Monthly Archives: April 2014

Hershiser Talks About His Pitching System

Hershiser Talks About His Pitching System

Orel hershiser Action  (Credit Los Angeles Dodgers)By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

LOS ANGELES — Pitching command is one of the most elusive and cherished skills in baseball.

Every generation, there seems to be a hurler with exceptional control of his pitches.

One of the greatest pitchers in Major League history was Orel Hershiser who constantly hit his spots over a marvelous Major League career that stretched over 18 seasons, including 13 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He still holds the Major League record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched with 59 during the 1988 season.

Known for his fierce competitive spirit, Hershiser was nicknamed “Bulldog” by former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Now a color analyst with the Dodgers after working for several years with ESPN, Hershiser graciously allowed Collegiate Baseball to interview him on the subject of pitching command and how he approached the art of pitching.

Hershiser was unquestionably one of the top pitchers in Major League history with regard to great command. On many occasions, he was able to throw pitch after pitch anywhere he wanted in and around the strike zone.

“You must have different components working for you,” said Hershiser. “First, you must control your mind to control your body to control the baseball. Then you must be blessed with the wiring to connect the three. Some guys can look at a target as they throw and hit it with natural wiring.

“So they might not need to control the mind. But if that wiring starts to go south with age, injury or whatever, it would be nice to know how consciously you can put your body into a position where you want the ball to go.

“All the components are what allow you to command pitches. And if you pay attention to all the components, then you have the best chance of being able to hit the target most often.

“Emotion also enters into the equation. Pressure, nerves, adrenalin and excitement do exist. And you have to decide when to control those emotions and decide when to ignore it.”

Visual Focusing
Hershiser described where he visually focused prior to each pitch in the quest for throwing precision strikes.

“The world is very distracting because there is so much visual information all the time. So I had to guard myself visually on what I saw and felt. Because of this, I stared down at the ground an awful lot. Then I let my eyes go from the pitching rubber to the dirt on the mound to the grass between the mound and home plate to the dirt at home plate to home plate to the catcher’s fingers and then finally to the catcher’s glove.

“Then I would visualize the pitch, feel it and then try to make the pitch. I didn’t do that sequence every single pitch. That was one of the tools I utilized if I felt I was getting away from who I was in executing pitches. This sequence would allow me to execute again.

“It’s almost like a golfer in a great round. He goes through his setup and visualization as he builds his habits for the day. But once he gets into that realm of feeling like everything is happening naturally, I don’t feel you get in the way with conscious thought then. You just do it.

“But once you find yourself not executing and not getting the results you need and feel you are not at your best, then you have tools, fundamentals and certain things you can go to so you can get yourself right again.”

Bullpen Approach
Hershiser also explained how he approached his bullpens between starts.

“Ron Perranoski worked with minor leaguers in the Dodgers’ organization and then became the Big League pitching coach with Los Angeles. He taught me my routine. And I built from that. Essentially it was establishing what my core pitch was. For me, it was a sinking fastball to my arm side.

“My secondary core pitch was a sinking fastball to the other side of the plate. If I could execute those pitches, I was usually in pretty good shape. If you are able to execute one pitch, it should go hand in hand that you should be able to execute all of your pitches.

“Throwing a different pitch for me was simply changing part of the lever system which was really my hand. If you can make everything from your feet all the way to your fingertips the same, and now all you are doing is changing the angle of your finger tips and hand position, you should be able to perform well.

“It’s almost like an Iron Mike pitching machine, and you are simply adjusting the handle at the top. If you can build the core of your delivery, then you just adjust fingers and hand. Then you should be able to throw precision pitches.

“That was the key for me. I worked hard at mastering that one delivery.”

Hershiser was asked if he threw one or two bullpens between starts with the Dodgers.

“Sometimes I threw one, sometimes two and at other times none between starts. It all came down to how many pitches I threw during a given start. If you throw 124 pitches and a complete game, do you think you should throw the same 65-pitch bullpen between starts?

“If you threw 35 pitches in a start and get knocked out in the second inning, what should your bullpen be? The workloads in these two scenarios are totally different.

“Is practice necessary or rest necessary prior to your next start? There were plenty of days when I picked up a ball between starts, threw it and said to myself, ‘I’ve got it.’ I realized that you don’t need to practice or throw out of enjoyment. Sometimes you throw bullpens because it is something you absolutely love to do, and now you are doing it so well.

“Then you find yourself overworking in practice and have a bad outing because you worked a bit too hard in practice. Then there are times you throw out of anxiety because you have been throwing poorly in games, and you know you need to work on things.

“So you work and work and work until you find it. Then you have a bad outing the next time. The reason was because you weren’t rested enough. Then your arm is a little sore after the outing because you over practiced.

“Pitchers aren’t like golfers where they can hit 2,000 balls a day and still be able to play. We only have so many bullets in our arms. There are only a certain amount of reps we can do before we are sore. So you must balance the joy of playing, the anxiety of trying to get better and work ethic so you are rested and ready to go by game time.”

To read more about Orel Hershiser’s pitching command techniques, purchase the April 18, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Eshelman Is Ultimate Master Of Control

Eshelman Is Ultimate Master Of Control

Thomas Eshelman Action Cal St Fullerton 4C (Credit Matt Brown)By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

FULLERTON, Calif. — RHP Thomas Eshelman of Cal. St. Fullerton is without question the greatest control pitcher in college baseball history.

His numbers last season as a freshman for the Titans were ridiculous as he only walked 3 batters in 115 2/3 innings and posted a 12-3 record, 1.48 ERA and struck out 83 batters in being named a first team Louisville Slugger All-American.

At 0.23 walks per nine innings, it was the single greatest season of control by a pitcher in NCAA Division I history.

Eshelman was so accurate last season that he didn’t issue his first walk of the season until April 12 — a streak of 63 1/3 innings.

So far in 2014, he has only walked one batter in 56 innings. He has posted a 5-0 record, 1.29 ERA and fanned 41 batters.

When you add it up, Eshelman has walked only 4 batters in 171 2/3 innings in a season and a half of college pitching.

The burning question from every pitcher and pitching coach in the nation is how does he do it?. Every pitcher attempts to throw with command, but only those rare pitchers have what it takes.

“Since I was a young boy, control has been preached to me as being important as a pitcher,” said Eshelman.

“Commanding every pitch I have on both sides of the plate is vital to success. And I have been fortunate to have control after working toward this goal for many years.

“So I learned the concept and importance of being a strike thrower at an early age, and I ran with it. But at times, it is a double-edged sword when hitters are aggressive knowing that you are a strike thrower.

“There have been a number of times when a batter swings at an 0-0 fastball from me. Sometimes it hurts me but most of the time having command is extremely helpful.

“You usually have quick innings and fewer pitches thrown that way.”

Eshelman said that Titan Pitching Coach Jason Dietrich emphasizes to pitchers in his program to throw more pitches in the middle of the strike zone early in games.

“Then as games go on, we expand the zone to see what home plate umpires allow as far as working the black parts of the plate.”

Catches Cape Pitchers At 12
Eshlman started playing baseball at a young age, and his brother Sam taught him his first lessons on pitching.

“I started playing baseball around the age of 3-4. My dad (Dave) and brother (Sam) were big basketball fans. My brother played basketball through high school, and my dad played basketball in junior college. So growing up, it was basketball, basketball, basketball.

“While I liked basketball, it wasn’t my passion like baseball was. Sam realized this and helped me out quite a bit. When I was 10-13 years of age, Sam taught me how to break down hitters.

“When I was 13, it seemed like all the other pitchers were just throwing while I was looking to set up hitters and really pitch. Sam has been a big factor in my pitching career.

“Ultimately, I played baseball year round since I live in southern California where the weather is great. I then was on some terrific summer teams which allowed me to play against high level teams in national tournaments.

“My brother’s alma mater was Arizona State. So he had me watch pitchers like Mike Leake and study how they got batters out. I also grew up watching pitchers such as Jake Peavy of the Padres and Greg Maddux of the Braves later in his career. I watched closely how each of them set up hitters and the way they went about their business which was extremely helpful.

“Sam not only was instrumental in my success as a pitcher, but he continues to help me today.”

Sam is eight years older than Thomas and is currently the varsity basketball coach at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, Calif. which is north of San Diego.

“Sam worked for a radio station that covered ASU baseball when he went to college. He also got a job in the Cape Cod League for the Wareham Gatemen. He was with guys such as Wade Miley, Ike Davis and a bunch of other great players from LSU and other top-notch college programs.

“I was lucky enough to go out there with Sam and sit in the bullpen and watch how these pitchers threw and prepared for outings. At the time, I was only 12 years old and was catching these pitchers. It was fun to see what they did and also what they talked about in the bullpen.”

While this may be shocking to many that a 12-year-old was catching high profile college pitchers in the Cape Cod League, it really was not a problem for Thomas.

“I told them all to throw whatever they wanted, because I’ll catch it. And if by chance they did hit me, I told them not to feel bad. So they threw to me without any problem as they gained more confidence in my catching ability as we went along.

“That summer was really beneficial in my development as a pitcher even though I was simply catching these great pitchers. I had a bird’s eye view of what every pitcher was doing as I caught them.”

Combo Catcher/Pitcher
Many people don’t realize it, but Eshelman was a catcher at Carlsbad H.S. (Carlsbad, Calif.) as well as a pitcher.

“Being a catcher my entire high school career helped me be a better pitcher,” said Eshelman.

“I was able to see pitching from both sides of the battery. I would pitch on Tuesday and catch on Thursday and Saturday. I learned how to break down hitters from behind the plate as well which helped my development.

“It helped me understand when to slow the game down and know when it is speeding up as adjustments in tempo were made as needed.”

To learn more about the evolution of Thomas Eshelman into a great control pitcher, purchase a copy of the April 18, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Kibler Explains How To Achieve Excellence

Kibler Explains How To Achieve Excellence

Eric Kibler Horizon HS Mug ArizonaBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Eric Kibler is without question one of the elite coaches in the history of high school baseball.

Now in his 34th year as the head coach of Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., his teams have won six state championships and been a powerhouse many of the years he has been at Horizon.

He grew up in a small farming community in Ohio and has had a burning passion to learn everything he can about the great game of baseball.

To this day, he has never played for a better coach than his dad, a humble, disciplined man who made sure his players had fun but worked hard.

One of the finest teachers in the game, Eric has transplanted this unique small town atmosphere to his program as everyone pulls for each other, works hard with focus and attention to detail and plays the game the right way.

Collegiate Baseball recently interviewed Eric about what has made his program so special over the years and what his coaching philosophies are.

He kicked off the interview with a story that shaped his coaching career.

“I coached at Van Wert High School in Ohio my first five years,” said Kibler.

“I was a 24-year-old head coach. When you are young, you get too emotional and personal and have a lot to learn. During a game, a kid made a mistake at first base defensively, and it was a mental mistake. I really screamed at him, and you should never, ever scream at a kid during a game. But I let him have it.

“I could tell those comments really hurt him, and the team reacted to it. After the game I realized what I had done. So I got the team together and said, ‘Look, what I did and what I yelled today when Rick made that mistake at first base is not acceptable.

“It’s unacceptable as your coach and unacceptable to a human being. I just want to apologize to you Rick personally in front of this team and also apologize to the team as well and tell you that this will never happen again.”

“I felt horrible about it, and it was one of those moments that changed me as a coach. The intent of the player is to do well as they practice hard. They are trying to do the right thing. That turned me around and was an important moment.”

Being a caring head coach has worked extremely well for Kibler over the years. He cringes when he sees coaches go off the deep end when they get frustrated and scream at their players in front of everyone during games.

“My father was the best coach I ever had. He was very caring and treated everyone with great dignity.

“Dignity to me means not verbally taking a kid apart in front of the team. You can correct him in front of the team and sometimes call him out. But you can do it in a productive way.

“For instance, you can ask the player what he was thinking in that situation. You are better than that. Do we not practice that?

“The mental focus at times with kids needs to be corrected. If the kid repeats mental mistakes over and over in practice, it is important to ask him if he were the coach and a player kept making mistakes such as this, would you allow that player to participate in games?

“He will always say no. Then I tell him that being mentally focused every play in practice will show me that you are ready to play in games. And then they understand and usually focus much better.

“It is a good teaching moment but not out of line. I don’t feel you need to undress a kid verbally in front of everybody. What’s the purpose? It is a personal issue with you and is selfish. And nothing good comes out of these power plays.

“We always tell our kids that practices are for the coaches but games are for the players. I feel a lot of coaches over coach this game and don’t let their kids go and play. You give players the tools to figure out how to play. And then you let them loose during games. If you have done a good job coaching in practice, they will be prepared.”

Verbally Assaulting Players
Kibler said that he has seen too many coaches scream at players during contests.

“I have seen coaches absolutely undress their pitchers verbally in games. They are screaming at them. And I can’t figure out what purpose that serves. Is there anything positive about that? The answer is no.

“You don’t want a kid walking away destroyed. Most kids are out there really trying. As a coach, you don’t want to lose your team by doing things like this. At Horizon H.S., we win, lose, cry, laugh, work hard and celebrate as a team. The team is everything to me, and we are all part of it.”

Kibler is constantly evaluating his own performance as a coach as well as others on the team.

“That is something that evolves every single day. The great thing about my coaching staff is that we have been together a long time. When we meet as coaches, I tell everyone that we are accountable to each other. The kids need to know that we are one out there. I will never correct a coach in front of a kid. We all know what each one is going to teach and the reasons behind it.

“We will never rip each other as coaches in front of a kid because that’s not what we do. We agree to disagree some times during games. Being the head coach, I must make tough decisions at times. But I always have input from my fellow coaches which helps with those decisions.

“Every day we evaluate our players with the coaching staff. We meet to discuss what this player or that player needs to grow as a baseball player. And I feel it helps when all of us are working together as a staff to do this. Great things can be accomplished.

“The best thing a head coach can do is give his assistants total reign over their positions. I have a catching coach. I will tell the players that he is the head coach of that position. All my assistants are head coaches of their positions. I oversee everything and have the final say. But the entire coaching staff is crucial to the development of our players. Sometimes players do not give enough respect to assistants. But I let players know that I seriously consider advice every assistant gives to me. If he says you should start in the next game, more than likely you will. Players then give much more respect to those assistants as it should be.

“It is important that I be a good leader and be a good role model for my players. Baseball aside, they need to look to me for consistency, confidence and balance. If I’m panicked, they are panicked. If my body language is bad and I am criticizing their body language, that is ridiculous and hypocritical.

“I do make mistakes at times or haven’t been precise with my coaching in some element of the game. But I own up to those mistakes to my players, and they respond to it.

“Recently, a kid wasn’t well versed in a slide he made. He stood up on the fielder at second base on a double play attempt and got called out for interference. He comes over and tells me that he wasn’t sure of that slide. I told him that I will own that one because I have not coached you well. I assumed he knew not to raise up and interfere with the fielder on the throw to first base. But he didn’t. I told him to forget it and go to the next play.

“I then told him that your coach should have coached you better. And I am your coach. He just smiled at me and started laughing. And then he was fine as I laughed as well. Those forgiving moments are special to me. He was upset and thought I was upset. But basically I was upset with myself for not covering this situation. Kids respect you when you show them that you are human and make mistakes as well.”

Taking Risks On Bases
Kibler said that to play the game at its highest level, players must know that they can make mistakes without retribution.

“I have told our best base stealers that you will get picked off. I know that. So don’t be worried that I will be upset with you. Our players must have the freedom to play the game hard and not have me take that away from them by yelling at them for getting called out.

“Here is a great example. I am the third base coach, and by and large you won’t see our kids look at me when the ball is in front of them. They are flying around the bag at second and trying to get to third. It’s their decision. And if they make a bad one that was aggressive, I’m OK with it. I really am. Most of the time, they are making great decisions.

“We have already coached them in practice on how we want them to react on balls hit to the outfield while running the bases. I’m just their stop sign at third base.

“Each fall, we let our players coach the bases during games. That’s hilarious. At third base, you must know the speed of players before you wave them in or if they got a good jump. But whether they make a mistake or not, they learn the game better.

“It is important having the kids enjoy the game at that time and learn. People can get too wrapped up in the results during the fall. The process will take care of itself.”

Kibler mentioned earlier that practice is for coaches while games are turned over to players. He was asked how important this concept becomes in games when players aren’t afraid to be yelled at for being aggressive.

“If you watch our practices, our kids laugh at me because I am so detail oriented. Our drills and situations move along very quickly which helps with focus. Our practices are intense in a positive way as we put players in all sorts of situations which duplicate as many situations in games as we can.

“Then when we get to a game, why should our coaches discuss anything mechanical with players? It is insane to do that. If our staff has prepared them well and done our job, I should be able to sit in the bleachers and watch them play. I really should. That is how well they should be prepared.

“They know that in games, it is almost like a breath of fresh air as they turn it loose. People might notice that I don’t say much during games at third base. They are right. I never say anything to the players mechanically. I am simply positive, encourage kids and let them play the game.

“If kids start thinking too much, the game of baseball will paralyze them. It’s such a skill set game and cerebral game. You have a lot of time to think between pitches or the last at-bat or an error on defense and how kids react to that.

“I have a T-shirt that everyone wears that says NP — Next Play. When mistakes are made, our guys just go to the next play. We try to forget something happened and embrace adversity. Adversity is fun and a challenge to get out of.

“Our pitchers do a terrific job of getting out of trouble. I might go out to the mound and remind a pitcher that this situation is exciting. We have practiced this, and it is a great opportunity to minimize the damage and come back with some momentum in the dugout.

“You’re doing fine. This approach allows them to breathe a little bit more instead of telling a pitcher that he has to do this and that. That’s a terrible way to coach. Using ‘got to’ has no functional place in coaching. It is disaster to me because you will fail.”

This is the first of a two-part series on Horizon (Ariz.) H.S. head coach Eric Kibler’s philosophies on coaching a successful high school baseball team. To read the entire two stories, purchase the April 18 & May 2, 2014 issues of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Epitome Of Being Unfair In Game Of Baseball

Epitome Of Being Unfair In Game Of Baseball

Randy Mazey Mug West VirginiaBy RANDY MAZEY
Head Baseball Coach
West Virginia University
(First of a 2-Part Series)

MORGANTOWN, W.V. — I did a study about five years ago when I was coaching at TCU that deals with what I believe is the biggest issue facing college baseball today.

We are in an NCAA sanctioned sport that is literally unfair for half of the country (the “northern” half).

The frustrating part is that everyone acknowledges it, yet we fail to push the issue as far as it needs to be.

Every time I go to a minor league game in the summer and see thousands upon thousands of fans in attendance, or go to a college game in early spring and see just a few hundred fans (a lot of times less than that), it is a blatant reminder that we should be playing in the summer and attracting more fans than a minor league team does.

I don’t think any of us would argue that the college game is more exciting than a minor league game.

Yet the majority of programs in the nation get outdrawn by the closest minor league team to them geographically.

Most programs get outdrawn by two to five times the amount of fans, sometimes more.

Here are some interesting facts from the first two weeks of the 2014 season so far:  The “northern” schools’ record against the “southern” schools is 49-80, and there have been 64 games cancelled.

On the Tuesday and Wednesday after opening weekend, only 23 northern teams even played a midweek game while 134 southern teams played a midweek game.

Collegiate Baseball reported that after the first three weeks of the NCAA Division I season, 285 games were either cancelled or postponed on this level.

Maybe the most telling statistic is that in the NCAA tournament in 2013, there were 30 automatic bids and 34 at large bids. Northern schools only got 7 at large bids, 27 for the south.

While the NCAA RPI adjustment helped some, it was just a band aid masking the underlying issue. The fact remains that even with the RPI adjustment, northern schools just aren’t winning those early games to make it fair.

Part of the reason that the northern schools don’t have that early season success is that we do not get to practice outside before the season begins.

I know at West Virginia, the first time we took ground balls on dirt this year was 30 minutes prior to our first game. Could you imagine what the basketball coach at your school would do if his team never set foot on a basketball court prior to their first game? How about your football coach never getting on the football field to practice?

Talk about an outcry. That would never be acceptable to them. So why is it acceptable to us?

I have yet to have anyone tell me a valid reason why we don’t move college baseball to the summer.

I also have yet to hear anyone say that the college baseball model is fair for everyone.

In this article, I will show that schools will benefit financially, academically, socially and athletically. Yet it never gets discussed much.

I’m afraid the reason is that the schools from the south do not want to give up what is an obvious competitive advantage they have over northern schools.

So if a conference from the north wants to propose a new schedule change, the southern conferences (the more powerful ones in baseball) would never even consider it.

Imagine if we played in the summer and had an equal playing field for all Division I schools. More northern schools would fully fund their programs, and better facilities would have to be built as college baseball became fair for everyone.

Imagine if you would, your school, whether north or south, playing your rival school on the 4th of July weekend instead of in March (raises an interesting facility issue).

If a change to playing in the summer were to ever happen, it would have to come from the coaches of the northern and southern schools who are willing to do what is best for college baseball as a whole, not what is best for their particular institution.

All I ask is that you do what is best for our sport, not what is best for your school. If our sport is going to progress that is what it will take.

When I proposed this study to the Big 12 coaches at our coaches meeting in November, only one school voted against it and I’m not sure they read the proposal.

If we were to make a stand and the change did occur, fast forward 5 years into the future and college baseball would be at an all time high, regardless of which balls we use or when the quiet period falls.

I would venture a guess that most of the facilities that we currently play in would not be large enough to handle the increase in attendance that we would see.

There would obviously be some issues that would need to be worked through, but isn’t that always the case when change occurs?

Fast Forward 10 Years
Global warming has accelerated over the past 10 years to the point where the world’s climates have been completely reversed. What used to be warm weather climates are now cold weather climates and vice versa.

The question becomes, how would college coaches vote on the issues surrounding college baseball if their weather situation was reversed?

What if 90 percent of the field in the College World Series was comprised of northern teams?

If the teams in the southern part of the country couldn’t get outside to practice one time before the season started?

If the southern teams had to play their first 15-20 games on the road to insure good weather?

If the administration of the southern schools wouldn’t be willing to invest significant amounts of money into the program and facilities because they get little to no revenue in return?

If the 10 best high school players in each of the southern states felt like to play at the highest level of college baseball they had to go north to play where it was warm?

Again, the question becomes, would colleges coaches vote on the issues the same way they do now?

Are they really interested in the best interest of college baseball or are they more interested in keeping their competitive advantage?

Of course, that is completely hypothetical.  Or is it?

Do the coaches of the warm weather, southern schools have any reason to change the state of college baseball as it is right now? 

Why would they?

Let’s take an interesting look at some facts and a potential solution that would make college baseball fair for all teams participating, regardless of their latitude and longitude.

In addition, each Big Ten team’s attendance at home games is compared to the home attendance to their closest (geographical) minor league team.

What do these figures mean?  Is Minor League Baseball (regardless of the level) a better product than college baseball?

Or are the larger crowds/better facilities/more revenue simply a byproduct of the time of the year that it is played?

Let’s examine the typical baseball fan at each of these games.

A baseball fan attends a baseball game for one of a few reasons.

Either they are friends or family members of the players in the game, they have loyalty to the team (or school) that is playing, or they are there because it is a “fun” atmosphere.

There really is no other reason why someone would go to a baseball game.

Let’s examine the demographic of the college baseball fan versus the minor league baseball fan.

College Baseball Fans
Conservatively, 80 percent of fans at a college baseball game are there because they know the players or they are loyal to the team in the game.

The number of fans who attend a college baseball game because of the “fun” experience is estimated at 20 percent (which is probably a really high estimate).

The student turnout at a college baseball game is included in the 20 percent.

Early in the year when the weather is still cold (especially for teams above the line), the games are usually played in the afternoon ( too cold to play at night), half of which are on weekdays (usually Tuesday or Wednesday and Friday).

It is really difficult to create that “fun” atmosphere at a college baseball game that starts on a Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. when the wind chill is below 50 degrees.

Furthermore, by the time the weather does warm up to the point where you can create that “fun” atmosphere, the season is probably past the halfway point and very few fans will become avid fans at the halfway point of the season. No one does that.

Minor League Fan
The minor league fan is probably exactly the opposite of the college fan.

The majority of those fans (80 percent?) attend the games because it is a “fun” atmosphere.

It is warm, most games are played at night, they can bring the whole family (not a school night for the kids), and there is plenty of entertainment.

The other 20 percent are probably there because they are diehard fans (loyal) to the organization or the team that is playing.

In 2009, of the top 10 prospects from the state of Pennsylvania at the time of this study (may have changed in the following months), exactly zero of them went to play college baseball in Pennsylvania.

If you grew up in the northern part of the country (which I did), it has long been thought that if you want to play big time college baseball, you have to go south to play (which I did).

How, under these circumstances, are northern teams expected to compete with southern teams?

 The total budget for 53 games (30 road games/23 home games) is $172,200.

The total number of missed class days is 13.

Scholarship Expenditures
Let’s examine the total scholarship expenditure that an athletic department has for a college baseball player, assuming that the athlete takes 5 years to graduate.

For an in-state student, let’s assume that the total cost of his school is $20,000 for tuition, fees, room and board.  Let’s also assume that he is on a 40 percent scholarship, which is just slightly below the average college baseball scholarship of 43 percent.

In this instance, the athletic department will spend $8,000 per year in scholarship money.

This scholarship most likely will go completely toward tuition and not have an impact on the athlete’s room and board costs.

In addition, let’s assume that his degree program requires a total of 128 hours to graduate and he has averaged taking 13 credit hours per semester, which is realistic for a college baseball player in the current system, and he never takes summer school (he’s playing summer baseball somewhere).

After his 4 years of eligibility, he has taken a total of 104 credit hours (26 hours per year for 4 years).  After his 4 years of eligibility, he has 24 credit hours (2 semesters) left to graduate for a total of 128 hours (which should be enough to graduate).

If the school has a 5th year scholarship program in which the athlete maintains the same scholarship that he had while he was an eligible player, he will continue to be on 40 percent for his 5th year.

In this case, the scholarship expenditure for the athlete would be $40,000 ($8,000 per year for 5 years).  Also included are the costs for an out-of-state student on a (40% scholarship).

Current System
By playing college baseball in the summer, you can attract the 80 percent of the fans from the college game that are loyal to the school and the 80 percent of the fans from the college game that are there for the fun experience.

The only fan you would lose is probably the college student (which is only a small percentage).

Losing the college student would only slightly affect your total attendance, not your gate revenue, because they do not pay to attend a college baseball game anyway.

There are very few college students that are attending minor league baseball games right now.

However, if you are able to attract the 80% from both sides, the colleges eventually should not only have a huge spike in attendance, but eventually outdraw the minor league teams in the area.

Remember, we are talking about the Big Ten Conference.

The average home football attendance ranges from 27,000 (Northwestern) to over 100,000 (Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan).

There are a huge number of fans out there that are loyal to the university that probably have never seen their favorite university’s baseball team ever play a game.

Just imagine the possibility of an Ohio State/Michigan baseball series in the middle of June or July (raises an interesting facility issue).

The Solution
What if we did play college baseball in the summer?

There are a number of factors that need to be considered from cost, academics/graduation rates, scheduling, the major league draft, the effect on summer baseball leagues, recruiting, the transfer rule and the well being of the student athlete (which should be considered first).

The Schedule
Fall Baseball
Beginning of school – Sept. 15th

8 hours/week of strength and conditioning/baseball work (no limitations of # of players)

Sept. 15th – Oct. 30th
Fall Practice.  20 hours/6 days per week, mandatory day off.  4 opportunities to play games (maximum 18 innings each).  Games do not count on spring schedule and players who play in games are still eligible to be redshirted.

Oct. 30th – Dec. 1st
4 hours/week of strength and conditioning

No baseball activity (runs concurrent with the off time off a major league player)

Spring Baseball
Jan 15th – Feb. 15th

4 hours/week strength and conditioning (no baseball activity)

Feb. 15th – Mar. 15th
Pitchers and catchers only – 6 hours/week of strength and conditioning/throwing

Position players 

4 hours/week of strength and conditioning

2 hours/week of baseball activity (strictly optional, no coaches present)

March 15th
1st day of spring practice

20 hours/6 days per week, mandatory day off

3rd weekend of April – Opening  weekend

July 22nd – 25th Conference Tournament

July 29th – Aug. 1st Regionals

Aug. 5th – 7th Super Regionals

Wed., Aug 11th College World Series begins

Sun., Aug 22nd CWS Championship Game

The New Schedule
With the new schedule, southern teams will not be able to attract northern teams to come and play games in the south in February and March without any sort of return trip.

This will force schools to play a more regional schedule, which will cut down on missed class time.

In the current system, it is not unrealistic for each student athlete from a northern school to miss up to 20 days of class in the spring semester.

Having to play, on average, their first 15-20 games “below the line” forces each northern program to miss a week or so of classes in the first month of the season in addition to spring break.

Also, with each weekend series being played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the travel day is in most instances on Thursday.

If it is a bus trip, the school may elect to keep their players in class on Thursday and leave afterwards, but in the event that it is a flight, classes on Thursday may be missed as well.

With the new schedule, missed classes in the spring semester would be a thing of the past (zero missed classes during the spring!!!), which should lead to better academic success in the spring.

Any missed class time with the new schedule would occur in the summer.

If you look at the summer baseball schedule and compare it to the summer school schedule, you will notice that although there will be some missed class time, it will be much less.

It should also be a lot easier to make up for a missed class in the summertime because if you miss a class in summer school, you are only missing one class.

If you miss a day of school in the spring semester, in most cases you are missing 2 or 3 different classes.

The fact that each school has tremendous academic facilities, study hall programs and tutors should enable the athlete to have enough support to more easily manage only one class.

That is the reason that a lot of athletes take a summer school class in the current system, because it may be a tougher class that they elect to take in summer school so they can devote all of their attention to just that class.

In addition, some summer school classes only meet 4 days a week (Monday through Thursday), which would really aid in not missing classes in order to play a weekend road series.

If you compare the missed class time from a spring schedule to the missed class time in the summer, a significant difference takes place.  

Also, with the advent of internet courses, athletes may be able to take summer school without having to miss any classes.

If that were to become an option, then an athlete could conceivably miss exactly zero classes in the spring, summer and fall semesters combined.

Some schools may have to add online classes to their curriculum to accommodate the new schedule, but it seems that online classes are the wave of the future, and it would not be unrealistic for that to happen.  Currently, some schools offer entire degree programs online.

This proposed new schedule would feature a minimal amount of missed class time and reduced travel budget for cold weather schools. The total budget for 54 games (one extra game) is $133,600 (32 home games/22 road games). A savings on the travel budget is $38,400 ($172,000 minus $133,600).  Keep in mind that these figures are for a $300 flight, only getting 15 rooms, and $25/day in meal money, and $200 per game for umpires (all of which are outdated, which equals even greater cost savings).

The total number of missed class days is 1 (with the possibility of zero).

The season consists of 52 games (13 weekends).  Keep in mind that you played perhaps 4 doubleheaders in the fall when the weather was the best. Teams can match up the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May surrounding exam schedules to accommodate each other.

The College World Series will be concluded prior to the beginning of when most colleges begin their fall semester, which is usually around August 24th.

Also, each student would be required to complete a summer school class in each summer term.

The Big Advantages
Student Athlete
The main advantage is for the well being of the student athlete.  In the present system, the athlete has very little time or opportunity to live life as a student without the rigors of a year round athletic schedule.

With the new schedule, the athlete can enjoy the months of November and December with very few athletic requirements and also January and February when the weather would not be considered baseball weather in most parts of the country.

The new schedule would also run concurrent to the schedule of a professional baseball player, with time off from October to late February/early March, which would prepare our kids better if they do get drafted and sign.

It would also be a great opportunity to get off to a great start academically in the spring semester and have more time to devote to final exams in the fall semester.

Graduation Rates
The advantage of the new schedule on academics would be that student athletes would have a much better opportunity to graduate in 4 years.

The average requirement of a college major varies from 120-130 credit hours.

If each athlete were to sign up for 15 credit hours in both the fall and spring semesters (which under this plan, it is more feasible to maintain 15 hours in the spring semester, which is a rarity for today’s college baseball player) and get 6 more credit hours in summer school (one class in each session), you would see a sharp increase in the amount of players that obtain a degree in 4 years instead of the accepted rule of “it’s going to take you 5 years to graduate as a baseball player.”

There are several instances in the current system where athletes who are attending school out of state  elect to return to an in state school once their eligibility is exhausted because the in-state school is a lot less expensive. The amount of scholarship money they receive in their 5th year at their current school is either less of a scholarship than they’ve been receiving or there isn’t any available at all.

Not every university has the advantage of giving their 5th year athletes a sizeable amount of aid in that year after they have exhausted their eligibility.

When asked, about half of the schools said that they give all of their 5th year athletes the same scholarship and half said not all of the 5th year athletes receive the same scholarship.

When that athlete elects to leave and graduate elsewhere, it goes against retention and graduation rates, therefore affecting the schools APR, which is the major issue facing college baseball today, not to mention the fact that the most college baseball players get very little enjoyment out of being a 5th year student with no eligibility remaining.

This is the first of a two-part series on Randy Mazey’s research into the change of season issue for college baseball. This story appeared in the April 4, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball. To read the second part which delves into increased revenue, scholarship savings, summer collegiate leagues and summer housing for athletes, purchase the April 18, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Wilson Overcomes Paralysis From Neck Down

Wilson Overcomes Paralysis From Neck Down

Clint Wilson MarshallBy JACK BOGACZYK
Marshall University Columnist

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Eight years ago, Clint Wilson was paralyzed from the neck down in a wrestling accident.

He spent part of his eighth grade year in a wheelchair and was told he couldn’t play sports again.

Five years later, he threw a pitch 96 mph for 2011 champion Navarro College in the Junior College World Series and was drafted that June by the Milwaukee Brewers

Fast forward three years and a couple of more injuries, and he’s a mature, married man, soon to be 21, coming out of the Marshall University bullpen.

“There’s not a day I wake up that I don’t take advantage of just walking,” Wilson said.

“A lot of guys don’t realize it, but at the blink of an eye, it was taken from me … and it can be taken from anyone.”

The 6-foot, 225-pound right-hander never pitched competitively until his sophomore year at Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Tex.

Even as a senior and No. 1 starter on the staff, he didn’t view himself as a college prospect.

Wilson was just happy to be playing anything.

Growing up as the oldest of three sons of Chris and Sandy Wilson in a suburb of Austin, Wilson’s favorite youth sports were football and wrestling. He also played baseball, and in middle school, participated in basketball and track and field.

Then, his world changed with one tumble.

“My brother (Colby) was big into wrestling,” Wilson said.

“My dad got us into that, and we’d done it for years. In the eighth grade, I was at a practice doing normal things, and I was helping a college guy prepare for a meet.

 “He was a little bigger than me, but I was the biggest one at the practice that evening, just doing normal drills, nothing crazy. He takes me down like he normally would, and I turn over in the defensive position like I always should.

“My forehead hits the mat, there’s a big pop. The guy kind of freaks out, and the next thing you know I’m lying on my back, just staring up, and I’m trying to get up, and I couldn’t.

“My dad was one of the coaches, and he comes over. He’s also an Austin firefighter — 20 years or so — so he has the whole medical emergency background.

“He immediately stabilized my neck once he realized the situation. The crazy thing is he was probably the calmest there. He signaled somebody to call the paramedics. They showed up, and they were going to do a spinal tap, which I guess they do on some paralyzed people. My dad told them, ‘No, take him straight to a hospital.’ ”

Wilson had no feeling in his body from the neck down.

“I went through a full-body MRI,” the Herd pitcher said.

“It took about 5 1/2 hours, the longest 5 1/2 hours of my life, because I couldn’t move. I’m crying. I can’t do anything keeping in mind I am only 13.

“We couldn’t get a diagnosis out of anybody in Austin, so dad does his research, and we end up going to Houston to a children’s hospital.

“I was paralyzed from the neck down for a little while. Then just the waist down. Everybody (at the hospital) was looking at film, trying to figure it out. Finally, I was diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari malformation (a downward displacement of the cerebellar tonsils through the opening at the base of the skull), a brain disease.

“I was born with it. The brain is supposed to sit on top of the spinal cord, and mine basically protruded on the inside, causing cranial pressure. I had spinal fluid Syrinx (a rare, fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord). Once I was diagnosed with that, they later told us if we had done the spinal tap, it could have permanently paralyzed me or killed me.”

Comebacker To Mound
Wilson underwent surgery in April of 2006 during the eighth grade.

A three-inch vertical scar running down the middle of the back of his head, toward his spine, is evident even when he wears his baseball cap.

“They drained spinal fluid, and took a decent amount of skull out to allow more movement and relieve pressure,” Wilson said.

“They told me when I had surgery I’d be knocked out for a couple of days. So I had planned on being in the hospital 7-10 days.

“I woke up not even an hour after surgery, sat up and started pulling tubes out of my mouth. I was ready to go, was alert, awake and ended up getting cleared in 24 hours to go home.

“I started getting feeling back in my feet. I had to relearn to walk. I started in a wheelchair and went to a walker after that.

To read more about Clint Wilson’s amazing comeback from paralysis, purchase the April 4, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.