Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Woodlands’ Eastman Builds Powerhouse

The Woodlands’ Eastman Builds Powerhouse

Ron EastmanBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(April 19, 2013 Edition)

THE WOODLANDS, Tex. — One of most progressive and successful high school coaches in the nation is Ron Eastman of The Woodlands (Tex.).

He has led the Highlanders to a superb 317-88 record over the last 13 years.

This season, The Woodlands is 21-2 and were ranked No. 1 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball after rolling to an 18-0 record.

Eastman led the Highlanders to the 2006 national high school title, as determined by Collegiate Baseball, after posting a 38-1 record and finishing with 31 consecutive wins to capture the 5A Texas state championship.

The Woodlands has won two Texas state 5A championships in 2000 and 2006 under the guidance of Eastman. Previously he was the head coach at Lamar High School for eight years. In 21 years as a head coach, his record is 450-188. Few coaches in the nation have utilized the mental game as Eastman has to give his teams an edge.

“There is a lot of failure in baseball,” said Eastman.

“Anybody who knows anything about the game is well aware of that. There will be adversity during games. When it hits the fan, your players must have something to go to. So we try to impress upon our players that life is like that as well. It’s not always going to be what we call ‘green lights.’ Not everything will go well for you. There will be adversity in life, whether it is with the family, your job, or children.

“We try to help them develop some mental toughness tools which allow our kids to deal with adversity.”

Sports psychologist Brian Cain has worked with The Woodlands to incorporate his techniques to make them more mentally tough.

“Brian has taught us many little things that work. We also have utilized the work of Ken Ravizza who wrote Heads Up Baseball (along with Tom Hanson). Just like we try to get them to be better hitters, pitchers, base runners and defensive players, we try to be stronger in the mental aspects of the game.”

Eastman was asked what specifically his teams do to be mentally tougher.

“Our ultimate goal and one of our mantras is ‘Win The Pitch.’ We try to focus on what you can control. You have total command over your effort and attitude. We work very hard on effort in practice. We set a very fast tempo in our practices just like a lot of major colleges have gone to the last few years.

“We really focus on players’ attitudes. We have the letter W (initial for Woodlands) in a Superman symbol on the locker room door. When the young men show up at the ball park and go into the locker room, they are taking their school clothes off and leaving their academics, girlfriends and families there and totally focusing on baseball. We want them to understand when they are putting on their practice or game uniform, it is all about baseball for the next 2-2 ½ hours.

“Then when they go back to the locker room, they leave baseball back on the diamond and focus on the present moment. From the outset, we have our players strive to have a proper mental focus in practice.

“We have utilized concentration grids prior to practice that Brian introduced to us. It allows players have sharper focus in practice. This grid has a series of numbers on paper. You must sequence them in numerical order and find those numbers as quickly as possible. It is a way of focusing your brain and mind on those numbers so that you are able to concentrate.

“In today’s world, the attention span of kids is extremely short because of everything they do. We have to work in short bursts with them. And that’s the way baseball is designed as well. You have a pitch, rest, then have another pitch and so on. The concentration grids help us focus before practice. We don’t use them every day. But we do use them regularly for all our players.”

To read the entire in-depth story about Ron Eastman and The Woodlands’ baseball program, purchase the April 19 edition of Collegiate Baseball by clicking here.

Concussions Can Cause Major Problems

Concussions Can Cause Major Problems

Figone Concussion GraphicBy AL FIGONE, Ph.D &
JUDY KARREN
Special To Collegiate Baseball
(April 19, 2013 Edition)

FOLSOM, Calif. — Concussions in football have been well documented.

But what about baseball? Ryan Freel, who spent six of his eight Big League seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, was not the first Major Leaguer to take his own life.

But, the circumstances surrounding the former Tallahassee Junior College standout’s suicide were. Freel, 36, was found in his Jacksonville, Fla. residence on December 22, 2012 after an apparent suicide.

 “I don’t know how many times he would talk about sliding into second or third base and blacking out or seeing stars,” stated Freel’s former wife Christie Moore Freel.

“I know a lot of people say they weren’t shocked by it, but I really was. I really thought at some point, the answer to all of this would come along for him. It just never did. I’m very hopeful. We certainly believe there is some sort of connection (to concussions).”

Freel’s step-father Clark Vargas believed Freel sustained at least 10 concussions in baseball and his ex-wife shared the story of a Venezuelan winter league game in which Freel had to be hospitalized for a concussion after running through a fence.

After one of his last concussions in MLB, Freel reported he stayed in bed for five days, was unable to read very much, and driving made him sick and dizzy. The family has donated his brain to the Boston University Center for the study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathology (CTE).

An undersized player by MLB standards, Freel was a player who played the game with a hell-bent for leather attitude.

He was a super utility player who stole 143 bases, and hit .269 in eight MLB seasons.

“I don’t have the size and the power, but have the heart. Anybody can have that,” he’d tell youngsters who aspired to become MLB players.

Baltimore’s Brian Roberts knew something was wrong after sliding head first into first base against the Red Sox in May 2011. There was no collision with a knee or other body parts of the defensive player covering first. The two-time All-Star got up, and his head began pounding and his vision was blurred.

Roberts looked across the diamond and did not recognize any signs from the third base coach.

“I think that was the scariest part,” Roberts said. “I knew something was wrong.”

He had suffered a concussion from the whiplash effect of the slide. And it was the second in about seven months.

Two days later, he was placed on the disabled list and did not return to the Orioles until June 13, 2012 which was more than year after the injury. He had also concussed himself in September 2010, just five games before the end of the season.

To read more about this in-depth story on concussions, purchase the April 19, 2013 edition. To obtain this issue or start a subscription, click here.

Value Of Proper Sleep For Athletes Explored

Value Of Proper Sleep For Athletes Explored

Dr. James MaasBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2013 Collegiate Baseball

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Everyone endures sleepless nights. When a pattern of sleep deprivation takes place with athletes, serious consequences can occur as performances suffer on the field and in the classroom. Dramatic mood swings happen as well.

Those in the game of baseball have broken down almost everything in the quest for high level athletic achievement. And that can take the form of better nutrition, weight training, mental training, video technology and progressive teaching concepts specific to the different skill sets required. But rarely do coaches talk about proper sleeping habits which may be among the most important aspects of athletic performance.

Sleep is not something to take lightly.

Sleep deprivation has been utilized as torture, a tactic favored by the KGB and the Japanese in prisoner of war camps in World War II. Going without sleep is intensely stressful with unpredictable short and long-term effects. People lose the ability to act and think coherently.

Hallucinations, paranoia and disorientation are just a few of the symptoms of prolonged sleeplessness.

Collegiate Baseball is offering this exclusive interview with Dr. James Maas who will discuss how to achieve proper rest.

Dr. Maas is a leading authority and international consultant on sleep and performance who has studied the subject more than four decades as a professor at Cornell University where he taught more than 65,000 college students.

He recently wrote a book with Haley Davis called Sleep To Win!: Secrets To Unlocking Your Athletic Excellence In Every Sport.

The staff of Sleep To Win have presented highly successful programs on sleep to scores of corporations, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Figure Skating Association, New York Jets, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators and Orlando Magic. But one sport they have not been involved with is baseball.

“About 70 percent of Americans aren’t meeting the 7 ½ to 8 ½ hour sleep requirements as adults,” said Dr. Maas.

“Sleep needs go up from puberty to about the age of 26 which involves everyone from middle school kids to Major League ball players. The amount of sleep this group of people needs to be fully alert and full of energy is 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night. If you ask this group of people how many hours of sleep they get a night, they will claim they are sleeping about seven hours. This includes regular students as well as athletes.

“But we have done actual brain wave studies in home monitoring, and they are really only getting about 6.1 hours of sleep a night. They are so sleepy that they don’t even know how little sleep they are getting. These people are in essence ‘walking zombies.’

“They think that because they eat well or appear to be in good athletic shape that this is enough. But they are missing 1/3 of the equation. We have been studying the effects of sleep deprivation both athletically and cognitively for years. And we also have studied lack of sleep with basic physiology.

“The findings aren’t of immediate concern. But they have long term repercussions to our younger athletes. Drowsiness at inappropriate times is a concern. During the mid-day dip in alertness that we all have in the middle of the afternoon, if you are sleep deprived as these youngsters are, the dip is even more serious.

“And this is often the time when baseball games on the high school and college levels are played. Obviously, when the brain and body is tanking because of lack of sleep, the athlete can’t perform at his highest level.

“So the athlete shows drowsiness, an increase in irritability, anxiety, depression and weight gain. For middle age people and older, there is a much higher risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes. Cancer has even been linked to sleep deprivation.

“Loss of sleep can impact a player’s teamwork, sense of humor and impact his motor skills.”

Dr. Maas said studies have shown reaction time deteriorates with athletes who suffer from sleep deprivation.

“This all happens during chains of events whether it is a pitcher who has to throw a quality pitch or a batter trying to hit a pitch. As an athlete, you must have your body synchronized in the athletic discipline you are trying to achieve in the proper firing sequence, so you don’t have to think.

“It all should be an automatic motor muscle memory. But when you have a lack of sleep, that chain of events can be seriously disrupted.

“When the athlete is sleep deprived, he has a lack of awareness and suffers from the ability to remember and think critically and creatively as one has to do to make a split second decision in baseball. You might make poor decision skills when balls fly off the bat or not looking at the third base coach who is waving you on…many different situations like this.

“There are a whole slew of events which happen, and sleep deprived athletes are blissfully unaware of how much they have lost over what they could be.”

For More Information: To read more about the importance of proper sleep, why young adults need 9 1/2 hours every night, how it can help athletes play at a higher level, how motor muscle memory will be enhanced, how to choose the proper mattress and pillow, why blue spectrum light from electronic devices can impair sleep, what the ideal sleep routine should be and how to solve the problem of jet lag, read the special 2-part series which starts in the April 5, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. Part two appears in the April 19, 2013 issue. Single copies can be purchased for $3 each. Click here for more information.

Hitting Discipline Paying Off For College Teams

Hitting Discipline Paying Off For College Teams

Gary WardBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2013 Collegiate Baseball

INDIANAPOLIS — How are college teams adapting to the BBCOR specification bats after using them for 2 ½ seasons?

While they have substantially less pop than the old BESR certified bats, many successful teams have utilized the technique of being highly disciplined during at-bats and going deep into counts.

This has resulted in an incredible number of walks for these teams which represent base runners and ultimately runs.

When more hitter’s pitches are demanded by batters, pitchers tend to get tired quicker and more mistakes take place which are then hit by these successful teams hard. Ultimately, run production has a chance to be outstanding with this system in place.

The first NCAA Division I baseball statistics of the season were released through games of March 3. Collegiate Baseball looked at the top 23 teams that had the most walks in the nation by their hitters.

And amazingly, 10 of 23 had one or no losses this season.

Here is a rundown on those 10 teams which includes their national ranking, record and number of walks):

  • 1. Central Arkansas (11-1, 104 walks).
  • 2. Mercer (11-1, 89 walks).
  • T-5. Vanderbilt (12-1, 73 walks).
  • T-5 Florida St. (10-0, 73 walks).
  • 8. Virginia (12-0, 70 walks).
  • 10. Oregon St. (12-0, 67 walks).
  • 14. North Carolina (10-0, 63 walks).
  • 16. Mississippi St. (15-0, 62 walks).
  • T-18. Georgia Tech. (11-1, 60 walks).
  • 23. North Carolina St. (10-1, 57 walks).

If you look at the top run producing teams in NCAA Division I through March 3, the top five in the nation are from the above list.

  • T-1. Virginia (119 runs in 12 games).
  • T-1. Central Arkansas (119 runs in 12 games).
  • 3. Mercer (117 runs in 12 games).
  • 4. Vanderbilt (116 runs in 13 games).
  • 5. Georgia Tech. (115 runs in 12 games).

The other five teams listed which have high walk numbers and had one or no losses all have superb run production numbers. They include:

  • Mississippi St. (eighth in the USA with 108 runs over 15 games).
  • North Carolina St. (13th with 99 runs in 11 games).
  • North Carolina (16th with 97 runs over 10 games).
  • Florida St. (18th with 93 runs in 10 games).
  • Oregon St. (32nd with 81 runs in 12 games).

Gary Ward, considered the Godfather of discipline when it comes to training hitters in this technique, practiced these concepts with his Oklahoma State teams for 19 years during the 1978-1996 seasons. Nbody taught this technique better than him. His teams walked more than any school in NCAA history which allowed the on-base percentage to shoot through the roof. And it was no coincidence that his offenses led all NCAA Division I teams in run production six times.

In the Jan. 25, 2013 issue of Collegiate Baseball, Ward went into detail about the importance of being disciplined in hitting.

Through discipline, the walk has played a vital role in scoring runs. “The walk has always been important,” said Ward. “It isn’t about taking pitches. A lot of people get confused about going out and taking a bunch of pitches. The reality is that you must value being disciplined at the plate.”

“The great majority of athletes, if you can teach them their zone within the strike zone, can have enough athleticism and bat speed to cover that with some ability.

“So we have always worked very hard at reducing the zone down and used terms like ‘shorten the look’ or ‘center the ball more.’ “

Through his 19 years at Oklahoma State, Cowboy hitters had a superb walk-strikeout ratio with 9,001 walks and 6,916 strikeouts.

For More On This Story: Read the rest of the story, including Gary Ward’s analysis on this trend, in the March 22, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball newspaper. Individual copies can be purchased for $3 each. Please see Subscriptions for more information about ordering.

Gonzalez Suffers Broken Neck & Returns

Gonzalez Suffers Broken Neck & Returns

Andy GonzalezBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2013 Collegiate Baseball

This article originally appeared in the March 8, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball.

PHILADELPHIA — Andy Gonzalez of Misericordia University is lucky to be alive. On Feb. 27, 2012, he was driving back to school from Philadelphia when another driver ran a red light and crashed into the passenger side of his vehicle.

Andy started through the intersection after his light turned green, and he never saw the other car coming as the impact spun his vehicle around several times until it came to rest near a sidewalk.

The 5-foot-9, 210-pound catcher didn’t realize it, but he suffered a broken neck which normally kills people or causes total paralysis. His C-2 vertebra, which is even with his ears, was fractured in the violent collision. In fact, the common name for this type of broken neck is a “Hangman’s Fracture.”

“After the impact, I was dazed and not sure what happened,” said Gonzalez. “There is currently a lawsuit pending against the other driver. I believe the operator of the other car tried to slip through the intersection as my light turned green. I started driving into the intersection as the first car ready to move out. It was early in the morning about 6:50 a.m., and there really weren’t that many cars on the road. I was in the middle of the intersection when he hit me.”

Gonzalez said he was conscious through the entire situation until he was put in the ambulance. “Once paramedics placed me on a stretcher in the ambulance, I passed out. I don’t remember the ambulance ride to the hospital.”

Gonzalez said that he felt some pain in his neck initially after the accident. But it wasn’t unbearable pain.

“I had no idea how seriously hurt I was. I attempted to get out of the car, but the way the car was crushed in from the passenger side, the center console pinned one of my legs in. And my foot was stuck. I was able to get my foot and leg out, and they weren’t mangled up. While I was trying to get free, a witness who saw the accident came over and told me to stop moving and stay there.

“The witness called 911. Once the ambulance arrived in about 10 minutes, paramedics carefully took me out of the car and protected my neck as they put me on a stretcher.

“I was taken to Hammond Hospital in Philadelphia. When I regained consciousness, my clothes had already been cut off, and I was about to be put in a tube which I believe was CAT scan machine to take a closer look at my neck. As I woke up, I felt intense pain in my neck which at this point had a neck brace on it. The nurse told me I was at the hospital and had been in a car accident. She told me to stay still because they were running some scans on the neck area.

“I told her that my neck hurt pretty bad, and she assured me that after the tests were done that I would get some pain medicine. At about that time, my parents were contacted in the Long Island, N.Y. area. They had no idea I had been in a serious accident. They immediately drove to Philadelphia which is about three hours away.”

No Paralysis
Initially, he had some temporary loss of feeling in his feet. But Gonzalez could still move them. He was fortunate not to have any paralysis.

“I then was wheeled to the Intensive Care Unit, and about an hour later, a doctor came in and explained that I didn’t have any internal bleeding. But he said I had an unstable break in my C-2 vertebra. The doctor told me that I was lucky to be alive and said it was rare for a person to break his C-2 vertebra and still be alive. The doctor said the unstable condition of the vertebra had to be taken care of as soon as possible and explained two options.

“The first was a neck fusion procedure while the second was wearing a halo brace which would keep my head immobile while the C-2 vertebra healed over a long period of time.

“He felt that I was young enough that the bone could heal by itself, and the halo brace was recommended by him. That’s when I had to figure everything out quickly. I told him that he was the expert with situations like this and gave him the go ahead to put the halo brace on. Then they brought me the paperwork, and I signed everything.

“As soon as the team of doctors was ready, I was wheeled in as they fitted me for a halo brace. It was a very quick turnaround. A hard, plastic vest is put over your chest and torso starting above your belly button area. Connected to the vest are four bars which go up along the side of your head. The bars connect into a metal circular brace that looks like a halo and goes around your head.

“That halo is then secured to your head with four screws which are drilled into your skull. There were two screws in the front and two in the back. That keeps your head from moving at all. I had the halo on for approximately 12 weeks.”

Gonzalez said that he didn’t realize all the small movements your head makes during the course of a day. “If something startled me and I attempted to turn as a natural reaction, I could feel the screws that were put in my skull, and it was a painful reminder not to move.”

Difficult To Sleep
Gonzalez was asked if he could sleep at night with this unwieldy halo brace now attached to his upper body.

“While I was in the hospital, I couldn’t move the main part of my body from the waist up. The only way I could move my upper body was by my lower body since the upper part was immobile. The hospital bed allowed the back part of the bed to go up and down. Sleeping was uncomfortable. And in the beginning, it was very painful to lie on the actual metal cage of the halo. I couldn’t lay on my head…only the bars. But this type of bed did help lower and raise my upper body.

“I didn’t sleep too much until I got used to it. I had to relearn how to sit up. It took me a few days to get out of bed and stand up. After a few days of getting out of bed and taking a few steps, my physical therapist helped me increase the distance as I walked the halls. That’s all I wanted to do at this time after a few days of only laying in bed. I had enough of that.”

Gonzalez had been an athlete his entire life, and he was asked if it was difficult to be immobile.

“It was very difficult. My lifestyle was so active through my life between baseball, working out and training, and now I was essentially immobile. It was rough emotionally and physically.”

Gonzalez was in the Intensive Care Unit for three days and subsequently moved to general care in the hospital for another eight days. Then he was released to go back home which presented another challenge for him.

“I wanted to walk out of the hospital because I had been lying in bed for so long. So they allowed me to use a walker even though I still wasn’t able to walk all that well. But I made it to our car.

“But getting in the car was a challenge even though it was an SUV. I had to wiggle my way in as I put the seat down and bend a little as I got in. It was an extremely tight fit, but I made it in. The three hour ride back to Long Island was awful. Every little bump was painful, and it was like torture.”

Gauntlet Set
Before he left to go home, Gonzalez was told by the specialist at the hospital that he would never play baseball again. At that moment, the memory of his 2011 season was a distant mirage as he played in 38 games, started 35, and was named second team All-Conference as a catcher.

“The doctor told me that this was a pretty serious break, and I would be able to walk. But as far as my competitive athletic career, that was a thing of the past. He told me that I wouldn’t be able to do those types of things any more. I listened to what he had to say. But I didn’t for one minute believe it. I refused to believe this. After I got home, I saw another specialist for a second opinion.

“He said pretty much the same thing and mentioned that I was a very lucky man to be alive. He said that one day I would probably be able to play catch with my own son. But as far as playing baseball, that is out of the question, and your career is over.”

After hearing the unsettling news from another specialist, he was depressed at first. But he knew deep inside that he would play baseball again. So he did everything he could to help his cause by searching the internet for products that might speed the recovery of his C-2 vertebra.

“I simply couldn’t do much while I was in the halo for 12 weeks and another 10 weeks in a typical neck brace. There was no way I could train since I was pretty much immobile. All I could do physically was walk around during this period. But what I did do was stay positive which was the most important thing.

“I truly believed I would get back out on the baseball field. I did my research and found vitamins, minerals, food and drinks that would help heal bones faster and make them stronger.”

Finishing His Degree
Gonzalez said that the doctor requested that he not go back to Misericordia University during the spring of 2012 after the accident so he could heal properly at home. He felt it would be extremely difficult to attend classes and get around with a halo brace on.

“He suggested with everything I had to go through, it might be wise to stay at home during the rest of the spring semester. But I was still on the baseball team, and this was supposed to be the final semester of my senior year. So I decided to go back on campus and finish my classes the normal way. And I finished my double major of computer science and mathematics and walked through to get my diploma last May.”

Gonzalez refused to allow his baseball career to end this way and told Coach Egbert that he was coming back in the fall of 2012 to play one final season for Misericordia.  He planned on taking Informa-tion Technology Organization Management as a graduate student in the quest to obtain his Master’s Degree.

“At the end of last season, Coach Egbert met with me and was probably very skeptical about me coming back. After all, I had a broken neck. He also realized that specialists had told me I would not be able to play baseball and other competitive sports again.

“Before the injury, I weighed about 210 pounds. But after inactivity for so long, my weight plummeted to 180 pounds as I lost about 30 pounds. My muscle mass had really gone down. I went home for the summer and couldn’t really do anything. Once I got the halo brace off after 12 weeks, then I had to deal with the regular neck brace for 10 additional weeks. With that type of neck brace, I could do light stationary bike riding.

“I also walk a lot which helped. In early August, I went to see the specialist for a checkup. An MRI of my neck was taken, and the specialist carefully looked at the images over and over again. Then he told me that he thought I would be able to play again because everything in the C-2 vertebra had healed well. So he wanted me to take everything slow and steady and cleared me for limited activity. My parents (Alison and Manny) were with me, and everybody had huge smiles on their faces.

“You can’t imagine the tough road I had to get back to this stage. And I wouldn’t have made it this far without the help of my parents, support of Coach Egbert and all the guys on the team. I realized at that moment that I could start preparing to be a baseball player again. Fall baseball practices were going to start in a month. And I hadn’t done anything with baseball for the previous seven months.

“It was one roadblock out of the way. But I realized I had more to come.”

Gonzalez said that the specialist wanted him to come back to the office in a few weeks to be cleared for full activity at the tail end of August.

“When I was given the first clearance, all I was allowed to do was very, very light weight training. Nothing overhead was allowed. I could run and jog and do cardio work. It was important to take it easy and not have anything bad happen. I went back to the doctor several weeks later, and he cleared me for full baseball activity. Then I started running every day and did as much lifting as I could to build up my strength. I tried to throw and hit, but it was out of the question because my neck was so stiff.

“Before the injury, I had taken baseball for granted. It was just a joy being out there throwing, hitting and being a catcher. I found out a year ago that all that can be taken away. As soon as I was cleared, I rededicated myself to the game I love. And every day, I would wake up and think about the days I couldn’t weight train, run or play baseball and could only be in bed with the halo brace on day after day for 12 weeks. It was an incredible motivator for me. All I wanted to do was work out, run, throw and hit. Once I was able to really do those things, I got after it.

“I was in the gym every day and on the track and baseball field as much as I could be. Just prior to the season, everybody went through the pre-season physical fitness test, and I graded out as the strongest guy on the team. I squatted three reps of 425 pounds. Then I bench pressed 295 with three reps. I also performed 14 pull-ups at a body weight of 215 pounds. I had gained all 30 pounds back, plus five more as well.”

Gonzalez said that after he was able to have more range of motion with his neck due to hours of physical therapy, then he was able to throw, hit and catch with more precision.

“I caught my first bullpen in mid-September in a practice situation, and it felt incredible. It was the greatest feeling in the world. And then I started throwing and hitting more. Now I am ready to play in 2013.

“It is amazing how far I have come when you look back on this journey from having a broken neck. In 2011, I was the starting catcher and helped our team win its first conference title. Then last year, all I could do was sit on the bench and cheer them on. I wouldn’t be here now without the support of my parents, coaches and all the guys on the team. They have all been wonderful. I will never forget my head coach traveling two hours to see me the day of the accident as he dropped everything he was doing. That meant a lot to me. From the time I was told I would never play baseball again to me telling Coach Egbert I would play again, he has been there checking up on me to make sure I was OK.

“Coach Egbert is an amazing man. I’m not sure how many head coaches out there would drop everything they were doing to go visit a player who was injured two hours away. He really cares about his players, and if something happens to them even off the field, he will be there for you.”

Amazing Young Man
Misericordia’s Egbert brushed off the notion that he was special for visiting Gonzalez in a hospital two hours away on a moment’s notice.

“It was the right thing to do, and I would like to think a number of other coaches would do the same thing,” said Egbert.

“Andy’s friend in Philadelphia called to inform me about the accident. She notified me that he was in the hospital and was in no condition to speak right away.

“That news really threw me for a loop. As a coach, you are shaken up. Andy had been in our program for four years, and I was very close to him. When you get those types of phone calls, it’s not easy to handle.

“The other difficult thing about that is relaying the information to the team. But with today’s technology, a lot of them were aware of what happened before we were able to get together later that day.

“I left for a day or two to visit him at the hospital. The assistant coaches ran practice. And it was just a process of keeping our players updated on what was going on. It was touch and go for the first few days. We didn’t know if he was going to make it. You spend a lot of time with these guys, and part of the job is watching them develop and mature and get out on their own. Visiting him after such a serious injury was the least I could do.”

Egbert marveled at the strength and resolve it took by Gonzalez to make it all the way back to playing baseball again with the odds stacked against him.

“It’s been a long, long journey. About 2/3rds of the way through the 2012 season, we had a Saturday home game in April, and Andy’s mom drove him to the game from Long Island to the field. We are in the outfield stretching for a conference doubleheader, and here comes Andy walking around the corner. The reaction was priceless. Everyone stopped and went over to see him and gave him a big hug. He was very inspirational to our team.

“I tell him to this day that even though he wasn’t able to play in 2012, he was a very big part of the team. Doctors told him he would never be able to play baseball again and was lucky to be alive.

“He refused to accept that and is back for his fifth year to get his Master’s. He made a lot of sacrifices physically, emotionally, mentally, academically and financially to do what he is doing. To me, it is a great story. He is healthy right now and ready to play.

“Andy is actually stronger than before the car accident. He did a phenomenal job of getting back to full strength. He wants to prove to everybody else that he can come back better than he was.

“Andy has been given a second chance in life. He has the same great work ethic in academics and baseball that he has always had. But he has a completely different perspective on life and doesn’t take anything for granted any more.”

Should Fans Have Legal Rights During Games?

Should Fans Have Legal Rights During Games?

Beware of Foul BallsBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2013 Collegiate Baseball

TUCSON, Ariz. — When a baseball fan is hit by a line drive, and a serious injury takes place, should he be allowed to sue?

Or does the disclaimer on the back of the ticket saying the holder assumes all risks associated with ball-related injuries absolve those who operate a stadium and team of future lawsuits?

The question has come into focus after Bud Rountree was hit by a line drive in the eye at a Boise (Idaho) Hawks baseball game in August of 2008.

The severe damage caused by the impact resulted in Rountree losing his eye.

His attorney filed a lawsuit against the stadium owners and the team in 2010 for negligence in state court. Several weeks ago, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuit could move forward.

It was a rare setback for stadium owners and teams concerning this issue.

For decades, the “Baseball Rule” of liability has been adopted for such situations as lawsuits have been turned away from courts because of the disclaimer on the back of tickets with those attending games knowing the potential danger of foul balls, thrown balls and bats flying into stands.

The back of Rountree’s ticket said: “The holder assumes all risk and dangers incidental to the game of baseball including specifically (but not exclusively) the danger of being injured by thrown or batted balls.”

It didn’t matter in this case.

This ruling has reverberated throughout all of baseball.

If a jury rules in favor of Rountree’s lawsuit, all of baseball will be impacted, including college and high school games.

You might see more protective netting being put up or even have fans sign their tickets to show they know what the disclaimer on the back of their ticket says as they hand them to stadium personnel entering parks.

Another case took place in New Mexico when the parents of a 4-year-old child launched a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Isotopes minor league team after their son was hit in the head by a long fly ball during pre-game batting practice.

The family was eating in the picnic area located just beyond the left field wall. Different courts in New Mexico have gone back and forth over whether the family should be given compensation for the head injury.

It should be noted that the Baseball Rule siding with teams and stadium owners has been adopted by courts in Massachusetts, New York, Michigan and other states which go against the recent Idaho Supreme Court ruling.

How Many Fans Are Hit?
While Collegiate Baseball knows of no source that tracks fan injuries from foul balls by Major League Baseball or the NCAA, Bob Gorman has done unscientific research for his blog Death At The Ballpark.

He kept a count of foul balls entering stands for 20 games during the 2010 season which amounted to 166 innings. He counted 405 fouls that went into the stands which was an average of 2.44 per inning.

The greatest number of fouls per inning was 5.4 over a 5-inning stretch. The lowest figure was eight during 8 ½ innings (.09 per inning).

He pointed out that the Detroit Free Press did a similar project for one game. During a Tigers’ contest at Comerica Park, they had a crew of 22 people spread throughout the park tracking balls that entered the stands (including fouls, homers, and balls tossed to fans from the field). Of the 46 fouls that game, 32 met the paper’s criteria of entering the stands.

Of these 32, 23 were from batted fouls. The average for this 8 ½ inning game was similar to what Gorman found in his research: 2.7 fouls per inning.

Of the thousands of professional, college and high school baseball games that are played each year, you can multiply that number by the number of innings played and then multiply that figure by 2.4 to get a realistic idea of how many balls are hit into stands each year.

And that figure is obviously in the thousands.

For More On This Story: Read more about injuries at the College World Series and other ballparks and who is liable. See the March 22, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. Single copies can be purchased for $3 each. See Subscriptions for ordering information.

Golembo Mixes Baseball, Judo Skills

Golembo Mixes Baseball, Judo Skills

Max GolemboBy LOU PAVLOVICH
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2013 Collegiate Baseball

This story originally appeared in the April 5, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

ST. LOUIS. — Baseball players have always been considered superb athletes.

But rarely do you have one at the level of Max Golembo, freshman outfielder for Washington University in St. Louis, an NCAA Div. 3 school.

Not only is he a superb baseball player who was hitting .438 after six games for the Bears with an on-base percentage of .565, but he is one of the top judo fighters in the world at his weight.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Golembo’s goal is to represent the United States in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics. In the process, he may be the first college baseball player in history to compete at an Olympics in the sport of judo.

Golembo got his start as a baseball player at the age of three when his dad Clark had him try to hit balls off a tee in the back yard.

Through the years, he played on youth baseball teams and then on an elite travel team in Illinois called Top Tier. He ultimately played his high school baseball at Adlai Stevenson H.S. in Lincolnshire, Ill., where he hit .418 as a senior with 22 RBIs and 20 runs scored.

But that was only one part of his life.

Judo was another passion of his that he began learning at the tender age of four.

“My dad worked with Bob Berland who earned a silver medal during the Olympics years ago,” said Golembo. “He told my dad that if he had a boy, it was important to have him learn judo. So I began working at judo at the age of four and have been refining my skills ever since.”

Golembo entered his first judo tournament at the age of six and won the championship.

“It was such a great feeling to win that I wanted to keep at it, and judo became a bigger and bigger part of my life. When I was 8-9, I spent the entire summer going to judo camp every day from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. And then I would practice at night. I was able to travel across the country to national events. And I kept winning.

“At the age of 15, I won at the nationals. But I was humbled very quickly when I fought in the under 17 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. I really wasn’t ready for that level of competition and got killed by my first round opponent.”

Qualified For Junior Worlds
After working hard at his craft for the next two years and gaining more strength, he qualified for the U.S. judo team at the Junior Worlds in the under 20 age category.

“It was held in Agadir, Morocco at the end of October in 2010,” said Golembo.

 “I was a lot more prepared for this level of competition this time. I really picked up the training and worked every day before and after school. I ended up taking fifth place in the world as I won four matches and lost two. I beat the guy who destroyed me two years earlier. What made this finish so special was that I was the first American male to place in the top five in the Junior World competition in the prior 25 years. And it was the best moment of my life.”

Golembo lost a quarterfinal match to a Japanese athlete. That put him in the loser’s bracket, and he had to win a match to qualify for the bronze medal match.

“That match was extremely exciting. I tied it up with 10 seconds left and won in overtime. But I lost the bronze medal match to another Japanese athlete.”

While Golembo still has great passion for the sport of judo, there simply were not judo scholarships to be found at colleges. So he kept training in judo but began focusing more on baseball during the summer of his junior year in high school. And ultimately, the coaches at Washington University in St. Louis offered him a position on the team.

“I still work on judo. But there isn’t a club at Washington University. But I can train with a friend in St. Louis about 15 miles away which I do at 6 a.m. when I am able to. When I go home, I will train much harder in judo with my coach. It will be a strict regimen at that time.”

Golembo was asked to explain what judo training entails since most people involved in baseball have no idea how rigorous it is.

“When I am home, I get up in the morning and do weight training and then work with my coach on different grips, perfecting throws and making myself better in this discipline. I will typically run 2-3 miles but also do some spring workouts to increase my agility.

“It is a very structured program from some amazing coaches. I also have worked with an Olympic coach who was in Sydney, Australia at that Olympics and another coach who was on the German national team.

“When I have fought these coaches, they have kicked my rear end around in practice. But they have given me a template to train and achieve my goal of being in the Olympics. They know what it takes.”

Challenging Training
Golembo said his training schedule for judo was difficult in high school.

“I had to get up and train at 5 a.m. since classes started at 7 a.m.. But you have to do the work to get better.”

Golembo said that the top judo experts in the world are mostly from Europe and Asia. The Japanese always have incredible athletes who dominate the sport.

The more tournaments you participate in and do well, the higher your world ranking is.

“The ranking changes every year. The key year for me will be 2015. So I need to compete at key tournaments to be in a position to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. I not only have to be one of the elite athletes in judo at 178 pounds in the USA, but I also have to be one of the top 25 in the world.”

Golembo was asked if he has ever had friends or coaches who have offered to join him in a judo match.

“Recently on our baseball team at Washington, one of my good friends Chris Lowery, the third baseman on the team, challenged me to a match. He kept egging me on to wrestle him. Finally I had heard enough and said let’s do it now. So my teammates got in a circle, and we squared off. Chris is about 6-foot-2 and 215-pounds, and is a lot bigger than me. At first, I just messed around with him.

“Then I made a quick move, picked him up and threw him down to the ground. He got the wind knocked out of him and didn’t want any more of me. Nobody else on the team has challenged me since,” laughed Golembo.

“Another time in high school as a sophomore, an assistant baseball coach on the team couldn’t believe I was as talented in judo as he had heard. This coach was 6-foot-3 and about 240 pounds. He kept telling me that he could take me down nearly every practice.

“One time, he doused me with water while he was working on the field. I didn’t appreciate that and said, ‘Let’s go right now.’ So he dropped the hose, and we squared off. I made a move, picked him up and threw down on the ground hard and had him in a very compromising position as he yelled for me to stop. I asked him if he was OK, and he was. But he never mentioned judo again after that point.”

Golembo said he has never utilized his judo skills to help friends out of sticky situations.

“I am not the type of person who looks for fights. The only exception is judo matches.”