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TCU Utilizes Extreme Hustle In Games

TCU Utilizes Extreme Hustle In Games 0

Summer Instruction Series
Focus: Jim Schlossnagle Of TCU

Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From Oct. 1, 2010 Issue of Collegiate Baseball)

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Hustle is one of the most important elements in the game of baseball.

However, way too many players walk or slowly jog to their positions defensively and do the same coming back to the dugout.

This lack of respect for the game causes the blood to boil with coaches who strive for hustle.

No team hustles more than Texas Christian University under the direction of Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle.

For baseball purists, it is beautiful to watch.

Let’s say a fly ball is hit down the right field line with the rightfielder, second baseman and first baseman chasing the ball to catch it.

After the play, each of these fielders sprints back to their normal defensive positions when the play is over if it is less than three outs.

On every ground ball to an infielder, TCU’s catcher sprints from home plate to back up first. Once the play is over, with less than three outs, he runs hard to home to get ready for the next play.

TCU also hustles on the off the field with tremendous intensity. None of this is for show.

It simply is the way baseball is played at TCU under Schlossnagle, one of the top skippers in the business who has seen the value of hustle up close.

“If you see us play a game, then you have also seen us practice because that’s the way we do it every day,” said Schlossnagle.

“That’s been a staple of our program during the seven years I have been with TCU. We believe that the two things you can control are your attitude and effort. One thing I tell my players is that I refuse to coach your effort. That better be a given to play the game with energy.

“We believe whether you are winning or losing, you can always play hard. Sometimes when things aren’t going well for you, you can create something positive by just playing the game with energy. That’s part of hustling on and off the field. We don’t allow our pitchers to walk on and off the field whether they are coming in the game or out of the game. They are expected to sprint to the mound and back to the dugout after the inning is over.”

Schlossnagle said that every throw must be backed up by defensive players.

“When a play is to be made, everybody has a responsibility for backing up. So our guys sprint to those positions. Then we sprint back to our positions and throw the ball around after outs. I don’t think that’s too much to ask during the course of a baseball game when there normally is a lot of standing around.”

Not Enough Hustle
Schlossnagle was asked if he has ever seen another college baseball team hustle the way his ball club does every game.

“To be honest, no…not really. We take a lot of pride in winning the energy game. We feel like when the talent level is equal then that side of the game from an energy level will push us over the top most days. If we are on the field with a team that might be a bit more talented than we are, then we feel we have to play that way to have a chance.

“Hustle is what we want to be defined by. We have been doing that for a long time.”

Schlossnagle was asked how he came up with the concept of extreme hustle.

“When I was the head coach at UNLV prior to coming to TCU, we didn’t do as good of a job with hustle as we probably should have. But this whole concept has kind of evolved as I have coached at TCU. With Bryan Holaday catching and a guy named Matt Carpenter who was with us in 2009 who is now in AA with the Cardinal organization, those guys were the ultimate energy players.

“Any time I had my back turned or I was in the cages while other players were doing work in the infield, you could hear those guys yelling at the rest of the team about playing with energy and hustling back and forth. To answer your question, we have always done it. But we have definitely done a better job with it the last couple of years because the players have begun to police themselves in practice, and they also take a lot of pride in it.

“They stick their chests out when they look on the other side of the field and see a team not hustling or playing hard.

“There were many times during the 2010 season when our catcher Bryan Holaday would beat the batter running to first base when he was backing up the throw to first. What is amazing is that he would run just as hard back to home plate as he would to first base. I can’t take credit for Holaday that way. That’s his parents and his will to hustle. From a leadership and catching position, he set a precedent here that is very high.”

Schlossnagle said when infielders threw balls to first base, Holaday wasn’t the only one backing up first base. The rightfielder would sprint as hard as he could to back up first on throws from the third base side of the infield. This would prevent the runner from advancing to second on wild throws to first.

“All of our outfielders hustle to back up bases to prevent runners from advancing on wild throws. As coaches, we simply don’t have any tolerance for non-hustle. If you were to come to one of our first few fall practices, you would see me either stop practice, end practice or kick a guy out of practice the first time he didn’t do what he was told.

“We have a fungo drill where we throw to bases. And I tell the person who is receiving the throw at any time to simply let the ball go. For instance, if a rightfielder is throwing to third base, at any time I want the third baseman to purposely miss the ball even if it is a great throw. The leftfielder and pitcher had better be standing in back of third base to back up the play. Those are things that are worked on from the first day of fall practice. For the most part, players police it.

“If you were to ask any of our guys what it means to be a TCU baseball player, they would talk about their energy, playing hard, hustling on and off and all the things we are discussing.”

Hustle Can Be Huge
Schlossnagle said hustle can mean the difference in a win or a loss.

“You never know if you back the throw up how vital that may be in a game. When it actually works, and the runner doesn’t advance a base as the force is kept in order and the next guy hits into a double play, that previous hustle play becomes huge.

“That hustle play could be the difference in winning or losing a tight game. And that might be the difference in qualifying for a regional or hosting a regional or getting to the College World Series. We talk about those things from day one.”

Schlossnagle was asked what he does to new players in his program who don’t hustle at the outset of fall practice.

“If he is new to the program, he might be given a break early in the fall. We will tell them they have a job to do and get on them a bit. But it all depends on the attitude of the kid as well. We may make him run back to his position and then run to the backup position behind a base they are expected to be at so he fully understands where he must be.

“If it’s a recurring problem, and I think it’s a team issue, then I might not be so nice. Now we have gotten our program to the point where I might call out a veteran player and say, ‘It’s your fault.’ If you are a veteran leftfielder and have a rookie leftfielder next to you, and he has done it wrong once, I will take care of that.

“But if he does it wrong twice, I expect the veteran player to police that. But like I said earlier, I refuse to coach effort. That better be a given every day. I have no problem sending a guy home. I might tell him, ‘We’ll call you when we need you.’ If it is an extreme case, we will simply end practice that day.”

Schlossnagle said when his ball club came back from the College World Series in 2010, he received close to 200 e-mails from high school and college coaches across the nation who noticed TCU’s extreme hustle.

“We feel pretty good about that. That is stuff we do all the time, and it is great when people compliment us on that. I think there should be more of that in baseball. That’s the right way to play the game. There is so much inactivity in baseball. When the game is being played, everyone should go about their business with their greatest effort.”

Pickoff Plays By Pitchers
Because of all the players being highly aware of backing up bases on every play, TCU pitchers are ultra aggressive when it comes to making pickoff attempts with runners on base.

The Horned Frogs take the opposite stance of most teams which step off to keep runners close or toss the ball slowly to a bag to prevent errors from occurring.

It is no coincidence that TCU pitchers and catchers picked off 29 runners during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

“I am not a big believer in gadget plays at all,” said Schlossnagle.

“The two or three pickoff plays we run, we try to be really good at it. So we practice them a lot. Our philosophy is that we don’t have any halfhearted pickoff plays. If we put one on, the intent is to get an out. We understand that you will not always get an out. The secondary effect of not getting an out is to shorten the runner’s lead or preventing a great jump.

“When we practice and talk to the players and pitchers about it, the intent is to get an out. We want them to be aggressive. But we also practice it all the time to the point where I’m sure the players get tired of it. But when you are in need of an out with the bases loaded or a runner on third with nobody out, it can be an awfully big play if you can get a pickoff.

“You can really take the wind out of the sails of the other team if they have runners on first and second and you pick off the runner at second.

“With pickoffs at second, the centerfielder must know what is going on because we want the pitcher throwing aggressively knowing that the centerfielder will be there to catch a wild throw so the runner won’t advance unless it hits the runner in the helmet or kicks off in another direction. Our outfielders definitely have a role in pickoffs as well.

Schlossnagle didn’t want to divulge every detail of how TCU’s pickoff plays are done since they have been so successful against opponents. But he discussed several techniques that pitchers use at second base.

“The pickoff plays we use at second base have worked extremely well. One is prior to the pitcher coming into the set position just as he is getting his signal from the catcher.

“The others are when the pitcher comes into the set position. It’s all about timing and how many times he looks at second base, how many times he looks home. Practicing the timing off that with the middle infielders is crucial to getting outs on those plays.

“The best time to pick off a runner is when he is feeling good about himself. After a big hit or a big stolen base, it is a great time to run a pickoff play when the runner isn’t paying attention.

“The runner doesn’t have to be that far off the base to be picked off. You can get them when they aren’t paying attention, are too relaxed or not in a good, athletic position. We are constantly looking for these things from runners. It might be one thing or all of the above. Once we see that, if we run it correctly, we feel that we will get an out.

“There are signs in the dugout and on the field that let everybody know what is going on. Our pitcher is 100 percent picking to a base or 100 percent throwing a pitch. That way our pitchers are totally committed one way or the other.”

Great Catcher Essential
Schlossnagle said having an All-American catcher in Bryan Holaday during the 2010 season helped tremendously. He personally picked off seven runners that season and threw out 23 more trying to steal.

“When Holaday came to TCU, I had to change my philosophy when it came to catchers trying to pick off runners on base. I have always been a coach who was very aggressive on offense but very conservative on defense. I didn’t want the ball being tossed around the field, which could lead to errors, unless we knew we could get an out.

“In the summer of 2006, I coached with Team USA which was a year or so before Holaday came here. We had two remarkable catchers on that team in J.P Arencibia and Preston Clark. Those guys were really aggressive with their arms during the summer.

“I asked J.P. if his coach at Tennessee let him be so aggressive during spring games. And he said yes because he did it all the time in practice. I came back that fall and told our catchers that I didn’t care how many balls they threw away in the fall. I wanted them to be aggressive with their arms. So it started then. Once Holaday came, he won me over because he knew when to do it and was very, very accurate.

“Last season we were playing Texas Tech at home in a 1-run ball game in the top of the ninth with two outs. They have a kid who was really fast that hit a ball to the top of the fence for a triple. He was on third with two outs. With a lefthanded hitter up, our pitcher throws strike one, and we watch the base runner walk back to third with his head down.

“We put the play on. Our closer then throws strike two. We now have two strikes and two outs with our closer on the mound.

“Every rule of baseball says you don’t try to pick with two outs and two strikes at third. You throw it away, and they tie the game. With a lefthanded batter, there is no way you are going to pick off a runner at third.

“But Holaday picks the runner off to end the game at third base. When you have a great player like him, you have to adjust as a coach. The worst thing you can do is limit him when he has a great tool.”

If you enjoyed reading this article, Collegiate Baseball features many instructional stories throughout the year on what the top coaches in baseball are doing to be so successful. To subscribe, CLICK HERE.

O’Connor Named National Coach Of The Year

O’Connor Named National Coach Of The Year 0

Brian OConnor Mug VirginiaVirginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor has been named National Coach of The Year by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

One of the most respected coaches in college baseball, O’Connor led the Cavaliers to their first national baseball championship at the recent College World Series with a 4-2 win over Vanderbilt.

In the process, Virginia became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team in 50 years to win the College World Series.

It simply was one of the greatest coaching jobs in the history of college baseball. Virginia lost five position player starters off the 2014 ball club and seven key pitchers as a number of new players were brought in. The Cavaliers started the season well with 10 straight wins.  But then due to injuries and inexperience, Virginia lost 5 of their next 6 and 8 of 11. They went through periods where they lost 4 in a row twice and 3 in a row three times.

OF Joe McCarthy underwent back surgery in January and didn’t play until mid-April. John La Prise suffered a hip injury four games into the season. C Robbie Coman injured his knee, catcher Matt Thaiss had an ankle injury. And No. 1 starter Nathan Kirby sprained a lat muscle in mid-April and wasn’t able to pitch again until the Cavaliers’ third game in Omaha – a stretch of two months. If that wasn’t enough, pitcher Derek Casey started 4-1 but suffered an elbow injury on Aril 21 and didn’t pitch since.

At one point, Virginia was only 10-14 in the ACC and in serious danger of not even qualifying for the ACC tournament entering May.

When they made the ACC Tournament, they suffered through a 1-3 record. Overall in ACC play, Virginia was 15-15 and had the seventh best record in the league.

The coaching staff never lost faith and kept hammering home the point that a late season run was possible. The Cavaliers were a No. 3 regional seed and were shipped out to California where they won three straight against Southern California, San Diego St. and Southern California again. Then at its Super Regional, Virginia swept Maryland two straight. At the College World Series, they won their bracket and won two of three over Vanderbilt for the national title as the team went 10-2 in NCAA tournament play.

The five-time ACC Coach of the Year, O’Connor continues to lead Virginia to unparalleled levels of success. Now in his 12th season as head coach of the Cavaliers, O’Connor has built his program into a college baseball powerhouse with a national championship this year and second place finish in 2014.

The numbers during O’Connor’s first 12 years are staggering:

  • Four College World Series appearances
  • 12 straight NCAA tournament appearances
  • Seven NCAA regional championships
  • Two ACC championships
  • Four 50-win seasons

Virginia is one of just eight programs in the nation to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament in each of the last 12 seasons. This success has led to record crowds, excitement and national exposure for Virginia baseball.

O’Connor is the second fastest ACC coach to reach 500 career wins (558-201-2). His UVa teams have racked up ten 40-win seasons and played host to eight NCAA regionals and five NCAA super regionals.

UVa has ranked among the top 40 in the nation in total home attendance and average home attendance in all 12 years of O’Connor’s tenure. Virginia finished a multi-million dollar stadium renovation in the spring of 2010, pushing Davenport Field among the elite in college baseball facilities.

Twelve former Cavaliers have reached the major leagues after playing for O’Connor, highlighted by Washington Nationals’ all-star and Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Mark Reynolds (Cleveland), Joe Koshansky (Colorado), Brandon Guyer (Tampa Bay), Michael Schwimer (Toronto), Mike Ballard (Baltimore), Sean Doolittle (Oakland), David Adams (New York Yankees), Phil Gosselin (Atlanta), Kyle Crockett (Cleveland), Chris Taylor (Seattle) and Jarrett Parker (San Francisco) also have made it to baseball’s highest level after playing under O’Connor while at UVa.

During O’Connor’s tenure, Virginia players have garnered 18 All-America honors.

O’Connor brought a wealth of baseball experience to Charlottesville when he arrived. He came to Virginia after spending nine seasons at Notre Dame (1995-2003) under current LSU coach Paul Mainieri, for whom he served as an assistant coach from 1995-2001 before earning a promotion to associate head coach in 2001.

While at Notre Dame, O’Connor worked with the Fighting Irish pitchers and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. As Notre Dame’s recruiting coordinator, he led the effort that landed a nine-member group ranked as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2001, as well as the sixth-ranked recruiting class in 2003.

During O’Connor’s nine years at Notre Dame, the Irish compiled an overall record of 399-160-1 (.713), won six conference championships and made six trips to the NCAA Tournament.

O’Connor, who pitched on Creighton’s 1991 College World Series team, tutored 17 eventual professional baseball pitchers, including 13 Major League Draft selections, at Notre Dame.

Previous Collegiate Baseball National Coaches of The Year include:

  • 2014: Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt
  • 2013: John Savage, UCLA
  • 2012: Andy Lopez, Arizona
  • 2011: Ray Tanner, South Carolina
  • 2010: Ray Tanner, South Carolina
  • 2009: Paul Mainieri, Louisiana St.
  • 2008: Mike Batesole, Fresno St.
  • 2007: Pat Casey, Oregon St.
  • 2006: Pat Casey, Oregon St.
  • 2005: Augie Garrido, Texas
  • 2004: George Horton, Cal. St. Fullerton
  • 2003: Wayne Graham, Rice
  • 2002: Augie Garrido, Texas
  • 2001: Jim Morris, Miami (Fla.)
  • 2000: Skip Bertman, Louisiana St.
  • 1999: Jim Morris, Miami (Fla.)
  • 1998: Mike Gillespie, Southern Calif.; Mike Batesole, Cal. St. Northridge
  • 1997: Skip Bertman, Louisiana St.
  • 1996: Skip Bertman, Louisiana St.; Andy Lopez, Florida
  • 1995: Augie Garrido, Cal. St. Fullerton
  • 1994: Larry Cochell, Oklahoma
  • 1993: Skip Bertman, Louisiana St.
  • 1992: Andy Lopez, Pepperdine
  • 1991: Skip Bertman, Louisiana St.
  • 1990: Steve Webber, Georgia
  • 1989: Dave Snow, Long Beach St.
  • 1988: Larry Cochell, Cal. St. Fullerton
  • 1987: Mark Marquess, Stanford
  • 1986: Jerry Kindall, Arizona
  • 1985: Ron Fraser, Miami (Fla.)
  • 1984: Augie Garrido, Cal. St. Fullerton
  • 1983: Cliff Gustafson, Texas
  • 1982: Ron Fraser, Miami (Fla.)
  • 1981: Jim Brock, Arizona St.
  • 1980: Jerry Kindall, Arizona
All-Pavlovich Team Features Incredible People

All-Pavlovich Team Features Incredible People 0

Joey Falcone Military 1By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

TUCSON, Ariz. — Introducing my 26th annual All-Pavlovich Team, a remarkable collection of people who typify what the game should be all about.

My National Player of The Year was an easy choice in Columbia University’s Joe Falcone.

He had a marvelous season as the designated hitter. He hit .354 with 11 homers, 18 doubles and 51 RBI and was a unanimous first team All-Ivy League selection.

What separates Falcone from others is that he witnessed more suffering and death than anybody should be allowed as a medic for the U.S. Marine Corps infantry during three tours of duty in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan prior to playing at Columbia.

After Joe finished high school, he decided to enlist in the Navy because he didn’t apply himself academically in high school.

Falcone said he embarked on a seven year odyssey in the military that took him to some of the most dangerous places in the world in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for the United States and caring for soldiers who were shot or blown up by road side bombs as a medic.

 After boot camp for nine weeks, he was trained to be a medic as he learned everything it took to keep wounded soldiers alive for an additional 16 weeks.

Falcone said the Third Marine Division flew to Iraq in February of 2008 and performed numerous dangerous missions in the suburbs of Fallujah.

“That place was pretty nasty,” said Falcone.

“We went to a forward operating base, and we were right in a middle of a third world, run down war zone slum with bullet holes in all the buildings. The place smelled like smoke, gun powder, crap and sewage. We lived in a little Iraq police station which was essentially a little hut of concrete.

“Me and another guy were medics for over 60 Marines. We worked out of there and pushed out on missions in incredible heat which was over 120 degrees as you were wearing uniforms complete with bullet proof vests over your chest, right and left flanks and back along with an 80 pound back pack and medical bag to treat wounded soldiers. You also had to carry ammunition and a rifle. Plus you have your Kevlar helmet on.

“You are extremely uncomfortable in this oppressive heat carrying all this weight. We had to get used to hauling all this stuff and wearing it. Every day was just an endless march among these slums as you pushed out on missions for hours at a time and even days. At times, you were just moving like a mule and trying to survive.”

Falcone said you were always being watched by the bad guys during these missions.

“It was like Russian roulette going out on these patrols. You never knew if you would step on a mine, and you never knew if you would make it back alive. Every day was like this…an endless march with the possibility of dying.

“You had sniper fire and people who would walk up to you and detonate a bomb which would blow themselves up along with a Marine. The enemy would blend in with the people of the town. And you never knew who was who. A guy might come up to you and try to shake the hands of a soldier and praise him by saying, ‘American forces good’ or something like this. But that night, he might be the same guy who places an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the ground to kill us.”

Falcone said that maybe the most horrifying situations during his deployments took place when vehicles ran over IEDs which then destroyed the vehicles and anybody inside.

“Often times it would be a big fireball. Out of the corner of your eye at the top of the fireball, the vehicle would get propelled over a power line almost as if it was a toy. And your friends were in there. Then you had to fight if necessary. If there was only the blast, you more than likely had dead bodies. You might be there for hours cleaning up the vehicle debris. In addition, you were required to clean up any human remains of your friends that were left. You put body parts in body bags. But sometimes you ran out and had to put them in garbage bags.”

Falcone said the smell of the decaying flesh was difficult to stomach.

He was asked if he ever saw any beheadings as the Taliban retaliated against others.

“They would bully the local people quite a bit. One time we saw the remains of a local school teacher who was filleted and diced into many parts with a knife. Maybe the Taliban thought the teacher was being sympathetic to Americans. Who knows? It was so difficult as an American to comprehend people doing things like this.

“I remember getting shot at by the Taliban. One of their techniques was to hold an infant in the arms of a soldier while his buddy, close to him, would be shooting at us with an AK-47 assault rifle. And he knew we wouldn’t shoot back at him with his buddy holding an infant in his arms right next to him. I didn’t want to shoot at him with him holding a little kid. None of us fired back.”

Falcone can play on my team any day.

To read about other amazing people picked for the 2015 All-Pavlovich Team, purchase the June 12, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Will There Be More Than 3 Homers At CWS?

Will There Be More Than 3 Homers At CWS? 0

Home Run Being hit Fresno StBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

OMAHA, Neb. — It simply was the ugliest offensive streak in College World Series history.

Not one home run had been hit in 115 innings and featured 923 batters, 3,436 pitches and 672 outs between homers during the last 3 1/2 games of the 2013 College World Series and nine more to start the 2014 CWS.

C.J. Hinojosa of Texas snapped the streak in the seventh inning of game nine last year as the Longhorns held on to beat U.C. Irvine, 1-0.

Hinojosa was probably the most unlikely person at the College World Series to hit a home run since he only had one circuit clout all season in 231 at-bats prior to that homer.

The streak was the symptom of a serious underlying problem as home runs were becoming extinct at the College World Series and rare during the season.

For the first time in CWS history, only 3 home runs were hit in 16 games at the 2014 event. It was the fewest amount of homers ever hit over this many games in one College World Series.

For the second year in a row, only three home runs were hit.

In 2013, three home runs were hit over 14 games.

These were the lowest home run totals since 1966 — nearly a half century — when only 2 home runs were hit in 15 games.

Home run numbers are expected to climb at the 2015 CWS since the flat seam baseball will replace the raised seam ball after the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee approved the change in November of 2013 in an attempt to generate more home runs and offense.

With all NCAA Division I schools using the flat seam ball during the 2015 season, a dramatic increase in home runs has taken place.

The NCAA reported that home runs are up more than 38 percent from 0.39 per game in 2014 to 0.54 per game in 2015 comparing numbers from the first week of May each year.

Runs scored in a game are up from 5.12 in 2014 to 5.47 in 2015.

After several months of testing at the NCAA Bat Certification lab during the summer of 2013 at Washington State University, results showed that the flat seam ball would travel further than a raised seam ball due to the “drag effect.” The greater the distance a ball travels, the greater the drag effect.

The test was conducted with an average ball exit speed from a machine at 95 mph with a spin rate of 1,400 RPM and a launch angle of 25 degrees. These parameters were set because they replicate the settings of a typical home run or a hit that could become a home run.

The average distance the raised seam ball traveled was 367 feet while the average distance the flat seam ball went was 387 feet — 20 feet further.

“We are very pleased with how the flat seam ball has performed so far this season,” said Damani Leech, NCAA Managing Director of Championships and Alliances.

“I think heading into the season we were cautiously optimistic based on the lab testing we had done and some of the reports from field testing that was conducted. The uptick in home runs has been great this season.

“The problem has been more than just home runs. It’s about offense in general. More offense was needed in the game, and many coaches voiced their concerns about the lack of offense the last few years as well as fans.”

The cumulative batting average at the 2014 College World Series was only .219 which was the lowest in 42 years.

In the 68-year-history of the CWS, the lowest scoring ’Series have been the last two years with an average of 6.1 runs per game in 2013 (all-time record) and 6.3 runs in 2014.

Leech, who has worked a number of years at the College World Series on behalf of the NCAA, said he was extremely concerned when the home run numbers fell to three the last two College World Series.

Offenses by and large at the 2014 College World Series were unwatchable. When the vast majority of runners got to first base, teams immediately attempted to sacrifice bunt them over to second.

There were 37 sacrifice bunts last year in 16 games which were the most in 59 years. This doesn’t even factor in unsuccessful sacrifice bunts as batters popped pitches up that were caught or bunted too hard as lead runners were thrown out.

“It was pretty painful to watch the last two College World Series with so few home runs,” said Leech.

“The NCAA staff and members of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee are all fans of baseball as well. We want to see excitement and more scoring. There were a number of times the last two years where potential dramatic moments ended with a fly ball caught on the warning track.”

To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the June 12, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Benintendi Named CB’s National Player Of Year

Benintendi Named CB’s National Player Of Year 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR. Andrew Benintendi Arkansas 4C (Photo by Walt Beazley- Arkansas Communications)
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Andrew Benintendi became the first University of Arkansas baseball player in history to be named National Player of The Year by Collegiate Baseball after piling up staggering numbers in 2015.

The sophomore centerfielder was hitting .391 with 12 doubles, 18 homers, 52 RBI and 22/26 stolen bases up to the NCAA Regional playoffs.

What makes those numbers even more impressive is that one year earlier as a freshman at Arkansas, he only hit 1 home run in 61 games and produced 27 RBI while hitting .276.

This season, the lefthanded hitter has belted 17 more homers than the year prior, nearly doubled his RBI production with 25 more and hit 115 points higher.

He also has incredible speed and could have easily stolen 35-40 bases if he were cut loose on the base paths.

Benintendi is also an exceptional centerfielder and tracks down numerous balls that would be uncatchable for normal outfielders. Plus, he has a left arm that can fire balls into the infield at 90 mph.

In other words, Benintendi is the consummate 5-tool player scouts drool over.

This is why he was chosen in the first round of the MLB draft recently as the seventh overall pick by Boston as a draft eligible sophomore.

The Cincinnati native is on the brink of becoming the third player in SEC history to lead the league in home runs and batting average, currently holding a two-homer lead and 16-point edge in batting average.

Benintendi would join Rafael Palmeiro (Mississippi St. in 1984) and Jeff Abbott (Kentucky in 1994) as the only players in conference history to accomplish the feat.

He is one of two players in the country to rank in the top 15 in home runs and batting average and one of two individuals in the nation with 15-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases.

Benintendi leads the SEC in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and walks, and is the only player in the nation to rank in the top 25 nationally in every category.

The talented Arkansas center-fielder said that the transformation from an average freshman ball player into National Player of The Year began after he finished his season a year ago.

“I had a nagging quad strain last season that lingered for a month and a half,” said Benintendi.

“In talking to my trainer and coaches, everyone felt it would be best to let it totally heal during the summer and not play. So I did that and decided to really focus on getting bigger and stronger.

“I am 5-foot-10 and weighed 165 pounds at the end of my freshman season at Arkansas. Since I wasn’t playing last summer, I approached weight training as a job with my upper body. In addition, I changed my diet which helped me gain weight.

“By the end of the summer, my back, chest and arms got noticeably bigger. When I got back to Arkansas, I worked with our strength coach who does a superb job. In all, I put on 15 pounds of muscle during this time and felt a lot stronger going into the 2015 season at 180 pounds.

“There is no question this added strength has allowed me to drive the ball harder and further this season.

“I always knew I had the ability to have this type of season. It was just a matter of staying mentally strong when things weren’t going well. I have done fairly well my entire baseball career.”

To read more of the in-depth story about Andrew Benintendi’s ascent to Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of The Year, including comments from Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn, purchase the June 12, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Hole In Heart Doesn’t Stop Ricky Santiago

Hole In Heart Doesn’t Stop Ricky Santiago 1

Ricky Santiago Fla Atl Heart SurgeryBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Ricky Santiago of Florida Atlantic underwent open heart surgery less than a year ago to repair a hole in his heart.

He suffered from a birth defect known as Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return that was diagnosed last season after years of suffering through shortness of breath during strenuous activities.

Blood had been flowing into the wrong heart chamber for years which was causing his heart to enlarge. While not a serious problem for children, the situation becomes riskier as a person ages.

Incredibly, his condition was misdiagnosed since he was 11 years old as a doctor felt he suffered from asthma. Only after he clutched his chest last season during a mid-March game at Rice playing first base did it hit home that another diagnosis was needed and ordered by FAU Head Coach John McCormack.

This time after a thorough exam and an MRI was performed, a hole was discovered in his heart which was an apparent genetic flaw since birth. Surgery was performed 2 1/2 months later.

Santiago said that he suffering from shortness of breath his entire life during strenuous activities but really didn’t realize it was a problem. He felt it was just part of what was transpiring because he didn’t know any other feeling.

“I started seeing a doctor at the age of 11 for this issue,” said Santiago, who plays third base for the Owls this season.

“When I was younger, I played football, basketball and baseball. Most of the time when I played football or basketball with the amount of running involved, I would experience chest pains.

“Once I started having those symptoms, my parents took me to a doctor who diagnosed my problem as being asthma as he gave me an inhaler. We pretty much left it at that until my sophomore year of college.”

Santiago said that despite the misdiagnosis, he was not in serious jeopardy of being killed from the condition as long as he didn’t wait for surgery too long.

“Once they found out what my problem was, a surgeon wanted to open me up and repair the hole in my heart as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more enlarged your heart can get and the harder it is to fix.”

To read more of the in-depth story on Ricky Santiago, purchase the May 15, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Cal Bears Back After 2010 Death Sentence

Cal Bears Back After 2010 Death Sentence 0

David Esquer Cal celebrates 2011 CWS qualifyBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BERKELEY, Calif. — One of the most amazing stories in college baseball history is unfolding at the University of California.

In September of 2010, administrators announced their intention to eliminate baseball and three other teams. It was a shocking announcement since the baseball program was the oldest athletics program at the school with a proud 119-year history through the 2010 season.

The baseball program had won two national titles, including the first College World Series in 1947 and another in 1957 and had appeared in the CWS five times heading into the 2011 season. A big factor in the decision to do away with Cal baseball was Title IX.

Several months after the announcement, administrators backtracked in mid-February of 2011 as they announced that men’s rugby, women’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics would be allowed to continue but baseball and men’s gymnastics would still be eliminated at the end of the 2010-11 academic year. It was another body blow to the baseball program.

Just prior to the announcement by Cal administrators, a report in the New York Times said that if they went through with their original plan to cut four sports and demote rugby to varsity club status, it would cause a compliance issue with the federal gender equity law and force further cuts to men’s roster spots.

The article said that administrators would be forced to cut 80 men from remaining teams and add 50 women to come into line with Title IX.

The baseball program seemed to be on death row.

What happened next was historic in the annuals of college sports. California baseball boosters came to the rescue of the baseball program, raising $10 million in two months which allowed the program to be rescued from the chopping block.

At the current time, this money is being utilized to finance the baseball program at California as a fully funded NCAA Division I varsity sport.

The Cal Baseball Foundation was established to make this happen. This remarkable group of people headed by Stu Gordon (pitcher on the Cal. 1960-61 teams) and Dan McInerny (member of the Cal 1980 CWS team) are now trying to raise $25 million for a permanent baseball program endowment so it can operate off the interest forever.

This bold plan has never been done in college athletics’ history for a varsity sport on the NCAA Division I level, according to several long time administrators Collegiate Baseball contacted.

To read more about how California rebounded from having its program cut and how painful it was losing two recruiting classes, purchase the May 15, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE. The in-depth story of what Head Coach David Esquer endured, how the program fell on hard times for a few years, and how dynamic boosters formed the Cal Baseball Foundation to enrich the program with operating capital is all covered. In addition, it explains how the program came back to being a powerhouse once again in 2015.

Change By NJCAA Means More Foreigners

Change By NJCAA Means More Foreigners

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

The NJCAA Board of Directors repealed bylaws which have previously capped the number of foreign athletes who have participated in NJCAA sports.

The ruling means that any NJCAA Division I and II college baseball program now can offer their entire allotment of scholarships to foreign recruits if they decide to unless their conference or school has limitations.

The effective date of this bylaw change is Aug. 1, 2015.

Scholarship offers that are being put on the table now to foreign athletes who enroll after Aug. 1 can utilize this new bylaw change. The implications of this change could change the very fabric of NJCAA athletics.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see NJCAA baseball teams made up of all Venezuelan, Dominican Republic or Mexican players,” said Edgar Soto, highly respected athletics’ director at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz. and former baseball coach with the Aztecs for many years.

“You will probably see sports such as soccer and track and field really exploit this new rule to get athletes they haven’t been able to get before. Our school won’t be doing that and will utilize athletes from Southern Arizona as we have for years. But it will be interesting to see how different schools operate under this new system.”

Some NJCAA Division I and II institutions that are in the southern areas of the nation are expected to exploit this rule as they go after talented baseball players from Latin America.

Those in the northern areas of the nation are expected to go after top Canadian baseball players.

“The previous rule limited the number of foreign student athletes who could attend NJCAA Division I and II colleges,” said Mark Krug, NJCAA Assistant Executive Director of Sports Information and Media Relations.

“You were allowed to utilize 25 percent of the total allotment of letters of intent that you could offer. Let’s take NJCAA Division I, and an institution offers 24 letters of intent for baseball. They previously would only be allowed to offer 6 scholarships to foreign student athletes.

“With the change in the bylaw, there are no limits with the number of foreign athletes you can bring in as long as the student athlete meets initial eligibility requirements from our colleges. Then once they become a full time student, they must maintain eligibility standards to be eligible for participation in any sport.”

Krug said it could happen that an entire NJCAA school could field an entirely foreign baseball team next spring.

“With this new global view and approach by the NJCAA, we still have philosophical differences within our colleges. There are conferences and schools that want their local community to feed athletes into their athletics’ programs.

To read more of this story, purchase the May 1, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Wheelchair Bound Frizzell An Amazing Coach

Wheelchair Bound Frizzell An Amazing Coach

Thomas Frizzell Wheelchair Photo MassasoitBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

The roadblocks of life can stop many. But highly successful Head Coach Tom Frizzell of Massasoit Community College (Brockton, Mass.) is living proof that never giving up, even after being paralyzed from the waist down, is absolutely crucial.

Now in his 25th season as head coach, the 65-year-old skipper is believed to be the only coach in college baseball history to lead a team from a wheelchair to a national championship as he directed the Warriors to a NJCAA Division II national title in 1993.

He has led Massasoit to three NJCAA Division II World Series and two trips to the NJCAA Division III World Series while compiling a 678-304 record entering the 2015 season.

He was paralyzed during a horrible accident. As a 27-year-old, he had earned his Master’s Degree and was a bright, young administrator at Davis School in Brockton, Mass.

On Nov. 1, 1977 at about 7:30 p.m., he was opening up a parent counseling meeting. At the time, he was standing next to a cinder block wall.

Unknown to him, a heavy set woman was leaning against a second block wall behind him which gave way. That wall crashed into the wall directly behind Frizzell which fell on top of him and severely damaged his spinal cord. He became paralyzed from the waist down.

It was later determined that neither cinder block wall had any concrete inside to fill the hollow blocks – only sand.

Frizzell would now endure a life in a wheelchair as it took eight months of rehabilitation and soul searching before he could get back to work.

Little did he know that life would turn for the better. He eventually decided to teach as a Professor of Business with his specialty being sports marketing at Massasoit C.C.

Frizzell had a huge background in baseball prior to the accident, and many knew his passion for the sport.

One day in 1986, Massasoit Head Coach Billy Mitchell asked Frizzell if he would consider working with his kids on the baseball team.

“Initially, I was very hesitant,” said Frizzell.

“I told Billy that I couldn’t walk. But Billy told me that he knew I played baseball and had a lot to share with the kids. I went to a few practices. For a year, I showed up periodically with the feeling that I didn’t have much to offer these kids.

“Later, I became more involved and actually became an assistant coach. The kids were extremely supportive of my handicap and only wanted to learn more about the game of baseball. I worked with infielders and hitters. It became a great thing to do for me in addition to my teaching responsibilities as a full professor.”

After the 1990 season, Mitchell took another job at a different institution which left the Massasoit job open.

Frizzell, who had now been assistant for three years with the Warriors, applied for the job but had no idea whether administrators would take him seriously or not.

“I was granted an interview, and I was asked point blank whether it would be difficult for me to recruit players to play since I was confined to a wheelchair. I explained that I had been heavily involved in recruiting. My philosophy was to recruit the parents and tell them that I couldn’t offer their son a lot of money in the way of scholarship help, but I would be available seven days a week since I was a Professor of Business. I was almost always in my office except when teaching classes. That was an important selling point about our program. It was comforting to parents to know that I was available much of the time.

“A lot of coaches at junior colleges are part time and aren’t easy to get in touch with. I also did not go to the houses of recruits. I asked them, along with their parents, to come to my office which had a much better setting. I also explained that I had learned all the ropes of this program through Coach Mitchell for the past three years and was well aware of what needed to be done to keep the baseball program on a high level.

“Ultimately I struck a deal with the Athletics Director that if I didn’t win, I would resign. So he agreed, and the rest is history.”

Frizzell said his first year as head coach was one he will never forget.

“We whipped off a 32-9 record that year. Two years later, we won the NJCAA Division II national championship. Then in 1995, we finished fourth in the nation at the World Series. After switching to NJCAA Division III, we went to the World Series two times with fourth and third place national finishes.”

To read more about the amazing Tom Frizzell, purchase the May 1, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It explains how he can still throw four rounds of batting practice, how his players help him when problems come up with his wheelchair, tasteless comments he has received, why he was ejected from a game, how he has coached third base from time to time and how his team pulls off the double suicide squeeze play.

Discipline In Hitting Equals Loads Of Runs

Discipline In Hitting Equals Loads Of Runs

Mike Martin Florida St MugBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Florida St. has utilized a tactic for years that pays off with loads of runs. Under hitting coach Mike Martin, Jr., hitter discipline has been one of the key components in the offensive production.

A byproduct of hitters who don’t chase anything in sight is walks. The Seminoles currently lead the nation with 213 walks in 29 games which is 46 more than second place Mississippi St.

FSU hitters are averaging 7.3 walks per game this season which has forced pitchers to throw hitter’s pitches.

When pitchers throw strikes, Seminole batters routinely crush them as attested to 90 extra base hits (58 doubles, 29 homers and 3 triples).

Seminole hitters refuse to buckle on inside pitches as they have been hit 48 times (4th in the nation). Fourteen different hitters have been plunked this year.

When you add it all up, FSU’s on-base percentage is No. 1 in the nation at .424. The net result of all this offensive activity is that FSU is No. 2 in the nation in runs (241) and No. 3 in scoring (8.3 per game).

To prove hitter discipline works, FSU’s batting average currently is only .271 (130th out of 301 NCAA Division I teams), which is well below what Seminole teams typically produce under Coach Martin. But runs are still being scored in droves.

Entering his 18th season as the team’s hitting coach, Martin is widely recognized as one of the bright minds in baseball.

Heading into the 2015 season, the Seminoles under Martin have batted .309, averaged 7.97 runs per game and posted a .482 slugging percentage over the past 17 seasons. Florida State has played in six College World Series, 13 Super Regionals and 17 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

The Seminoles have batted .300 or better 11 times and posted an on-base percentage of at least .400 15 times. Six of the top 11 hitting teams in FSU history have come under Martin’s watch.

“Mike, Jr. is tireless in his approach to teaching home plate discipline with our hitters” said FSU Head Coach Mike Martin, the Seminoles’ skipper the past 36 years and father of Mike, Jr.

“He has utilized this approach for many years, but it takes a great deal of effort to refine the discipline of hitters when they first come into the program. He throws batting practice to our guys nearly every day.

“But he is big on not having our guys swinging at a pitch early in the count that is a borderline strike. If the ball is on the outside corner, first pitch, we call that a pitcher’s pitch. We won’t swing at that.

“Now as we get into the count, that mentality of course changes. If a guy is able to throw pitches there all day long, then of course we must make adjustments. But early in the game if he is having trouble, we won’t go out and swing at something quickly that’s off the plate.”

The FSU skipper said that his hitters over time become comfortable with this approach.

“I’m not saying this is the best approach. Every coach is different in his offensive philosophy. Ours just happens to be that we preach this concept and work on it every day. When you are disciplined like this, it allows our hitters to get good pitches to hit more often than not.

“I would like to emphasize that we don’t go to the plate to walk. We don’t want anybody to think that’s what we do. If hitters ever go to the plate with the thought of walking, they shouldn’t take their bat with them. Our hitters are going to be aggressive if the ball is in the strike zone. Guys who we recruit didn’t come to Florida St. to walk. We want every recruit to realize that when a pitch is thrown for a strike, we try to rip it.

“But when a pitch is off the plate, and you swing at it, you are doing the guy on the mound a big favor. And we don’t like to do those type of favors.

“We just want to be sure our hitters know their own strike zone. And Mike, Jr. deserves the credit for doing such a great job at teaching our guys what they are.”

To read more about this in-depth story on hitting discipline and why it produces loads of runs, purchase the April 17, 2015 or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The rest of the story includes how long it takes to train a disciplined hitter at Florida St and the entire process of being disciplined from former Oklahoma State Hall of Fame coach Gary Ward and why it works.