The anatomy of a mission trip

Dominican Youth ClinicSCORE International was thrilled to host the University of Louisville Baseball team on a recent short-term mission/baseball experience in the Dominican Republic. Dan McDonnell, his staff, players and several parents provided food to sugar cane villages, supported and befriended over 50 girls at Pasitos de Jesus (our girls orphanage) and played some very competitive baseball. Congrats to Dan and his team for getting out of their comfort zone for a few days to give back. For coaches or players interested in a once-in-a-lifetime baseball experience similar to this, please check out our website, CoachKeithMadison.com, or contact me directly at keith@scorebaseball.com.

-Coach

Inside Pitch: First things first- what are some of the logistics involved with organizing a mission trip for your entire program?

Dan McDonnell: “The first step is raising the money. As coaches at the end of last season, it was ‘make or break’ whether we were ready to take this thing on. The more we got into it, the more comfortable we felt, and I actually started to enjoy the process of raising the money for something you know will be life-changing for these kids.” Continue reading

Coach Your Kids… on the details

article by Darren Fenster
Minor League Manager, Boston Red Sox
Founder & CEO, Coaching Your Kids, LLC
@CoachYourKids
CoachingYourKids@gmail.com

Omaha, Nebraska.

Every June, this quaint Midwestern city becomes the pinnacle of the amateur baseball world when it hosts the College World Series.  Every February, it is the destination for all 298 NCAA Division One baseball teams.  It is the goal.  But out of those 298 clubs, only eight get to go.  Only eight get to play for the National Championship.  EIGHT.  It is a special place that only a few special teams get to experience.

This past June, in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tied, deciding game three of the Louisville Super Regional, Cal State Fullerton found itself one run away from its season ending when the leadoff hitter for the Cardinals reached base.

taylor bryant

Taylor Bryant

A sacrifice bunt was in order.  Everyone in the ballpark knew it.  Everybody watching on television knew it.  And Cal State Fullerton’s defense knew it, too… especially their second baseman, Taylor Bryant.

As Louisville’s hitter laid down a textbook sacrifice, Fullerton’s catcher fielded the ball cleanly and without a play at second, shuffled his feet towards first to take the “sure” out.  When the ball left the catcher’s hand, it was apparent that “sure” out would not be recorded; the throw was airmailed over the first baseman’s head, headed for the right field corner. Continue reading

New faces, new places

new facesWith the ever-changing landscape of the college baseball coaching industry, the winter offers a time to take a look at the ‘coaching carousel’ and check in on how some of our game’s new head coaches are doing at their respective programs. Inside Pitch caught up with some of the best and checked in on how they are implementing their philosophy and foundation at their new landing spots:

What are the challenges to moving from one place to another and taking over the reins at a new program?

“Most young coaches want to be a head coach one day, so they’re working towards that goal with everything they do. There are so many good coaches out there nowadays, it’s tough because there are only so many head Division I jobs to go around. So when you do get that opportunity, you have to jump on it. It didn’t come as quick for me as I thought it might, but this is an incredible situation at Sam Houston State; we’re very, very blessed to be here at a proven winner and place you can win at a high, high level. The program that Mark Johnson and David Pierce built here speaks for itself, with six regionals in the last eight years and three straight conference championships. There’s a lot to live up to and there are gigantic shoes to fill.”

-Matt Deggs

“It’s always hard to leave a place. You normally have relationships with players for 2-3 years before they ever step on campus. Then you get to work with them each day. It was really tough to leave the players and the coaching staff at Ole Miss. Coach Bianco, Carl Lafferty, Stephen Head and Andrew Case weren’t just co-workers, they’re friends as well, so it’s hard to leave them. The players and coaches were my family. Ole Miss & Oxford will always have a special place in my heart. It’s my second home.”

-Cliff Godwin

“The new job was bittersweet in the fact that Louisville was such a special place. I had a chance to coach with my college teammate and best friend [Dan McDonnell], but our whole staff had been together for eight years, with Roger Williams and Brian Mundorf, all the guys we were there with. We won a lot of games, but we had a lot of fun doing it.

new facesIndiana is a dream job in a lot of ways, and I’m very fortunate to be able to stay in the same part of the country in terms of moving. Tracy Smith has done a great job of building the program and getting it to where it was, and our goal is to move the program forward, to keep Indiana at the top of the Big Ten. I think with the last two years with the College World Series, a number four overall seed, and a brand new ballpark, the program is in a great place.

We also feel very fortunate because Indiana is one of the best states in the country to recruit out of, there’s a lot of talent in our state.”

-Chris Lemonis

“The immediate challenge is retention of all our players. The players and the game seem to be the easiest part, the tough part is dealing with all the domestic side of a move. Leaving a good place like SHSU and starting over with moves, selling and buying houses are the biggest challenges. The players have always been very receptive to our staff and I’m thankful for that.”

-David Pierce

“The hardest part of leaving Young Harris college after sixteen years wasn’t leaving behind a program that my family and the administration that hired me had put so much time, effort, and resources into. It wasn’t removing myself from the program we had transformed from an obscure, small college in the middle of nowhere into a national power that was recognized in the baseball community as a program that developed young men into major leaguers, as well as quality husbands, fathers, and community leaders. The hardest part was leaving behind a community and church that we invested our lives into, which had, in return, given my wife and I a wonderful place to watch our children grow and mature. The greatest memories are not of the championships we won, but of the relationships we developed over the years in that small town community. That small town community always made this small time coach feel like a big league manager.”

-Rick Robinson

“You just evaluate as a professional whether you want to be comfortable or you want to challenge yourself, and with the two moves [from Miami of Ohio to Indiana and then from Indiana to Arizona State], the opportunities were better, so that’s how I looked at it. Are you wired to be comfortable, or are you wired to challenge yourself? At the end of the day, it was a very simple answer. It’s tough moving away from family and friends, but the bigger regret would’ve been sitting back and wondering what could’ve been.”

-Tracy Smith
Continue reading

Chris Lemonis

lemonis

Lemonis accepted Indiana head job in summer of 2014

What are some of the things you’ve learned along your coaching journey that have really helped you?

I would say one of the biggest things is organization, just being highly organized so that everybody knows what’s expected. My background is from a military college [The Citadel], so you can imagine how organized everything was. Everybody knows what’s expected when you show up every day.

Building relationships with certain coaches on your staff and even opponents over time can also really help you. Every time you’re looking to move up you need help from somebody else, it’s never just on your own. So does the success that you have. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to two places that are highly successful, and people recognize that.

What do you look for when you’re recruiting? Continue reading

The best drills in baseball

godwindrillCliff Godwin, Ole Miss

Played at East Carolina University; has prior coaching experience at UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, LSU and Central Florida

“Here are a few drills our guys do every single day before they ever have a live pitch thrown to them:

1. Fungo swings- toss up the ball and hit 10-15 balls with a fungo to get loose. Try to hit line drives.

2. High tee drill series- set tee up away to start with and go “no-low half” where you’re eliminating the lower half where you’ve already taken your stride and both your feet are on the ground. You can either have your hands in a normal position or put them out on their front shoulder (front shoulder load).

The whole basis of the drill is to eliminate the lower half and produce three head-high line drives over the opposite-field infielder’s head. [Our players at Ole Miss] have to do three in a row and that’s what I really take pride in, getting our guys to do that, because anybody can produce one line drive and move on to the next step, but it’s not consistent. Once they do that, they take swings regularly off the high tee away and do three in a row there. Then we move the tee to the middle and finally to the inner half, repeating the same sequence: Continue reading

Man on a mission

Courier-Journal photo

Courier-Journal photo

Dan McDonnell is currently in his fifth season as the head coach for the University of Louisville, where they have hosted NCAA post-season baseball in three of the last four years. In 2007, McDonnell became the first rookie coach in 27 years to lead his team to Omaha and was named National Coach of the Year by Rivals.com. 24 Louisville players have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft during his tenure. Inside Pitch talked with McDonnell during a SCORE mission trip in the Dominican Republic about his rapid journey to the top of college baseball.

Inside Pitch: What was so special about the 2007 team that you led to the College World Series in your first year as head coach? Were the current players concerned about your commitment to them versus the recruits you were bringing in?

Dan McDonnell: Well, when you’re known for being a recruiter, I think the current players wonder, ‘is this guy going to be in it for me or is he going to be in it for his recruits?’ Knowing that, I made it clear to our team (that included nine seniors) that I was committed to them 100 percent. They believed in me and I obviously believed in them. It was so much fun to watch a group of guys play for a team, for a program, for a university. Because of that, great things happened. We went all the way to Omaha and it wasn’t about the individual players or the draft, it was ‘what can we do as a team to experience something we’ve never done before?’

Continue reading