Mike Gustafson, President and CEO of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, will step down from a role he has held for almost 15 years. Surrounded by friends, family and college baseball greats, Gustafson’s contributions to the game will be recognized at a private function in Lubbock, Texas tomorrow evening.
Lubbock is the birthplace of an idea that came to life almost 20 years ago during a lunch between friends. Notes written on a paper napkin evolved into the College Baseball Hall of Fame and the annual recognition of the nation’s best college baseball players.
The Hall of Fame and the annual awards became the passion for Gustafson, a former college baseball player himself. Gustafson will transition into a different role within the College Baseball Foundation (CBF), turning the long-term direction and daily operations over to a new leader.
"This has been a labor of love” Gustafson said. “From our earliest emails that led to the creation of the Brooks Wallace Award to the Hall of Fame inductions and award presentation events to keeping the organization going through the pandemic, it has been a joy, especially when I think about all the friends and professional relationships that have been part of it."
Gustafson, is a Lubbock native who played high school baseball for legendary coach Bobby Moegle and college baseball at Texas Tech. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech where he was also named Male Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1989 as part of the Southwest Conference’s 75th Anniversary. He was a member of Mortar Board, Golden Key, Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Delta Theta. Gustafson earned a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Texas and a doctorate in higher education administration from Texas Tech in 2005.
In 2004, Gustafson and a group of original founders created the College Baseball Foundation to help preserve and recognize the history of college baseball. The first act of the CBF was to establish a national player of the year award, thus the Brooks Wallace Award was created. Eventually, the award evolved into a recognition of the top shortstop of the year.
A year later, in 2005, the CBF board created the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 2006, the first class was inducted. Fifteen classes have been inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame under Gustafson’s leadership.
In 2009, Gustafson became President and CEO of the College Baseball Foundation. Under his direction, the CBF created the National Pitcher of the Year Award followed the next year with the inaugural John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. In 2011, the Black Legends & Pioneers Committee and the National College Umpire Award were created. The umpire award is now presented as part of the Hall of Fame class each year.
In an effort to showcase all the Hall of Famers and award winners, the CBF created the annual celebration now known as the College Baseball “Night of Champions.” The Skip Bertman Coach of the Year Award was added in 2013 as a tribute to legendary LSU head coach and inaugural Hall of Fame inductee Skip Bertman.
In 2014, the CBF established the George H.W. Bush Distinguished Alumnus Award to honor those who played college baseball and later made significant contributions to society and the community. The award is named after the first recipient, President George H.W. Bush.
Today, in addition to the yearly hall of fame inductions and award announcements, the CBF honors weekly winners for the Brooks Wallace Award, Pitcher and Olerud awards as well as releases the College Baseball Hall of Fame Top 25, voted upon by college baseball experts from around the country.
Many prominent figures throughout college baseball have paid tribute to Gustafson’s impact:
Skip Bertman, Former LSU Head Coach and Athletics Director and 2006 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee:
“Mike Gustafson was the blood and guts of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He was there from the beginning and showed tremendous leadership, skillful fund-raising and the perfect personality to make it all work.”
Craig Keilitz, Executive Director, ABCA
“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Mike Gustafson for his many contributions to college baseball that have left an indelible mark on its history. Mike's unwavering dedication and passion for our sport and the College Baseball Hall of Fame has not only elevated the sport but has inspired countless individuals to become lifelong fans. Beyond his professional achievements, I am grateful for the friendship and camaraderie that Mike has shared with myself and so many others in the baseball community. His role as an advocate for collegiate baseball, advocating for its growth and fostering a sense of unity among fans, players and enthusiasts, is truly commendable.”
Larry Hays, 2015 College Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee and Gustafson’s coach at Texas Tech:
“In many ways, Mike Gustafson is the baseball Hall of Fame. He was there at the very first meeting when the idea was discussed. It was only a dream that the group had, but with their hard work and Mike’s leadership, that dream has become a reality, and college baseball is better for it.”
Mike Fiore, Vice President, Boras Corporation, 2014 Hall of Fame inductee and member, College Baseball Foundation Board of Directors:
“Mike’s dedication to College Baseball and the CBF has been nothing short of exceptional. His direction and vision have boosted the visibility of the Hall of Fame and its history. The Hall of Fame has benefited from his stewardship, and we are grateful for his service.”
Craig Ramsey, Chairman, College Baseball Foundation Board of Directors:
“The College Baseball Foundation and Hall of Fame Inductees owe our sincere gratitude to Mike for his long-time, servant leadership. True to his selfless nature, Mike felt now was the time for him to step back and allow someone else to take the lead role of CEO/Executive Director. We are fortunate to have him join our Board of Trustees to continue to share his knowledge, passion, stewardship and vision for the future of our organization.”
Chris Snead, Treasurer, College Baseball Foundation Board of Directors
“As one of the founding members of the Foundation and Hall of Fame, I have been honored to work alongside Mike since the inception of the organization. His passion for college baseball and the preservation of the history and story of the game is unparalleled. I look forward to continuing to work with him as he transitions to our board of directors.”
Gustafson intends to stay involved in the game, researching the history of college baseball. He also has served as a radio and television analyst for Texas Tech baseball since 2010 and plans to continue in those roles as well. Additionally, he will become the Executive Director Emeritus for the CBF and the Hall of Fame, still lending his wisdom and experience to the organization as a member of the Board of Directors.
"I initiated this transition in 2019,” Gustafson said. “The pandemic then presented so many challenges for everyone, and the College Baseball Foundation was no different. I am glad we made our way through that, and I look forward to the future of the College Baseball Foundation and the National College Baseball Hall of Fame."
A transition committee, consisting of members of the CBF Board of Trustees, is in the late stages of selecting a seasoned executive to bring the CBF and College Baseball Hall of Fame into its next exciting chapter. Gustafson will remain in his current role until a new leader for the CBF and College Baseball Hall of Fame is named.