About Lou Pavlovich

Posts by Lou Pavlovich:

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
HerdZone.com 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.

Hoppe Explains His 55 1/3 Inning Streak

Hoppe Explains His 55 1/3 Inning Streak

Jason Hoppe Minnesota St Mankato ActionBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

MANKATO, Minn. — One of the most remarkable records in NCAA history was set last year as RHP Jason Hoppe of Minnesota State threw 55 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

This had never been done on any level of NCAA baseball before.

Overall, Hoppe finished with an 8-1 record, 1.26 ERA and struck out 99 batters over 92 2/3 innings as a junior. Incredibly, he was not drafted last season by professional baseball despite these staggering numbers and is back for his senior year.

“During the streak, everything seemed to go my way,” said Hoppe.

“It seemed like every ground ball or fly ball that was hit to keep the streak alive, our fielders made plays. Line drives were hit right to our players. I was able to dance out of trouble and just kept pounding the strike zone. As I look back on the streak now, it was a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

Hoppe said that he not only faced a slew of great hitters in his conference but on the regional and national level as well through the playoffs.

His working velocity last year was 87-89 mph with his fastball. But he has worked hard at increasing his velocity and now throws at 90-91 mph. He topped out at 93 mph several times.

His repertoire of pitches includes a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, 12/6 curve and a nasty changeup which he throws for strikes 85 percent of the time.

“My best pitch is the changeup,” said Hoppe.

“And it has gotten a lot of outs and strikeouts for me over the years because I can throw it on any count. My coach at Sauk Rapids Rice High School (Sauk Rapids, MN) was Jeff Hille, and he taught me the pitch when I was a sophomore. It took me 1 ½ years to really master the pitch, and it wasn’t easy. But when I saw what the pitch did as you threw it with fastball arm speed, it was one I couldn’t ignore.

“When I am throwing it properly, I can throw it right down the middle of the plate belt high as the batter gets excited at a perceived fat pitch. Then at the last second, the ball drops down and to the right and is extremely difficult to hit. Plus, the batter sees fastball arm speed and is usually thrown off by this as his timing is upset.”

Hoppe said his changeup is 78-80 mph and acts like a screwball.

He explained how he grips his changeup.

To read more about Jason Hoppe of Minnesota State, purchase the March, 7, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters

Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters

Peter Fadde MugSome batters have the uncanny ability to recognize pitches, spitting on the slider off the corner and raking the fastball in the same hole. Others don’t have it and end up guessing or hacking.

Southeast Missouri State hitting coach Dillon Lawson decided that he wanted to improve all of his batters’ pitch recognition skill during fall 2013 practices in order to achieve the team’s goal of disciplined at bats and improved run production.  

 “I couldn’t find anything really solid on coaching pitch recognition,” Lawson says.

“Just painting numbers or dots on balls, that sort of thing. But as I searched around, I kept coming across Dr. Fadde’s research. So I e-mailed him, and he was very enthusiastic about helping us train pitch recognition.”

Dr. Peter Fadde, a professor at Southern Illinois University, has researched pitch recognition for over 15 years and published numerous studies in sports science journals along with making presentations at the American Baseball Coaches’ Association and MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conferences.

Dr. Fadde also patented computer technology for testing and training pitch recognition that has been licensed for commercial development by Axon Sports.

 “But the more I talk to coaches,” says Fadde, “The more it’s clear that we have to get pitch recognition training into the batting cage. So when coach Lawson described what he wanted to do, that sounded like just what’s needed.”

SEMO head coach Steve Bieser approved the project. “There’s nothing more important than seeing the ball,” says Bieser. “Right out of the pitcher’s hand. Reading fastball or breaking ball, making the swing adjustment, and not getting fooled.”

Lawson also received interest from pitching coach Lance Rhodes, whose pitchers would be needed for pitch recognition drills.

“It’s good for my guys, too,” says Rhodes. “The more feedback they get about what hitters see, the more they can work on their deception and delivery.”

The fall pitch recognition program had two goals. The first was to use sports science methods and second, to fit it into regular team practices without disrupting established routines or adding contact time.

Initially, Dr. Fadde tested batters’ pitch recognition skills by having players watch video clips of pitchers, from the batters’ view, that were cut to black shortly after the ball left the pitcher’s hand.

The method is used by sports scientists and called video-occlusion. Batters identified fastball, breaking ball or changeup.

“Testing the players does two things,” says Fadde.

“It gives us a baseline to see if they improve. It also lets players see the occlusion method as scientific, and that leads them to take pitch recognition drills more seriously later.”

Coach Lawson turned several traditional batting cage drills into pitch recognition drills. Instead of just hitting the ball off a tee, for instance, a coach or teammate stood behind a pitching screen and simulated throwing a fastball or curveball. The batter would call the pitch type out loud, visualize the trajectory of a fastball or curveball out of the pitcher’s hand to the tee location, and then put a good swing on the ball.

Two-ball side flip was adapted by having the batter hit the higher ball unless the coach or teammate flipping the baseballs called “change.” Then the batter had to adjust mid-swing to hit the lower ball. “Fastball/changeup at the bottom of the zone is something we have struggled with,” says Lawson.

“It’s not necessarily swing and miss but bad contact, rolling over the changeup. So I wanted to work on that specific recognition and swing adjustment.”

When the pitchers did bullpen work, the hitters joined them for a Stand-In Pitch Recognition drill where batters took their stance in the batter’s box but did not swing. Batters were asked to call out the type of pitch or ball/strike before the pitch hit the catcher’s mitt.  

 “Calling out the pitch before it hits the catcher’s mitt forces the batter to focus on the release point and pick up cues, like skinny wrist for breaking ball,” says Fadde.

“Players sometimes say, ‘we’ve been standing in for years.’ But they weren’t calling pitches right out of the pitcher’s hand. That makes this stand-in drill a version of the video-occlusion method.”

 “It takes some coaxing to get guys calling out loud,” says Lawson. “We had to remind them, ‘Loud and early’ quite a bit at first.”

Pitching coach Lance Rhodes adds, “I wanted them calling it loud so my guys could hear. When batters are calling your changeup every time, that gets a pitcher’s attention.”

Lawson and Rhodes developed a rotation of pitchers and batters working from two bullpen mounds to incorporate the Stand-In drill into team practice sessions one or two times a week throughout fall practice.

After the drill was established, Lawson introduced a sawed off ghost bat.

“The hitters still needed to call out the pitch,” says Lawson, “But now they could also swing and get their timing. Putting together what you see and where it will be.”

In addition to on-field drills, batters used a prototype of the Axon Sports laptop computer program to practice recognizing pitches from three different video pitchers. The players came to the baseball office on their own time to work on pitch type, location, and zone hitting drills, earning higher levels like a video game.

“Some guys really took to the computer drills,” says Lawson. “The best part was being able to talk about reading the pitchers because I did all the computer drills, too. Like picking up that the lefty muscles up on his slider and fastball, compared to the changeup. That’s language we can use.”

Dr. Fadde plans to conduct more video tests to compare SEMO batters’ pitch recognition to players on other teams. The ultimate test, though, will be how well the team achieves the coaches’ offensive goals in the coming season.

“We already got some confirmation on our pro day,” says Lawson. “Several scouts commented to Coach Bieser and me that our hitters weren’t striking out much and didn’t seem to chase breaking balls out of the zone.” 

For more information on pitch recognition research, see Dr. Fadde’s website www.peterfadde.com 

For more on the SEMO project, e-mail Dr. Fadde at fadde@siu.edu or coach Dillon Lawson at adlawson@semo.edu

To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.

Pitchers Can Learn From Fighter Pilot Training

Pitchers Can Learn From Fighter Pilot Training

Matt Manship Jet Photo CockpitBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2014 Collegiate Baseball

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — In the military, one mistake can get you killed. But in baseball, a .400 hitter who fails six out of every 10 at-bats is exceptional. If a pitcher throws 65 percent of his pitches for strikes, he has good command. Yet he misses his target 35 percent of the time.

Lt. Matt Manship, a skilled naval aviator who flies F/A-18F Super Hornets for the VFA-213 Blacklions, has just been deployed to the Middle East. A former righthanded pitcher at Stanford during the 2003-2006 seasons, he graduated with a degree in economics and then worked as a financial analyst intern at Maxim Integrated Products for four months before becoming a Project Manager at Cisco Systems for nearly two years.

In July of 2008, he embarked on a totally different line of work as he applied to the Navy to attend Officer Candidate School.

He ultimately graduated No. 1 in his class and became a precision combat pilot who has the skill set to land jets on aircraft carriers in total darkness.

At top speed, the jets he flies can reach 1,190 mph. He also must be able to maneuver the aircraft in an instant in any direction and be able to press numerous buttons or switches by reaction. If he thinks too much in combat, he could die.

In this special interview with Collegiate Baseball, Manship explains the similarities between pitching and being a combat fighter pilot and also gives techniques that may translate well from being a pilot to the pitching mound.

He was asked to explain the similarities and differences between being a Naval aviator and pitcher.

“The atmosphere is similar with a fighter squadron and in a baseball locker room.

“There is a reason why people use the term ‘Jet Jock’ because it’s very similar to playing sports. The type of individuals who are in the squadron are very close to you just like on a team.”

Manship said that the No. 1 area that translates well from fighter pilots to pitchers is discipline.

“I got a healthy dose of discipline at Stanford in the way the coaching staff prepared players for games. Here is a little taste of what players were required to do. I am not aware of any coach in baseball other than Mark Marquess at Stanford who dictates how he wants the players to stand during the National Anthem. He actually mandated that we stay completely still.

“This is something that people in the military do as well. They turn, face the flag, and in our case, salute while remaining perfectly still.

“You noticed players on other baseball teams during the National Anthem shifting their weight or looking around. But I like the way we did it at Stanford.”

Discipline Vital At Stanford
Manship said once Stanford players were on the playing field, there was no walking allowed.

“Coach Marquess called it ‘striding’ which is taking about 10 to 20 percent off a full sprint. That’s the only way he allowed players to move around the field.

“Even when I got to the minor leagues after graduating from Stanford, I was so conditioned with that discipline that I would be running around, and my coaches would have to stop me and ask me to slow down. They would warn me that it is a long season in pro ball, and you must learn to take it easier.

“But I always responded that this is how I was conditioned.

“Coach Marquess was one of the greatest motivators I have ever come across in my life. And I owe some of the discipline I have today to him. Those are just two of the many examples I could give.”

Manship, who was drafted by the A’s in the 29th round in June of 2006, said that his pitching coach at Stanford, Tom Kunis, was also a strict disciplinarian.

“A quote that sticks with me today that Coach Kunis said was ‘Discipline is doing something you don’t want to do at a time when you don’t want to do it but still do it well.’ ”

Manship said that establishing a routine is crucial in being a pitcher or combat pilot.

To read more of the story on Matt Manship, purchase the March 7, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Joey Falcone Witnessed Hell In Middle East

Joey Falcone Witnessed Hell In Middle East

Joey Falcone Military 1By LOU PAVLOVICH
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

(This story was originally published in the May 20, 2011 edition of Collegiate Baseball newspaper. Joey Falcone is now a senior at Columbia University where he is a member of the Lions baseball team. In 2013, the outfielder hit .331 with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs and 29 RBI. He was named to the All-Ivy League and ABCA Northeast Region second teams.)

NEW YORK. — Sergeant Joey Falcone has 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.

The 24-year-old freshman right fielder at College of Staten Island is a true American hero.

Collegiate Baseball is honored to tell his story of the horrors he witnessed during his tours of duty to remind people what sacrifices these brave men and women make to keep our country free.

Rarely does our publication focus in on the military. But with the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, we thought it was appropriate to take an in-depth look at what one of our own went through as he served his country.

At times, baseball coaches will refer to games as “war”. But veterans like Falcone take great exception to this because war is about killing enemies which causes death and destruction. Baseball is nothing close to war.

 Falcone, who had five relatives working near the Twin Towers in Manhattan, N.Y. on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists forced two airliners into the buildings which killed thousands, has never forgot that day even though he was a young boy at the time.

His uncle was working in the North Tower while three cousins were doing construction across the street. And still another uncle was a fireman who was on the scene. All of them survived.

Since he was a 3-year-old, he had a bat in his hand and played baseball all the way through high school at Bolton High School in Alexandria, La where he was a right fielder.

His dad is former Major League LHP Pete Falcone who played 10 years for the Giants, Cardinals, Mets and Braves, and he taught his son how to play the great game of baseball.

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

“I didn’t take high school and grades very seriously,” said Falcone.

“I gave it a minimal effort. I was essentially a C student, and it just wasn’t that important to me. My favorite thing to do in high school was play baseball. Other than that, I could care less about academics. I didn’t feel it was even important to fill out applications for colleges because I just didn’t want to go to school any more.

“I wasn’t a great high school player and had close to a .300 batting average. That’s not outstanding. So I really didn’t have anything going for me. Since I didn’t have any interest in going to college, I enlisted in the Navy in 2004 as a 17-year-old kid.”

Falcone said that was the beginning of 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.

At that point, he was sent to Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. After two months, Hurricane Katrina hit, and he was put on a hospital ship to help victims in the Gulf area. Once he got back to Bethesda, Md., he worked on the Casualty Ward at Naval Hospital and helped wounded Marines who came back from Iraq for the next couple of years.

First Tour Of Duty
In February of 2007, he went on his first tour of duty in Kuwait and didn’t experience much action as he served until September. Then he flew back to Bethesda, Md. and was then sent to the third Marine Division in Camp Lejeune (Lejeune, N.C.). At that time, he went through new training to become a Marine Corps medic.

When he graduated, he was sent to Hawaii to be with the Second Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division in December of 2007.

 “They told me I would be going to Iraq in a couple of weeks. I had just got back from that area of the world in September, and here I am going back again.”

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

“That place was pretty nasty. 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 uncom-fortable in this oppressive heat carrying all this weight. But 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.”

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

“There were many times you get shot at, and you didn’t even know where the bullets came from. So you keep walking.

“You patrolled through these small towns which are mine choked in the ground with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises). If you step on one, it will either kill you or take off your legs. They are hard to spot, but you are trained to look for the smallest things which tip you off.

“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 IED in the ground to kill us.

“When my men got shot, I would have to wrap them up and medivac them out. Hopefully they wouldn’t die. If one of my men was shot, you had to determine if it was safer for another Marine to get him to me or me go to them. In some cases, the victim might be 15 meters away and other cases 200 meters away. It depended on how big the ambush was and geography of the fire fight.

“Once I start administering first aid and made sure his heart was still ticking and air was filling up his lungs, that is when I call the helicopter to medivac him out. And I would tell them it was immediate, urgent or routine. I would usually tell them immediate so I could get them out of there as quick as possible.

“If my guy was dead, then he would be called ‘black’.

“In Iraq, none of the guys who died that I had to put in a body bag were in my company or platoon. As they were passing through our area, they got hit. There were four who died in 2008 in Iraq. In my three deployments, I treated dozens of wounded soldiers as a medic and would guess that the total number was just under 100.”

Falcone said that he medically attended to the enemy at times and the residents of the town who were caught in the middle.

“The reason we attended to the enemy is that we might possibly obtain information from them that might be valuable. Also, you would unfortunately see children under 10 years old who were absolutely mangled. They were probably better off dead because of the severity of the injuries But you at least have to try and help them. Nothing really prepares you for young kids being hit with gunfire and being mangled by mines in the ground. They got blown up just like other people did. My first time out when I saw a little kid mangled, it really bothered me quite a bit. But you also had to keep your mask of composure on at all times.”

Joey Falcone military IEDWar Is Absolute Hell
Falcone said that IED explosions to soldiers were absolutely horrible to treat.

“They were extremely messy, and they would lose one or both legs. I had a buddy who stepped on an IED, and the explosion destroyed both legs and his body just above his hips. You can’t live like that. He survived for a short period of time but eventually died from his wounds. When you are a medic and face a situation like that, you have to have tourniquets above the wound area to stop the bleeding because blood  is just gushing out.

“You hold that tourniquet as hard as you can until the bleeding slows or ideally stops. You also utilize pressure dressings and something called Quick Clot, among other techniques. If the guy is conscious, you try to be a calming influence in the situation. But many times they aren’t.”

Falcone said most of the soldiers he took care of were IED explosion victims

“As a medic, you didn’t want to run directly to the victim because another IED might be waiting to blow you up. So you had to be extremely careful. Sometimes I would grab the victim if he was close and help him. Other times, they were brought to me. The last thing you want is for two people to be victims of IEDs lying in the ground next to each other.”

Falcone, who was never wounded during his three tours of duty.

But he came extremely close to being killed several times including once along a mountain road.

“We were in vehicles traveling on a mission. And an enormous IED explosion went off between my vehicle and the one directly behind mine. If the mechanism in the bomb went off two seconds earlier, the explosion would have destroyed the vehicle I was in or the one behind me two seconds later.

“The explosion was absolutely massive. I looked through my back window and couldn’t even see the vehicle behind us with the fire blast, smoke cloud and debris flying everywhere. Probably five seconds later, I saw the vehicle pushing out of a huge crater.”

Cleaning Up Body Parts
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.

“Keep in mind the temperature is 120 degrees, and body parts are just decaying in the bags. Mangled flesh has one of the most nauseating smells I have ever endured. Plus, you are looking at it and realizing that they were your friends. It not only smells, but it is so eerie as well.

“After one of these explosions took the lives of several of my friends, I had a recurring nightmare. But each time I had it, it would be in a slightly different scene. I had a great priest who helped me with my nightmare problem. We had chaplains come out to the base to help us with things like this. I remember telling this one particular priest about the nightmare I kept having. The guy was an absolutely genius who helped me get through it. I wish I could talk to him again some time. He was pretty special.”

Tough To Deal With
Falcone said the worst part of being deployed in Iraq was coming back to the USA and knowing that he would be deployed once again in the near future to Afghanistan.

“Being out there is difficult being in fire fights, people being torn to shreds with mines and cleaning up body parts and all that messy, gruesome stuff.

“But being back in the U.S. and knowing you have to go back to that was horrible. It was the worst feeling in the world which hit you in the pit of your stomach. I got back to the U.S. in September of 2008 and then told in November that we would be deployed in Afghanistan — only two months later.”

Falcone said when he arrived in Afghanistan, it was more of the same, but with a different landscape and different enemies.

“Afghanistan had more mountainous regions. I was in southern Afghanistan where a lot of the Taliban was. The best way I can describe the Taliban is that they were bullies and bandits. They took advantage of the local people who were extremely poor. Afghanistan is a third world country, and almost everybody is flat broke and live in mud huts.

“The Taliban would take advantage of that and roll into the houses of these people. They would take anything they wanted, and there was nothing people could do about it. If you resisted, there would be consequences. They might kidnap the mother and do whatever they wanted with her. Or they would just kill her right in front of the family.”

Joey Falcone PrisonerCutting People To Pieces
Falcone 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 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 remembered another situation which took place when the Taliban targeted a local family.

“This poor family was rolling down a dirt road in a car which was packed with people. There was a pregnant mother, two little girls, a dad and his son. The Taliban planted an IED specifically for this family in the ground of the road. The car ran over the mine, and the vehicle was pulverized. Amazingly, only a couple of people from the family died in the explosion.

“The Taliban didn’t care. They just wanted to kill all of them. They had no patience with families trying to work with the coalition forces. So they would murder the whole family.”

Falcone said in November of 2009 he got back to the USA from Afghanistan and was stationed in Hawaii. And then from November until July, he served out the remainder of his time in the military since he didn’t want to re-enlist and began playing baseball once again for his unit team.

“I was thrilled to be playing baseball again. And the level of play was superb in Hawaii. When I was discharged, I initially visited my parents in Alexandria, La. for a bit. Then I came back to New York to live.”

Terrific Season In Baseball
After a period of time, he decided to enroll at College of Staten Island since it was close as he took full advantage of the GI Bill and didn’t have to pay for classes.

As he was enrolling for nursing classes, he asked if he could try out for the baseball team, and he was told where to apply.

He made the team and has had an outstanding season as a 24-year-old freshman.

Late in the 2011 season, he was hitting .355 over 35 games which ranked second on the team. He also knocked in 29 runs and produced 7 triples, 4 doubles and 1 home run as he recorded a team-leading slugging percentage of .545.

Most freshmen would be thrilled at such numbers.

But the grizzled combat veteran gave an interesting answer.

“I have been in the infantry for so long that failing seven out of 10 times really bothers me as a hitter,” said Falcone.

“When you are involved in the military, there is no room for error during battles because people will die. It really bothers me to fail so often now. I am not thrilled with it. I don’t fail seven out of 10 times with my grades. I had a 4.0 grade point average my last semester at College of Staten Island.”

Joe Falcone is an American hero who can play on my ball club any day.

To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.

Mike Evans Exonerated By Bellevue

Mike Evans Exonerated By Bellevue

Mike Evans Mug New Mexico StBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From the Feb. 21, 2014 issue)

BELLEVUE, Neb. — Bellevue University has reached a settlement with long time baseball coach Mike Evans that exonerates him of any wrongdoing with events surrounding the team’s forfeiture of 40 games during the 2010 season.

The financial aspects of the settlement are confidential and were not disclosed.

Evans, who coached at Bellevue for 22 years from 1989-2010 with a 928-457-1 record, led the Bruins to 12 NAIA World Series appearances while earning an NAIA national title in 1995.

He did not have his contract renewed following the 2010 season.

Late that season, allegations were made that a transfer document from Sam Houston State for player Jon Reed was never received by Bellevue Athletics’ Director Ed Lehotak.

According to Evans, Lehotak told him that he never received the release. Evans responded that he was informed by the Bellevue administrator who handled transfer releases that it had arrived months prior to this. Evans said he and two other witnesses were at a meeting with this administrator to make sure the transfer release had been received. In addition, paperwork turned in by this administrator verified the transfer release was in as a document was sent to the NAIA.

The former Bellevue coach said Lehotak never bothered to ask this administrator to arrange for another transfer release to be sent from Sam Houston State to clear the matter up and instead self reported the problem to the NAIA just as the baseball team was entering the post-season playoffs.

The NAIA ultimately ruled two of the wins were allowed in 2010 since Reed didn’t play in those games while 40 games were either forfeited or lost during that season as Bellevue suffered a 2-40 season despite closing the regular portion of season with 29 wins in 30 games.

When Evans’ contract was not renewed at Bellevue, he said it took nearly a year to find another job as he applied for 175 jobs with no success until Head Coach Rocky Ward at New Mexico State hired him as the Aggies’ pitching coach in 2011.

Evans FAXed a copy of a letter to Collegiate Baseball that Bellevue President Mary Hawkins sent to him on Sept. 20, 2013 that stated: “Dear Mr. Evans. After reviewing the facts and the circumstances leading to the 2009-10 forfeiture of the Men’s Baseball season, Bellevue University has concluded that you properly directed university staff to obtain a Release from a transferring student’s university.

“However, the staff failed to obtain the Release which ultimately resulted in the University to self-report to the NAIA. The University wishes you the best with your future coaching endeavors and thanks you for your past service for over 20 years.”

Evans said in a release that he was thrilled with the financial settlement outcome from Bellevue.

“What I am not thrilled with is the fact that we lost our season,” said Evans.

“It still haunts me every day that our season was taken away from my players who gave their blood, sweat and tears for each other and their dreams of becoming the next national champion for Bellevue University.”

To read more about Coach Mike Evans’ 3-year battle to clear his name, purchase the February 21, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Craig Keilitz Named New ABCA Director

Craig Keilitz Named New ABCA Director

Craig Keilitz 2013 ABCAMT. PLEASANT, Mich. — Craig Keilitz has been named the new Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association after a lengthy national search.

Currently the Vice President for Athletics at High Point University, he will be the fifth full-time executive director for the ABCA, an organization now in its 70th year of existence.

Dave Keilitz, Craig’s Hall of Fame father, announced that he will step down as Executive Director of the ABCA in June. He has served with distinction in that capacity for the last 20 years.

Craig will take over on July 1.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with our selection,” said Mark Johnson, chairman of the ABCA Selection Committee.

“We had some outstanding people apply for the job, and the committee feels that Craig is the perfect person to lead us. We started the process last June at the College World Series in Omaha.

“Applications for the job were open for 90 days, and our committee had a tough decision to make. Craig brings some impressive qualities to the job.”

Craig said he is thrilled to be the new executive director of the ABCA.

 “I am honored and humbled to be chosen by the selection committee,” said Keilitz. “I am going into a great situation with a great staff. I can’t wait to get started July 1.”

Ron Wellman, athletics’ director at Wake Forest, and Keilitz’s boss for a number of years, felt the ABCA hit a home run with their selection.

“Craig is an exceptional person and a rising star in college administration,” said Wellman.

“He is so upbeat and positive about everything and has a tremendous work ethic. Craig’s connections in amateur baseball and professional baseball are impressive. He will be an outstanding leader for the ABCA.

“When he was at Wake Forest, he was instrumental in every success we had. He was a leader who was respected and trusted by all of our staff members.”

Dave Keilitz, the ABCA’s outgoing executive director, said: “Craig has all the skills and experiences to take over the ABCA Executive Director position. We will continue to have a great organization to the highest degree without missing a beat.”

Under Craig’s guidance, High Point has upgraded facilities, added two sports, upgraded staff positions in all areas and increased resources to be competitive with the top schools in the Big South. 

Under Keilitz’ leadership, High Point Athletics has undergone a complete evaluation of all aspects of the department and its various programs with goals of operational efficiency, extraordinary service and championship performance.

In the past five years, High Point has won nine conference championships in the regular season or tournament. The Panthers finished third in the Big South Sasser Cup all-sports standings each year under Keilitz’s watch. Prior to that, HPU had never finished higher than fourth.

An energetic and enthusiastic leader, Keilitz’s first major project was a $2 million renovation of the interior of the Millis Athletic Center. The project included a new playing floor, all new chair-back seats throughout the arena, a fourth video board, a new center-hung scoreboard and state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

Upgrades have continued with a new volleyball locker room in 2009, a new men’s and women’s basketball office suite in 2010 and new men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms in 2012.

Craig’s fundraising skills are the envy of many in collegiate athletics. He increased Panther Club income from $180,000 in 2007-08 to $1.9 million in 2012-13.

Facility improvements funded through the Panther Club include:

  • $10 million Athletic Performance Center currently under construction.
  • Improvements to Williard Baseball Stadium, including new outdoor batting cages and bullpen, new multimedia video board with sound system, video webstreaming with three cameras for every game.

When he was at Wake Forest from 1996-2008, he had direct supervision of marketing and promotions, media relations, ticketing, operations and event management and facilities. He ultimately became Associate Athletics Director.

Craig was a member of the executive team that managed the $48 million Deacon Tower football facility construction project that included a new press box, luxury suites, club seating and a restaurant.

Wake Forest set football attendance records five times in seven seasons of oversight by him.

Keilitz has been active at the conference and national levels. He was named to the NCAA Div. I Championship/Sports Management Cabinet in 2012 and is on six different Big South committees, including chair of the men’s soccer committee.

Keilitz started his career in college athletics at the University of Michigan in 1993 and was promoted to Director of Compliance in 1995.

A native of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., Keilitz earned his bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in marketing from Central Michigan University in 1991.

He was a member of the Chippewas’ baseball team as an outfielder. Keilitz received his master’s in sports administration from Ohio University in 1992.

He resides in High Point, N.C. with his wife Jane, who works as a physician’s assistant at Johnson Neurological Clinic.

2014 High School Pre-Season All-Americans

2014 High School Pre-Season All-Americans

Louisville Slugger 2014 BannerMichael Rivera Venice HSTUCSON, Ariz. — An all-star lineup of high school players headline the 2014 Louisville Slugger Pre-Season High School All-America baseball team

The players on this list represent not only amazing athletic ability and talent in their respective positions, but they also are among the most sought after players by pro scouts and college recruiters.

The majority of the players have committed to a college and most have received national recognition already. Many were players of the year in their league, region or state and have racked up a number of awards.

For the 18th straight year, Louisville Slugger is sponsoring the High School All-America team. The staff of Collegiate Baseball newspaper selects the team.

First Team
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, TX
Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS, CA
Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS, Jacksonville, FL
Paxton Stover, LHP, Dyer County HS, Newbern, TN
Cobi Johnson, RHP, Mitchell HS, Trinity, FL
Justus Sheffield, LHP, Tullahoma HS, TN
Marvin Gorgas, RHP, East Hampton HS, CT
Jeb Bargfeldt, LHP, Owasso HS, OK
Turner Larkins, RHP, Arlington Martin HS, TX
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian, Coral Springs, FL
Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS, SC
Jonah Patten, RHP, Norwell HS, Ossian, IN
Dylan Cease, RHP, Milton HS, GA
Tyler Frost, RHP, Greenway HS, Phoenix, AZ
Grant Hockin, RHP, Damien HS, LaVerne, CA
Matthew Ruppenthal, RHP, Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy, Orlando, FL
Kevin Steen, RHP, Oak Ridge HS, TN
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego, CA
Brad Bass, RHP, Lincoln-Way Central HS, New Lenox, IL
Trysten Barlow, LHP, Dyer County HS, Newbern, TN
Gentry Fortuno, RHP, Flanagan HS, Pembroke Pines, FL
Spencer Vogelbach, RHP, Oaks Christian HS, Westlake Village, CA
Carson Sands, LHP, North Florida Christian, Tallahassee, FL
Brendan McKay, LHP, Blackhawk HS, Beaver Falls, PA
Alexander Faedo, RHP, Alonso HS, Tampa, FL
Mac Marshall, LHP, Parkview HS, Lilburn, GA
Micah Miniard, RHP, Boyle County HS, Danville, KY
Braden Webb, RHP, Owasso HS, OK
Cole Sands, RHP, North Florida Christian, Tallahassee, FL
Keven Pimentel, RHP, Montverde Academy, Montverde, FL
Garett King, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS, Orange, CA
Brandon Murray, RHP, Hobart HS, IN
Ryan Falls, LHP, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin HS, Chardon, OH
Joe DeMers, RHP, College Park HS, Pleasant Hills, CA

Alex Jackson, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego, CA
Chase Vallot, St. Thomas More HS, Lafayette, LA
Mike Rivera, Venice HS, FL
Colton Shaver, Jordan HS, Sandy, UT
Michael Blasko, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, NV
Cody Henry, Pensacola Catholic HS, FL
Jakson Reetz, Norris HS, Firth, NE
Benito Santiago, Coral Springs Christian Academy, Coral Springs, FL

Shane Benes, SS, Westminster Christian, St. Louis, MO
Trace Loehr, SS, Rex Putnam HS, Milwaukie, OR
Chandler Avant, SS, Pike Liberal Arts HS, Troy, AL
Madison Stokes, SS, AC Flora HS, Columbia, SC
Brody Westmoreland, SS/3B, ThunderRidge HS, Highlands Ranch, CO
Evan Hanifee, 3B, Turner Ashby HS, Bridgewater, VA
Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Orlando, FL
Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS, CA
Calyn Gremier, SS, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, NV
Dale Burdick, SS, Summit HS, Spring Hill, TN
Evans Bozeman, 1B, Pensacola Catholic HS, Pensacola, FL
Gregory Deichmann, SS/3B, Brother Martin HS, New Orleans, LA
Cole Tucker, SS/2B, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix, AZ
Trevor Ezell, SS, Bryant HS, AR
Ti’Quan Forbes, SS, Columbia HS, MS
Nick Madrigal, SS, Elk Grove HS, CA
Braxton Davidson, 1B, TC Roberson HS, Asheville, NC
Gavin LaValley, 3B/1B, Carl Albert HS, Midwest City, OK
Drew Ward, SS, Leedey HS, OK

Donald (DJ) Peters, Glendora HS, CA
Lane Thomas, Beardin HS, Knoxville, TN
Jon Littell, Stillwater HS, OK
Carl Chester, Lake Brantley HS, FL
Cole Krzmarzick, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, NV
Derek Hill, Elk Grove HS, CA
Clay Casey, DeSoto Central HS, Southaven, MS
Jeren Kendall, Holmen HS, WI
Stone Garrett, George Ranch HS, Richmond, TX
Scott Hurst, Bishop Amat HS, La Puente, CA
Eli Dilday, Francis Howell HS, St. Charles, MO
Beau Jordan, Barbe HS, Lake Charles, LA

Multi-Position Athletes
Michael Gettys, OF/RHP, Gainesville HS, GA
Jack Flaherty, RHP/INF, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, CA
Alex Verdugo, LHP/CF, Sahuaro HS, Tucson, AZ
Jesse McCord, RHP/3B, Spanish Fort HS, AL
Keaton McKinney, RHP/1B, Centennial HS, Ankeny, IA
Adam Haseley, LHP/CF, The First Academy, Orlando, FL
Chris Andritsos, RHP/1B, The Woodlands HS, TX
Dazon Cole, SS/RHP, West Bloomfield HS, Pontiac, MI
Ryan Castellani, RHP/OF, Brophy College Prep, Phoenix, AZ
Grant Reuss, LHP/1B, Cranbrook HS, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Reese Cooley, CF/RHP, Fleming Island HS, FL
Sean Deely, RHP/1B, Archmere Academy, Claymont, DE
Brendan Illies, RHP/C, Puyallup HS, WA
Scott Schreiber, SS/RHP, Kimberly HS, WI
Alex Destino, LHP/OF, North Buncombe HS, Weaverville, NC
Kyle Pate, LHP/OF, Fayetteville HS, AR
Zack Henderson, OF/RHP, Greendale HS, WI
Sam Hentges, LHP/1B, Mounds View HS, Arden Hills, MN

Honorable Mention
Corey Childress, RHP, Fairhope HS, AL
Austin Riley, RHP, DeSoto Central HS, Southaven, MS
Andy Pagnozzi, RHP, Fayetteville HS, AR
Patrick Raby, RHP, Farragut HS, Knoxville, TN
Bradley Schaenzer, LHP, Lake Orion HS, MI
Matt Desomer, RHP, Andrean HS, Merrillville, IN
Jacob Nix, RHP, Los Alamitos HS, CA
John Murphy, P, Gloucester Catholic HS, Gloucester City, NJ
Anderson Deleon, RHP, John Adams HS, Queens, NY
Clark Cota, RHP, Topsail HS, Hampstead, NC
Tyler Stevens, RHP, Rocky Mountain HS, Fort Collins, CO
Tony Romanelli, LHP, Beacon HS, NY
Byron Hood, RHP, Norris HS, Firth, NE
Zach Logue, LHP, Archbishop Moeller HS, Cincinnati, OH
Gus Raglund, RHP, Archbishop Moeller HS, Cincinnati, OH
Zach Engelken, P, Blue Valley West HS, Overland Park, KS
Calder Mikell, RHP, Petal HS, MS
Maverik Buffo, RHP, Spanish Fork HS, UT
Tyler Mondile, RHP, Gloucester Catholic HS, Gloucester City, NJ
Hunter Van Horn, LHP, Jesuit HS, Tampa, FL

Hunter Morris, Paris HS, IL
Ryan McCullers, Jesuit HS, Tampa, FL
Justin Morris, DeMatha Catholic HS, Hyattsville, MD
Vincent Taormina, Silverado HS, Las Vegas, NV
Brewer Hicklen, Huntsville HS, AL
Bryce Carter, Cascia Hall HS, Tulsa, OK
Nic Perkins, Francis Howell HS, St. Charles, MO

Carl Stajduhar, 3B, Rocky Mountain HS, Fort Collins, CO
Nick Dunn, SS, Shikellamy HS, Sunbury, PA
Payton Squier, 2B/SS, Greenway HS, Phoenix, AZ
Jeremy Peterson, 3B/1B, Reno HS, NV
Nick Roark, SS, Broken Arrow HS, OK
Mason O’Brien, 1B, Owasso HS, OK
Kory Young, SS/3B, Rockford HS, MI
Quinn Rawson, 1B, Puyallup HS, WA
Chris Davis Jr., 2B, Oaks Christian HS, Westlake Village, CA
Riley Mahan, SS, Archbishop Moeller HS, Cincinnati, OH
Phil Dickinson, SS, Gloucester Catholic HS, Gloucester City, NJ
Joe Wainhouse, 1B, Kentridge HS, Kent, WA
Brandon McCalla, 1B, Nova HS, Davie, FL
Bryson Brigman, SS, Valley Christian HS, San Jose, CA

Anthony Brocato, Rutgers Prep, Somerset, NJ
Matthew Railey, North Florida Christian, Tallahassee, FL
Nolan Hayward, Mount Saint Charles Academy, Woonsocket, RI
Brian Kiser, Eastwood HS, El Paso, TX
Gage Canning, Ramona HS, CA
Gerrio Rahming, The Rabun Gap School, Rabun Gap, GA

Multi-Position Athletes
Troy Garcia, LHP, Antonian College Prep, San Antonio, TX
Nick Gates, 1B/RHP, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, NV

For statistics and details about the 2014 Louisville Slugger Pre-Season H.S. All-America team, purchase the Jan. 24, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball newspaper by CLICKING HERE.