff this offseason.

Cates’ first stint with the Bulls lasted from 2015-2019. He was hired as a volunteer assistant coach and was promoted to full-time assistant coach for his last two seasons from 2018-19. South Florida is looking to recapture the success it once had with the Tampa native on the coaching staff.

South Florida made an NCAA tournament appearance in 2015 – its first since 2002 – during his tenure. USF made the tourney again in 2017 for the second time in three seasons, also reaching the 40-win mark for the first time since 1996.

Specializing in coaching the infielders and recruiting, Cates guided Bulls standouts such as Kyle Teaf and Kevin Merrell over his five seasons.

Under Cates’ teaching, Teaf recorded a team-leading .419 on-base percentage and batted .301  during the 2015 season. He was named to the 2015 NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team and the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 30th round of the MLB Draft later that year.

Merrell hit a league-record .384 batting average and made his second straight All-American Athletic Conference First Team honor in 2017. The Oakland Athletics selected him with the 33rd overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. 

In 2018, Cates guided USF’s infield to successful seasons. Third baseman David Villar, shortstop Coco Montes, second baseman JD Dutka and first baseman Joe Genord were the four primary starters. Combined, they hit .327 with 75 doubles, 34 home runs, 168 runs scored and 178 RBI.

Since departing from the Bulls, Cates held assistant coaching roles at programs such as the University of Tampa in 2020 and Central Florida from 2021-23.

Before his time as an infield coach, Cates played in the infield during his baseball career. He was a shortstop for the Louisville Cardinals during his collegiate career from 2004-07. He started 239 games and hit .302 with 270 hits, 162 runs scored, 101 RBIs, 44 doubles, five triples and three home runs. He helped lead Louisville to its first College World Series in 2007.

The Minnesota Twins picked him in the 38th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Cates saw success in the minors, being named a two-time All-Star. Cates was then promoted to the Double-A New Britain Rock, where he spent two seasons before retiring from professional baseball in 2011.