Monthly Archives: July 2013

ABCA’s Dave Keilitz Announces Retirement

ABCA’s Dave Keilitz Announces Retirement

Dave KeilitzMOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Dave Keilitz has announced that he will step down as Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association in June of 2014.

He has served with distinction in that capacity for the last 20 years. Prior to that, he was the Athletics Director at Central Michigan University for 10 years, leading the Chippewas to 26 Mid-American Conference championships, a span in which every coach was named MAC Coach of The Year at least once.

He also was the head baseball coach at Central Michigan for 14 years and never had a losing season, compiling an impressive 456-203 record. He coached eight All-Americans, and 51 of his players signed pro contracts with seven eventually making it to the major leagues. He was involved with the baseball program for 20 years and was a graduate assistant and coach of the freshman baseball team for five years as he established an 84-26 record.

Keilitz was Central Michigan’s first All-American baseball player and established 19 game, season and career records for the Chippewas.

During Keilitz’s time as Executive Director of the ABCA, the association’s membership and number attending the annual convention have grown significantly.

In addition, he had his hand in important NCAA legislative accomplishments for baseball over the years as ABCA Executive Director including NCAA Division I bracket expansion, change of season, bat standards, academic performance, as well as recruiting and practice schedules, just to name a few. He helped stop attempts to reduce the number of games in NCAA Division I on several occasions and other potentially damaging NCAA legislation.

He is a member of the ABCA Hall of Fame, Midland County Sports Hall of Fame, Central Michigan Athletics Hall of Fame, NAIA Hall of Fame and MAC Hall of Fame.

A in-depth look at what Keilitz has meant to baseball coaches on all levels of baseball will be in the Sept. 6 issue of Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

Greatest Closer Was Once An Afterthought

Greatest Closer Was Once An Afterthought

UCLA Closer David BergBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

OMAHA, Neb. — UCLA closer David Berg is able to juggle four balls at a time and six with a partner.

It only seems fitting since he is the greatest closer in college baseball history and seems to juggle anything batters have waiting for him.

No closer in college baseball history has put up the staggering numbers that Berg has in his first two years with the Bruins.

As his sophomore year recently concluded with UCLA’s first national baseball championship, Berg has now appeared in 101 games in two years (50 as a freshman and NCAA record-tying 51 this season) as he saved an NCAA record 24 games in 2013.

In 101 appearances, he only has two blown saves. And both times, he came back to post a win.

The Louisville Slugger first team All-American also posted a 7-0 record this season in 78 innings with a 0.92 ERA (second best in the nation) and struck out 78 batters with only 11 walks.

As hard as it is to believe, three seasons ago at Bishop Amat High School (La Puente, Calif.), his pitching career was on the rocks.

During his junior year, he only was allowed to pitch 9 1/3 innings as he was learning to throw as a sidewinder from his normal ¾ arm slot. He had a 6.00 ERA with 4 walks and 3 hit batters as he gave up 8 earned runs. 

“David came in as an outfielder/pitcher as a freshman and was a good athlete,” said Bishop Amat Head Coach Andy Nieto.

“Entering the fall of his junior year, he was having some difficulty pitching on the varsity level. It just wasn’t happening. I talked to my pitching coach Chris Beck and told him that we had to ‘Muckey’ him.

“There is a well known coach in Southern California by the name of Scott Muckey at Crespi High School who annually turns one of his pitchers into a sidearmer to give opponent hitters a different look.

“Both Chris and I felt David would be a good candidate to try this. There was no guarantee it would work.

“So we talked to David about it, and he took it from there as he worked extremely hard to learn this new delivery. And he wasn’t allowed to throw over the top any more.

“From that point on, he was only allowed to throw as a sidearmer.”

Nieto acknowledged that Berg had a tough junior year as he worked on his new arm angle.

“In fact, it took about a year for him to figure out how to throw from this arm slot with a completely new release point.”

During Berg’s junior year, he appeared to be a nervous wreck when he did pitch as he walked halfway to the plate to retrieve balls from his catcher and constantly paced around the mound.

Nieto and pitching coach Chris Beck had to remind Berg to stay on the pitching circle.

“He was definitely a pacer at that time. But now he has grown up physically and mentally and has a chance to pitch in the Big Leagues in a certain role.

“He has shown he can pitch to both right and left handed hitters which is rare for a sidearmer.

“We could see the potential he had, but David just needed some work at the change.

“We knew he was a diamond in the rough. The movement he had with the new arm angle was terrific, and the deception was superb.

“We felt if he tackled this new arm slot with the commitment he had in the classroom, he would make it work. And boy has he ever.”

Amazing Senior Year
His senior year at Bishop Amat was sensational with a 7-1 record, 1.05 ERA and 4 saves as he led the Lancers to the CIF championship with a 29-4 overall record.

He had 21 appearances in 33 games that season and threw 46 2/3 innings. It was a transformation for the ages.

“During his senior year at Bishop Amat, he was our salvation,” said Nieto.

“He pitched in every big game we had. I will never forget his outing against Torrance High School in the CIF semi-final game. We were down 4-0 after two innings, and he came in and no-hit Torrance for the next five innings as we rallied to win, 5-4. We then won the CIF title at Dodger Stadium in the final.”

Berg’s pitches darted under and over bats as hitters had trouble even making contact.

With renewed confidence, he was now a mentally tough pitcher who could conquer anything.

The breakout game of his senior season was at the National Classic when Bishop Amat took on St. Francis High School (Mountain View, Calif.) which was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time.

The game didn’t start well for Bishop Amat as starting pitcher Daniel Zamora was chased from the game after 2 1/3 innings.

Berg came in to face this remarkable ball club and struck out 10 of the final 14 batters over 4 2/3 innings of relief work. Nobody could hit him as a re-tooled sidearmer.

Strangely, no college offered him an athletic scholarship despite his superb senior season.

His only offer was an academic grant from NCAA Division III Cal. Lutheran. Late in May, UCLA Recruiting Coordinator T.J. Bruce felt the Bruins should take a chance on him, and Bruin Head Coach John Savage agreed. U.C. Irvine and Nevada-Reno also started showing interest.

More On David Berg: The full story of David Berg is in the July 12, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. He explains that he hasn’t been on any scholarship his first two years at UCLA despite throwing in 101 games and why he might not next season as well. He delves into how he made the adjustment to throwing sidearm, what type of pitches he has and the challenge of being a closer. Head Coach John Savage discusses why Berg is so special is as well as UCLA baseball team sports psychologist Ken Ravizza. To obtain this issue, CLICK HERE.

Summer Instruction Series: Throwing Drills

Summer Instruction Series: Throwing Drills

Throwing Game-LikeBy CHARLIE GREENE
Special To Collegiate Baseball

MIAMI, Fla. — Practicing to throw in game-like drills has long been needed in baseball to allow players to maximize their throwing skills.

The typical practice routine involves two players throwing the ball back and forth in order to build up arm strength and develop some degree of accuracy and quickness. However, the game requires wide variety of throws, few of which are found in just playing catch.

At the Major League level, teams rarely take “infield” anymore, and as one longtime Major League coach confided in me, “I can’t find four guys who want to.”

This has led to a decreased level of throwing skill. It is my opinion that players do not want to re-warm their arms when batting practice has been completed for both teams, and therefore are inclined to skip infield drill.

Starting in the early ‘80s our teams started to take infield immediately after warming up, and before batting practice at home games.

The advantages of having a freshly maintained field and the players properly warmed up were obvious.

No longer did the players have to be alerted to prepare for “infield in a few minutes” and rush to warm up their arms, sometimes insufficiently. Injured arms were often the result.

I would like to propose a series of throwing drills that involve the use of a various sized square formations, each providing a chance to practice game-related options. Groups of four in square formation can be set up near each foul line.

Getting sufficient repetitions is the basis for all acquired skills and throwing is no exception. Start out slow before picking up the tempo. Insist on proper footwork and arm action.

20-Foot Square
Four players form the corners of a square 20 feet apart and execute short throws in a clockwise, counter clockwise and diagonal direction.

The two types of throws are the underhand toss and the arm side “flip” where the player extends his arm while pronating (thumb down).

The coach can call out clockwise, counter clockwise, diagonal or allow player options.

Reminders: The underhand toss should be executed with a firm wrist extended directly at the receiver’s chest.

The arm side extension is best executed when the fingers also extend to the receiver’s chest. Both types of throws should be completed with a walking follow through.

60-Foot Square
Four players form the corners of a square 60 feet apart and execute overhand throws, also in a clockwise, counter clockwise, diagonal and player optional direction.

The emphasis at this distance is quickness.

Proper footwork will almost automatically occur, something that is missing in just “playing catch.”

Catch ball close to body. Don’t get quick until you secure the catch.

120-Foot Square
The enlarged square give the players a chance to stretch out their arms in the same directions as the smaller squares and will make the 90-foot infield dimensions seem easier.

90-Foot Square
This regulation distance is a test for the effectiveness of the other drills.

Coaches may want to use a stopwatch to objectively measure how much improvement is taking place.

Summary
Drills afford increased opportunities for needed repetitions. Footwork will come naturally with an occasional reminder from the coach.

Use all four drills each day or place emphasis on one or more. Skills are difficult to store and should be reviewed often.

The square formations provide an efficient method to duplicate game-like throwing challenges.

They are particularly effective for infielders and catchers, but pitchers and outfielders can also benefit.

(This story is part of an ongoing Summer Instructional Series Collegiate Baseball newspaper will be running in July and August. Please check back for more great ideas on playing baseball from top coaches and players. To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.)

Summer Instruction Series: Catcher Communication

Summer Instruction Series: Catcher Communication

Jerry WeinsteinBy JERRY WEINSTEIN
Coach/Colorado Rockies

Catchers must always be in communication with defensive players.

Here is how I suggest they work with pitchers, umpires and infielders.

To Your Pitchers
1. Subtle body language mechanical reminders.

2. No more than one simple verbal cue.

3. Positive reinforcement whenever necessary and appropriate.

4. Remind the pitcher before the pitch to get over to first base with a left-handed pull hitter up.

5. Get pitcher off the mound whenever the ball is hit. It’s especial important on balls hit to the right side. (“Get over there” loud and early.)

6. Make sure that the pitcher knows who he is working with on come backers. Make sure that the pitcher is reminded to throw to second on a come backer with runners on first and second with less than two outs or to second with runners on first and third with one out.

With runners on first and third and no one out, the dugout should tell you where they want a come backer to the pitcher thrown. It’s usually to second unless it’s late in the game. Just find out before the pitch.

Occasionally the dugout will want you to come home with one out and runners on first and third base on the running speed of the batter-runner or on a 3-2 count when the runner on first will most likely be running.

You must help the pitcher react to this situation if the runner from third does not break and there is no play at second.

Make sure that the pitcher stops the runner at third before he throws to first base.

1. Make sure the pitcher knows when the first baseman is playing behind a runner on first.

2. Remind the pitcher to stop especially with a runner on third and he is pitching out of the stretch. This should be a subtle sign or verbal so as not to heighten the umpire’s awareness and lead to a balk being called.

Use something other than “make sure to stop” or hold your hands at your waist.

1. When the pitcher is winding up with a runner on third, remind him to look the runner back at third before starting his windup.

2. Bases loaded and less than two outs remind the pitcher to come home on a comebacker.

3. With a runner on third or a runner on second and less than two outs, remind the pitcher to look the runner back before throwing to first base.

To Your Infielders
1. Give the infielders the outs frequently both verbally and visually.

2. Remind the corner infielders when base hit bunters are up.

3. Let all the infielders know when there is a plus runner at the plate.

4. Tell corner players to throw home or to second with the bases loaded and less than two outs.

5. Check “no doubles” positioning and make sure infielders have told the outfielders to keep the hitter off of second base.

6. Make sure that the defense is not way out of position based on the pitch call.

7. Give the infielders a dive reminder with a runner on second.

8. Three-two count and two outs and the force one, remind infielders to throw the ball to first base.

9. Subtle hand signal to middle infielders to heighten their awareness to delay without alerting the offensive team that you are ready for a delayed steal.

10. Remind third baseman that you’ll be at third base if he fields a bunt with a runner on first.

11. Remind first and third basemen of their cutoff and relay responsibilities.

12. When there is no possible play at the plate, go down the fence line and help the corner infielders on foul pops down the lines and near the fence.

To The Umpire
1. Non-confrontational discussions regarding pitches. No one should be aware of your conversation. (Do not turn around and don’t change your body language. Call him by his first name, never “Blue.”) If you show up an umpire, he’ll eventually win and you’ll lose. Umpires share information within their fraternity, so an overly aggressive confrontation with one umpire or umpiring crew is known to all.

2. Remind him to make sure the batter-runner is in the running lane the last 45 feet to first base when the bases are loaded and there is a potential force play at home.

3. Ask for an early and loud call when there are runners on first and third or first and second and there is a three ball count on the batter. The exception would be a 3-2 and 2 outs. So you are not needlessly throwing to second base or third base on a close pitch.

There is a fine line between community and over communication. If it slows the game down or people stop listening, you are probably over communicating.

(Since summer is a time to improve and work on your baseball skills, Collegiate Baseball is offering a special instructional series for coaches and players. Various top coaches from around the country will share information on all aspects of playing the game.) To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.