The day after Corey Muscara joined Maryland baseball as an assistant coach, he boarded a plane to Atlanta to watch 350 high school teams from across the country face off.
The Terps' new pitching coach planned to join first-year head coach Rob Vaughn and assistant coach Matt Swope at a tournament he was familiar with, having scouted it in past years.
This summer, though, the circumstances were different.
For five years as an assistant at St. John's, Muscara attended the tournament and competed with Vaughn for top prospects. He was at a disadvantage, he said, because Vaughn recruited hitters only. Muscara led the Red Storm's recruiting efforts and pursued both pitchers and hitters. He usually got the players he wanted, with one exception.
"For the most part, when I went head-to-head with Rob, I lost players," Muscara said.
Now recruiting for the same school, Vaughn and Muscara joined forces in Atlanta, and it immediately paid off. At 12:15 a.m., Maryland made an offer to one player Vaughn described as "a tough kid" and a "really good fit."
The player cannot be identified because of NCAA regulations, but it was someone Muscara was pursuing and had already developed a relationship with. At 8 a.m, the recruit accepted and emerged as one of Maryland's first commitments with Vaughn at the helm.
It was an early victory for the young staff, which stayed up until 2:30 a.m. for eight straight days, brainstorming strategies and coaching approaches in anticipation of fall practices. Each night, the reason Vaughn prioritized luring Muscara to College Park was evident to Swope.
"Sometimes [the first few weeks] can be trying to get to know each other," Swope said. "We went right in."
Muscara's recruiting successes at St. John's helped the Red Storm reach the NCAA tournament in two of the past three seasons and contributed to their pitching staff ending the 2017 season with a 3.11 ERA, which ranked eighth nationally. But he, like Vaughn, doesn't believe statistics alone can be used to evaluate performance.
Instead, Muscara emphasized mental training, setting goals Monday through Thursday while keeping the atmosphere lighter during the weekends. The Red Storm's pitching staff responded, gaining national attention for its skits performed in the bullpen that were often posted on Twitter.
Maryland is entering 2018 with its third pitching coach in three seasons after Ryan Fecteau joined former head coach John Szefc at Virginia Tech in June. But Muscara said his experience at St. John's — where he became the pitching coach in 2012 after nine-year veteran Scott Brown went to Vanderbilt — makes the task less daunting.
"It's not as hard as replacing someone that had been there for nine years and had a couple of first rounders and recruited everyone on staff," Muscara said. "It's going to make this transition a lot easier."
Muscara, who said he doesn't view Maryland as a "stepping stone," hasn't stopped recruiting since joining Vaughn's staff. When he calls prospective players — whom the staff refers to as OKGs, or "our kinda guys" — he ends the conversation with a homework assignment.
He requests three takeaways from videos he assigns and on occasion will request information about a broad topic. It keeps the recruits engaged, and as Vaughn and Swope learned in Atlanta, it's often rewarding.
"As soon as [athletic director] Kevin Anderson offered me the job, he said, 'What do you need?' And my answer was Corey Muscara," Vaughn said. "[I thought] if we could get him here, that trumps facility and that trumps everything else."