Fall 2016 From the Bleachers

f16-ftbThe Time is Now, http://wp.me/p2qsGw-k5

“Great read in @insidepitchmag about the @jaegersports year round throwing manual!! #FeedIt”

Cory Harpin
@coryharpin

Brian O’Connor, http://wp.me/p2qsGw-kO

“Great read for any athlete or coach. This man gets it. It’s no wonder UVA is so successful.”

Perry Florio
@perry_florio

Training Our Young Arms, http://wp.me/p2qsGw-ld

“Not to mention is it nice to pitch when your hitters mash. Cranford always seems to have great hitters!”

Todd Engmann
@tengmann

Steve Owens interview, http://wp.me/p2qsGw-kI

“It’s always interesting to learn how mid-majors and small schools run their programs.”

Nicholas Perkins
@CoachPerk


STRIKEFORCE
: Helping Children of Fallen Special Operations Heroes through Baseball. From June through mid-October, STRIKE FORCE has set out to elevate awareness of the service and sacrifice of America’s special operations community and raise funds for participation by children of fallen operators in programs offered by the nonprofit Gold Star Teen Adventures (GSTA), a member of Operation Hawkeye. For more information, visit http://www.gstadventures.org and http://www.ophawkeye.com, and follow Operation Hawkeye on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. http://wp.me/p2qsGw-lU

Brian O’Connor on culture and competing

summer16The head coach at the University of Virginia since 2004, Brian O’Connor is a five-time ACC Coach of the Year and three-time national coach of the year. In addition to bringing the 2015 NCAA title to Charlottesville, O’Connor boasts the third-highest winning percentage of all current head coaches in Division I baseball and the 14th-best mark all-time. O’Connor is the second fastest ACC coach to reach 500 career wins and has ushered a boatload of talent into professional baseball, including the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds, Sean Doolittle, and several others.

He came to Virginia after nine years at Notre Dame (1995-2003) under current LSU coach Paul Mainieri, where he was named the 2001 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America and was AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003.

Inside Pitch recently visited with the Cavaliers’ head coach to talk about how he manages his clubs, his staff, and the winning culture he has developed at UVA. Continue reading

The new ball

new ballIn response to the BBCOR bat, TD Ameritrade Park and lower offensive outputs across the country, the DI baseball committee’s unanimous 2013 vote to change the ball to a flatter-seam version was put in play. Beginning this past fall, college baseball implemented the new ball and Inside Pitch asked coaches to chime in on their overall observations, any changes that they intend to make with coaching philosophies for their hitters or pitchers, and whether the new ball will change their recruiting mindset:

HITTING

“We are a team that likes to lengthen and shorten the field- we like to make the field real big, and we like to make the field real small- and these balls play into that. They’re going to level off the playing field, and a five-run deficit is not insurmountable anymore. It won’t be as prevalent as it was 5-7 years ago, but it is going to give hitters a fighting chance when they’re dealing with adverse conditions like wind or a bigger ballpark. I really like the new baseball, I think it’s going to add some more excitement to the game, and it might put us just about where we want to be.”

Matt Deggs, head coach, Sam Houston State
Helped UL-Lafayette to a banner 2014 season where they finished the top 10 in the nation in 14 offensive categories and had an OPS of .902

“I think you’re definitely going to see more home runs, but it’s not going to go back to ‘gorilla ball’ or anything like that. As far as coaching goes, I still like power in the middle of the lineup and speed at the top and the bottom, so we aren’t going to approach it a whole lot differently.”

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina University
His hitters ranked first in the SEC in batting average and second in home runs and runs scored in 2014

“It’s a little tough for me because I’m in a new park with new hitters, too. I think the feedback from the kids was that the ball traveled farther, which is what everyone was looking for. Hopefully it’ll balance the game back out a little bit more, adding the home run as an element for most teams. Recruiting-wise, we’ve always liked to have a nice blend of power and speed, so I don’t know that it’s going to change much. Maybe the bigger corner infielder or outfielder becomes important again, which the game has kind of gotten away from the past few years.”

Chris Lemonis, head coach, Indiana University
Former hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville helped the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances and back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 Continue reading

Kevin McMullan interview

McMullanKevin McMullan is in his 10th season at UVA, seventh as associate head coach. Considered to be one of the top assistant coaches in all of college baseball, “Coach Mac” has prior experience in the Atlanta Braves organization and at St. John’s, East Carolina, and his alma mater Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Things that make a “top assistant”….

Being surrounded by the right staff that gives you the opportunity and autonomy to do your job. Great players always make great coaches; the ability to identify the right guys for our place at Virginia. The buy in- from our players, that they understand what we’re about as a program and what they are coming into- there’s no gray area. I think when the players get there and you start asking them to make adjustments or trying to do something a little different, there all in from the get-go since you’ve been recruiting and sharing with them how we run the program.

On drills…

#1- Practical practice, It’s not necessarily a specific drill but we try to simulate the game pace in everything we do, whether it be base running live reads or the pace of handling the ball off the bat or fungo. We try to make everything game-like so when the games start, guys have been there over and over with their repetition and their preparation.

On coaching journey…

In my first job at my alma mater (Indiana-Pennsylvania), I think I learned more about READ THE REST

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

Is the bunt dying?

The “small ball” approach to offense seems to have taken over the game at the high school and college levels, and while there are multiple styles, the basic goal is to score one run at a time. This can pay off if teams can score multiple runs in several innings and those teams possess strong pitching and defense, factors that can be overlooked during some in-game situations.

A web search will leave you with several different definitions for the term “small ball” in baseball, some of which include words like deliberate, situational, and even methodical. While base running certainly plays a large role with this philosophy, where, when, and whether or not to advance runners via the sacrifice bunt is not as clear.

There have been extensive studies at the MLB level of whether the sacrifice bunt is actually productive in scoring runs, and thanks to the popular college baseball site boydsworld.com, we have some data from the amateur game to draw upon, and what it tells us may surprise you. Continue reading