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Interesting that on Monday, Major League Baseball's draft day, Eric Roof became the full-time head baseball coach at Eastern Michigan.

The June day he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2009 was one of the best days of his life. And Monday was "right up there," he said.

"I'm really excited, really proud, really humbled," Roof said Monday night.

Roof was named interim head coach for the 2018 season, as Scott Wetherbee, who was relatively new on the job when a coaching change needed to made last December, decided he wanted to evaluated his performance.

On Monday, Wetherbee called Roof with the good news.

Roof, 31, receives a three-year contract worth $75,000 a year, the same salary his predecessor, Mark Van Ameyde, earned before he left last December to become pitching coach at Michigan State.

Eastern Michigan was 22-34 in 2018, but 14-13 in Mid-American Conference play, earning a berth into the MAC tournament.

"I have been very pleased with Eric's performance as the interim head coach," Wetherbee said. "He has earned it every step of the way.

"It has become clear to me that he has established a long-term plan for the program to be successful, and I have no doubt he's going to do just that."

Wetherbee not only cited Roof's performance as interim head coach this past season, but also his recruiting efforts for the past several years, including time as an assistant coach on Van Ameyde's staff.

In a way, of course, 2018 was a long job interview for Roof.

But he said he never looked at it that way.

"To be honest, there wasn't any pressure on me," he said. "That'd be selfish to me.

"As I told the players, it really doesn't matter who's the head coach. They're the ones that are gonna go out there and play the games. I didn't get one hit, I didn't throw one inning. I'm just lucky to get the opportunity. I just wanted to keep things as calm and smooth-sailing as much as possible."

Roof first arrived at Eastern Michigan in 2015, after spending two years as a volunteer assistant coach at his alma mater, Michigan State.

Roof's professional career lasted from 2009-11, after the Tigers selected him with an 18th-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.

Roof always had an idea he'd get into coaching. After all, it runs in the family. His father, Gene Roof, has been a coach in the Tigers organization since the late 1980s.

"Just like every 4- or 5-year-old, you want to do exactly what your Dad does," said Eric Roof, whose uncle, Phil, played 15 years in the big leagues, and whose brothers also played professional baseball. Eric's older brother, Shawn, is a manager in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, and his younger brother, Jonathan, is a graduate assistant for the University of Missouri baseball team.

"It was cool to see what he was able to do, and ever since I could walk or talk, if I wasn't gonna be a Major League Baseball player, this was what I wanted to do."

More:College notes: CMU's 2nd-winningest baseball coach retires

Staying on staff with Roof will be pitching coach A.J. Achter, his former teammate at Michigan State who got a taste of the majors, most recently with the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. Eastern Michigan's ERA in 2018 was 3.69, second-best in the MAC, and 36 points better than the third-place team.

Achter is just 29, two years younger than the young-himself Roof.

Roof said he's humbled to be a Division I head coach at such a young age, but he thinks it also can be an advantage — just as Oakland Unversity figured a few years back when it named Colin Kaline and Jacke Healey, both now 29, as co-head coaches.

"It provides our players and our program one of the youngest staffs in the country. Some people may look at that as a negative, but I think of it as a positive," Roof said. "I just got done playing five, six, seven years ago. I can relate to those players on what it's like to go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, or swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt. I just did that.

"You realize what those guys are going through. You realize how hard the game is. The further you get away from playing, the easier you think it was."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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