Big Man on Campus: Coleman ‘Always in The Middle of the Big Moments’

Ro Coleman greets fans June 22, 2015, before a rematch with Virginia at the College World Series.
Ro Coleman greets fans June 22, 2015, before a rematch with Virginia at the College World Series. (JOE HOWELL)


Three years ago Ro Coleman made the unlikely journey from inner-city Chicago to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt on a baseball scholarship.

“It was a major culture shock,” says Coleman, the 5-foot, 5-inch junior outfielder who’s easy to spot among his taller teammates. “My high school was 100 percent black. The culture down here is different. The academics are different. There’s so much diversity—so many different types of people.”

Initially, Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin was skeptical that Coleman would be a good fit for his program.

“He wasn’t even the kid on his summer travel team that I was recruiting,” Corbin says. “But his coach said, ‘You need to look at this kid. He could fit at Vanderbilt.’ Then I watched him four or five times and started to do some homework on him. Once we got him on campus and I got him in my office, I was quite sure he could fit.”

In fact, Coleman has been an ideal fit, both on and off the field. One of the team’s most popular players and a fan favorite at Hawkins Field, he has been involved in some program-changing plays during his two-plus years on campus. As a freshman he sent the Commodores to the Super Regionals with a ninth-inning hit against Oregon. In last season’s NCAA Regional, he reached base five times in a win over Lipscomb and had a career-high four hits in the Regional Finals against Radford three days later.

“You think of all the big moments that have happened here,” Corbin says, “and he’s always in the middle of things.”

But Coleman’s fondest memory (so far) is being part of the team that won a national championship his freshman year. “That was surreal,” he says. “It didn’t hit me for a few months. It didn’t sink in until we got our rings.”

Coleman has impacted Corbin’s life just as much as his baseball team. “My wife and I have a very close relationship with him,” Corbin says. “Even though I know Vanderbilt is great for him, we are lucky to have him in our lives.”