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NCAA Div. I Pre-Season All-Americans

NCAA Div. I Pre-Season All-Americans

PrintTUCSON, Ariz. — The 2014 Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-Americans were announced which feature a remarkable mix of talented NCAA Division I baseball players across the USA.

The teams, chosen by Collegiate Baseball, feature five starting pitchers with a combined 2.07 ERA. LHP Carlos Rodon of N.C. State struck out a nation-leading 184 batters last season and is the projected National Player of The Year in 2014. He also is projected to be the first player chosen in next June’s Free Agent Draft.

RHP Thomas Eshelman of Cal. St. Fullerton set an all-time NCAA Division I record with only 3 walks allowed over 115 2/3 innings. He also ranked first in the nation in strikeout to walk ratio (27.67) with 83 strikeouts.

UCLA Closer David BergUCLA closer David Berg set an NCAA Division I record last season with 24 saves. He also posted 7 wins and had a 0.92 ERA in 51 appearances. Mississippi State’s Jonathan Holder had 21 saves last season and a 1.65 ERA in 34 appearances with 90 strikeouts and 17 walks over 54 2/3 innings. Closer Nick Burdi of Louisville has a 101 mph fastball which allowed him to strike out 62 batters over 35 2/3 innings.

The first team offense features power, line drive hitters, speed and a number of talented defensive athletes. C Kyle Schwarber of Indiana led first teamers with 18 homers. OF D.J. Stewart of Florida St. had 25 doubles and 59 RBI. SS Trea Turner of N.C. State swiped 30 bases.

For complete stats of all 2014 Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-Americans, CLICK HERE.

First Team
RHP Aaron Nola (Louisiana St.)

LHP Carlos Rodon (N.C. State)
RHP Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt)
RHP Thomas Eshelman (Cal. St. Fullerton)
RHP Justin Garza (Cal. St. Fullerton)
Relief David Berg (UCLA)
Relief Jonathan Holder (Mississippi St.)
Relief Nick Burdi (Louisville)
C Kyle Schwarber (Indiana)
1B Casey Gillaspie (Wichita St.)
2B Ross Kivett (Kansas St.)
3B Dustin DeMuth (Indiana)
SS Trea Turner (N.C. State)
OF Michael Conforto (Oregon St.)
OF Bradley Zimmer (San Francisco)
OF D.J. Stewart (Florida St.)
UT Clinton Freeman (East Tennessee St.)

Second Team
RHP Trent Thornton (North Carolina)

LHP Ryan Kellogg (Arizona St.)
LHP Harrison Musgrave (West Virginia)
RHP Andrew Moore (Oregon St.)
LHP Bryan Radziewski (Miami, Fla.)
RHP Andrew Morales (U.C. Irvine)
RHP Luke Weaver (Florida St.)
RHP  Zech Lemond (Rice)
LHP Matt Imhof (Cal Poly)
RHP Karson Whitson (Florida)
RHP Scott Baker (Ball St.)
LHP Ben Wetzler (Oregon St.)
Relief Ryan Thompson (Campbell)
Relief Ryan Burr (Arizona St.)
C Mark Zagunis (Virginia Tech.)
C Grayson Greiner (South Carolina)
1B Sam Travis (Indiana)
1B Connor Spencer (U.C. Irvine)
2B Conor Brown (James Madison)
3B Joey Pankake (South Carolina)
SS Alex Bregman (Louisiana St.)
OF Skye Bolt (North Carolina)
OF Dylan Davis (Oregon St.)
OF/1B Mike Papi (Virginia)
UT Drew Reynolds (East Carolina)

Third Team
RHP Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina)

RHP Brandon Finnegan (Texas Christian)
LHP Cole Irvin (Oregon)
LHP Garrett Cleavinger (Oregon)
RHP Daniel Gossett (Clemson)
LHP P.J. Conlon (San Diego)
RHP James Kaprielian (UCLA)
RHP Tommy Lawrence (Maine)
LHP Joey DeNato (Indiana)
RHP Dan Savas (Illinois St.)
RHP T.J. Renda (Alabama St.)
Relief Scott Schultz (Oregon St.)
Relief Trace Dempsey (Ohio St.)
Relief Jake Matthys (Kansas St.)
Relief Ross Mitchell (Mississippi St.)
Relief Matt Troupe (Arizona)
Relief Brian Miller (Vanderbilt)
Relief Travis Stout (Jacksonville St.)                                                    
C Brett Austin (N.C. State)

C Conor Joe (San Diego)
1B Cole Lankford (Texas A&M)
1B Zach Stephens (Tennessee Tech.)
1B Jacob Hoyle (Western Carolina)
2B Jason Blum (S.E. Missouri St.)
3B Alex Blandino (Stanford)
3B Taylor Sparks (U.C. Irvine)
3B Chesny Young (Mercer)
SS Aaron Attaway (Western Carolina)
SS Tyler Vaughn (Troy)
SS Luke Tendler (North Carolina A&T)
OF Brandon Downes (Virginia)
OF Derek Fisher (Virginia)
OF Matt Shortall (Texas-Arlington)
OF Michael Bishop (Jacksonville St.)
OF Caleb Adams (La.-Lafayette)
UT Josh Dezse (Ohio St.)
UT Ashton Perritt (Liberty)
UT A.J. Reed (Kentucky)

From USC Superstar To Secret Service

From USC Superstar To Secret Service

Bill Bordley Slider Photo Photo by Melanie BurfordBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From Jan. 3, 2014 Edition)

LOS ANGELES — Bill Bordley is one of those unique individuals who should have a motion picture made of his life.

He not only was of the greatest pitchers in college baseball history at the University of Southern California.

But he then became a Secret Service agent for the U.S. government as he protected Presidents and now serves as Major League Baseball’s Vice President of Security & Facility Management. He is responsible for directing all of the league’s security and facility management policies, procedures and programs.

Bordley’s story begins as a high profile prospect in high school with a rocket for an arm.

He started gaining national attention as a junior at Bishop Montgomery H.S. (Torrance, Calif.) in 1975 as he posted a 16-1 record with 14 complete games. He struck out 176 batters in 115 2/3 innings.

He was a can’t miss prospect who was coveted by professional baseball scouts because of a 95 mph fastball.

Within the Secret Service, he worked in conjunction with law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide on counterfeit situations that took him to 85 countries.

Bordley also worked on death threat cases and even interviewed Charles Manson who made threats from prison.

In some capacity, he worked for every president from Ronald Reagan to the current Barack Obama administration and was extremely close to the Clinton family as he was on Bill and Hillary Clinton’s detail. He also was assigned to Chelsea Clinton’s detail when she attended Stanford University.

He once testified as a witness for prosecutor Kenneth Starr on the relationship President Clinton had with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

According to The Starr Report, which was submitted to Congress and later published as a book, Bordley said he stopped Lewinsky outside the Oval office in late 1995 or early 1996 because she did not have her pass.

President Clinton opened the Oval office door, indicated to Agent Bordley that Lewinsky’s presence was all right, and ushered her into the office. Bordley saw Lewinsky leave about a half an hour later. That was the extent of his testimony on their relationship. But the sexual affair nearly destroyed the Clinton presidency.

To read more about the amazing life of Bill Bordley, purchase the Jan. 3, 2014 College Preview edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

2014 Top Draftable College Baseball Players

2014 Top Draftable College Baseball Players

Jeff Hoffman East Carolina ActionBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From Jan. 3, 2014 Edition)

TUCSON, Ariz. — The following is a list of college players who have an excellent chance of being drafted in the first two rounds of next June’s Free Agent Draft with a good season.

The list was made after consulting with college baseball coaches across the nation along with scouts.

LHP Carlos Rodon
The heavy favorite to be the No. 1 pick overall in the 2014 draft, Rodon has put together a remarkable career at N.C. State.

This chiseled 6-foot, 234-pound southpaw pitcher has carved up opposing hitters for two seasons with the Wolfpack after being chosen in the 16th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 out of Holly Springs H.S. (Holly Springs, N.C.).

The development of Rodon as been something to behold after N.C. State pitching coach Tom Holliday began working with him.

As a freshman at N.C. State, he punched out 135 (third in the nation) as he posted a 9-0 record in 2012 to become the first freshmen in Atlantic Coast Conference history to earn conference Pitcher of The Year honors.

Last season, he struck out 184 batters and averaged 12.51 strikeouts per game to rank No. 1 in both categories.

SS Trea Turner
Turner is an electric player with plus speed as demonstrated by his 6.25 speed in the 60.

Overall, he is the N.C. State’s best hitter and a fabulous defensive player as well. Turner is expected to be one of the first three picks in the entire 2014 draft because of his amazing skills.

Last season for N.C. State, he hit .368 with 7 homers, 13 doubles and 42 RBI.

He also swiped 30 of 36 bases.

RHP Jeff Hoffman
East Carolina
Hoffman had a tremendous summer as the top prospect last summer in the Cape Cod League and is expected to be a high draft pick next June.

His fastball ranges from 93-98 mph and has a power curve and slider with a good changeup.

Last season for East Carolina, he was 6-7 with a 3.20 ERA and struck out 84 batters with 39 walks over 109 2/3 innings.

RHP Aaron Nola
Louisiana St
Nola earned first team All-American honors and the Pitcher of The Year award in the SEC last season.

He posted a 12-1 record, 1.57 ERA and struck out 122 batters with only 18 walks over 126 innings.

Nola is a big time righthander who is expected to go high in the draft.

RHP Tyler Beede
Beede had a superb season one year ago for the Commodores as he posted a 14-1 record, 2.32 ERA and fanned 103 batters with 63 walks over 101 innings.

He was a first round pick during the 2011 draft.

OF Bradley Zimmer
San Francisco
The Cape Cod League MVP, he had a superb season one year ago for the Dons as he hit .320 with 7 homers, 12 doubles and 37 RBI.

He also swiped 19 bases.

Zimmer is expected to be a high first round pick.

C Kyle Schwarber
The 6-foot, 235-pound Schwarber put up incredible offensive numbers last season for the Hoosiers.

He hit .366 with 18 homers, 10 doubles and knocked in 54 runs.

OF Derek Fisher
Fisher is a superb athlete who has improved his plate approach and has greatly improved his defensive skills.

He has excellent power and speed.

Last season, Fisher hit .293 with 7 homers, 12 doubles and knocked in 48 runs.

RHP Nick Burdi
Burdi flashes a 98-101 mph fastball for the Cardinals.

Last season, he posted 16 saves with a 0.76 ERA and fanned 62 batters in 29 appearances with only 13 walks.

OF Michael Conforto
Oregon St
An incredible defensive outfielder, the reigning Pac-12 Player of The Year not only threw out two runners at home on fly balls to the outfield during the 2013 College World Series.

But he made a diving catch on another occasion and then made the defensive play of the 2013 CWS as a deep fly ball was hit to left field by Mississippi State’s Wes Rea.

On a full sprint, he reached out with his glove and barely caught the ball inches from the outfield wall and then crashed into it.

Offensively, he hit 11 homes, 14 doubles and knocked in 47 runs.

Collegiate Baseball has a rundown on 50 more top college baseball players who are expected to be high draft picks in next June’s Free Agent Draft. Read about all of them in the Jan. 3, 2014 College Preview edition of Collegiate Baseball which is now on sale. To obtain a copy, CLICK HERE.

The Amazing Story Of Carlos Rodon

The Amazing Story Of Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon 4C NC State action 2013 CWSBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From Jan. 3, 2014 Edition)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Sometimes the process of becoming a superstar is as intriguing as the remarkable numbers that are turned out by these athletes.

Example A is Carlos Rodon of N.C. State who is the heavy favorite to be the No. 1 pick overall in the 2014 Major League Baseball Free Agent Draft next June.

This chiseled 6-foot, 234-pound southpaw pitcher has carved up opposing hitters for two seasons with the Wolfpack after being chosen in the 16th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 out of Holly Springs H.S. (Holly Springs, N.C.).

The development of this young man, who has hit 101 mph with his fastball, has been something to behold after N.C. State pitching coach Tom Holliday began working with him.

As a freshman at N.C. State, he punched out 135 (third in the nation) as he posted a 9-0 record in 2012 to become the first freshmen in Atlantic Coast Conference history to earn conference Pitcher of The Year honors.

Last season, he struck out 184 batters and averaged 12.51 strikeouts per game to rank No. 1 in both categories.

When Rodon arrived at N.C. State in the fall of 2012, he was hardly the finished product he is now.

“When Carlos came here, he simply didn’t throw enough strikes,” said Holliday.

“He wanted to throw 190 mph with his fastball, and he didn’t understand the vital importance of command. We made several mechanical adjustments as we shortened his stride and made his mechanics more compact. All of a sudden, the light went on. He learned that he didn’t have to reach all the way back and strike out everybody.”

Holliday said that Rodon was asked to pick his 4-seam fastball or 2-seamer to simplify the strike throwing process as a freshman. He picked the 4-seamer as he became a strike throwing machine.

The rest of the in-depth story on the development of Carlos Rodon can be obtained by purchasing the Jan. 3, 2014 College Preview Edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Torture Chamber Of Jobs Were Tough

Torture Chamber Of Jobs Were Tough

Steve Naemark MugBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From Jan. 3, 2014 edition)

DOUGLAS, Ariz. — Life can be brutally unfair. Just ask Steve Naemark, sophomore lefthanded pitcher for Cochise College in Arizona.

The reigning Most Outstanding Pitcher at the JUCO World Series last spring who posted a nation-leading 11 wins for the Apaches, is the poster child for never giving up on a dream.

Naemark was a superb pitcher at Mountain View High School in Tucson, AZ and pitched for the Chicago White Sox scout team under Coach Bryan Huie.

He was ultimately offered several college scholarships and accepted one from Central Arizona Junior College. That’s where his torturous journey began.

“I graduated from Mountain View H.S. in 2008, and in July of that year, I was ready to go to Central Arizona after I was awarded a scholarship,” said the 23-year-old Naemark.

“I even put a housing deposit down with the school and told other schools thanks for their offers, but I had committed to Central Arizona.

“Then I got a call from one of their coaches about a month before attending school. He informed me that I would in all likelihood be a bench guy, and they didn’t see me fitting into their plans. He encouraged me to reconsider other offers from other colleges at that point. Naturally, I was shocked at receiving this call so late in the process since I had not thrown even one pitch during the fall or attended one class.”

Naemark’s life was thrown into turmoil after this bombshell was dropped on him.

“My parents then encouraged me to walk on at Pima Community College (in Tucson). But I frankly didn’t like the idea of walking on when I felt I had earned a scholarship to play baseball in college. I briefly attended Pima in the fall of 2008, but failed three classes because I wasn’t motivated and dropped out.

“I signed up for the men’s league in Tucson that fall but stopped playing after two games because I didn’t have the drive to play any more and was totally depressed about life.

“From that point, I went into a stagnant stage in my life. My parents supported me, but they never allowed me to sit around. So I began working at a series of dead-end jobs which helped bring in money for the family.

“First, I worked at Taco Bell for two years. Then I worked at a call center called AFNI for a year. I fielded calls for nine hours a day with a ½ hour lunch allowed. It was horrible because you worked on billing issues with people.

“Then I worked at Eegees (a Tucson fast food establishment) for six months and then worked at McDonalds for another 7-8 months. At McDonalds, I did everything there except bookkeeping as I flipped burgers and made fries to cleaning up messes on tables. The worst job I had there was cleaning the tubes in the playground for kids who slid through. Being 6-foot-2, it was hard on the knees.

“But McDonalds was a steady job as I worked the 4 a.m.-1 p.m. shift, and it was close to home.”

In the four years since graduating from Mountain View High School, he didn’t even pick up a baseball because of the bitter taste he had for the game he once loved.

To read more about how Steve Naemark overcame four years of torture from dead end jobs to become an elite junior college pitcher, purchase the Jan. 3, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Temple Administrators Vote To Ax Baseball

Temple Administrators Vote To Ax Baseball

Temple LogoPHILADELPHIA, Pa. — In a surprise move, Temple University’s Board of Trustees voted in early December to eliminate seven intercollegiate sports, including the school’s history-rich baseball program, effective July 1, 2014.

Athletic Director Kevin Clark made the recommendation to the board and the move has caused some anger among both students and alumni of the baseball program.

“It was just unbelievable,” Matt Hockenberry, a senior pitcher and team captain, told www.phillynews.com

“In my entire tenure here, I would have never thought that a program like this, with the history it has had, would ever have something like this happen to it.”

School officials cited the need to boost funding for the remaining sports and become more competitive in the new athletic conference it joined this summer.

Many sports facilities need to be upgraded and Title IX considerations also were other reasons given for the move.

The cuts will save more than $3 million of the athletic department’s $44 million budget.

Temple’s baseball program began in 1907 and became a varsity sport in 1927.

The program has sent 15 players to major league baseball, including the late catcher John Marzano, infielder Jeff Manto, pitcher and once time Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, and outfielder Bobby Higginson, who hit 187 homers in 11 seasons with the Detroit Tigers.

The Owls are currently coach by Ryan Wheeler and were looking forward to building a brighter future. Temple moved to the American Athletic Conference and the baseball team is scheduled to play its season at Campbell’s Field in Camden, home of the Camden Riversharks.

The team finished 18-28 last season, but had some impressive wins, such as a 7-3 victory over Virginia Tech, and was hoping to improve further this season.

The cuts will affect 150 student-athletes (non-seniors) and 9 full time coaching positions. Players will be given an opportunity to transfer.

NCAA Approves Flat Seam Baseball

NCAA Approves Flat Seam Baseball

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee approved the use of flat seam baseballs for the Division I championship starting in 2015 which should add more offense to the game.

Since BBCOR specification bats have been required with the 2011 season, offensive numbers have plummeted in college and high school baseball.

The poster child for lack of offense took place at the 2013 College World Series as only three home runs were hit in 14 games. It marked the lowest home run total since 1966 — some 47 years ago when only two home runs were hit in 15 games.

The total number of runs scored in the 2013 College World Series was 86 — the lowest total since 1973 which was the last year before aluminum bats and the designated hitter.

From an all-time high of 62 homers at the 1998 College World Series, the numbers have sunk lower and lower with 9 in 2011, 10 in 2012 and 3 in 2013. Numbers the last three years have closely mirrored the wood bat era in college baseball which took place up to the 1973 season.

After several months of testing at the NCAA Bat Certification lab last summer at Washington State University, results showed that the flat seam ball will 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 traveled was 387 feet — 20 feet further.

Overwhelming Support
This ruling came on the heels of an American Baseball Coaches Association vote by NCAA Division I head baseball coaches who were overwhelmingly in favor of adopting the flat seam ball.

“The results were very significant as 87 percent of coaches were in favor of the flat seam ball over the raised seam ball,” said Dave Keilitz, executive director of the ABCA.

“Of the 31 NCAA Division I conferences, a majority of the coaches in 29 of 31 conferences wanted the flat seam ball. One conference saw its coaches split on the issue and the other conference preferred to keep the raised seam ball but only by a majority of one.”

Keilitz said the results of a survey from NCAA Division I coaches one year ago were the polar opposite as a slight majority (55 percent) preferred a flat seam ball at that time.

With home runs and offense going the way of the Dodo bird last season, coaches became more vocal for a change. That is why this dramatic voting change of 32 percent took place.

“I feel the (NCAA Division I Baseball) committee had all of their questions answered. And they respected the wishes of the coaches. So they acted.

“The biggest thing is that the majority of the coaches feel that the home run doesn’t hardly exist any more even if a hitter squares up on a pitch. The majority of the coaches feel the balance of the game needed to be brought back.

“This change will not see significantly more home runs. The home run should be back in the game but not to the extent where it was several years ago before the BBCOR bat started being used.”

The change didn’t have to go through the NCAA Rules Committee, which represents all three divisions — I, II and III, because it isn’t a ball rule change.

“The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee can declare that the flat seam ball will be used for tournament play, and it’s done. Secondly, safety is not a factor because the ball comes off the bat at the same speed whether it is a raised seam ball or a flat seam ball (the drag effect does not take effect until the ball travels a good distance). Third, all the major ball companies (Diamond, Wilson, Rawlings) can easily produce a flat seam ball at no extra cost to the schools.”

For years, NCAA Division I schools have used the raised seam baseball in practices and games since it is the ball being used in post-season NCAA tournament games.

Division I teams will undoubtedly change to the flat seam baseball after the 2014 season concludes.

No testing was done at Washington State on the minor league specification flat seam baseball since neither the NCAA Rules Committee nor the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee has any interest in using it for tournament games at this time with the higher maximum .578 COR performance level.

According to Keilitz, previous testing showed significant differences in the distances balls travel that are approved for college and pro baseball.

“Previous research has shown that a minor league flat seam ball with a maximum COR of .578 hit 300 feet would go 20-25 feet further than a college (raised seam) ball with a maximum COR of .555,” said Keilitz.

That would translate to 26.6 to 33.3 feet further on a ball hit 400 feet with the minor league baseball.

Keilitz said that the cost per dozen for the minor league ball would run more than the college ball. The major league ball would be cost prohibitive to most schools at a cost of over $100 per dozen.

Great For Pro Baseball
Derek Johnson, Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the Chicago Cubs and a highly successful pitching coach for 11 seasons at Vanderbilt, feels a change in balls will be great for pitchers going into pro baseball.

“When pitchers use the flat seam ball in college, there will be no adjustment period at all to the professional baseball (which also is a flat seam baseball),” said Johnson.

“When college pitchers come into pro ball now, there is an adjustment phase getting used to the flat seam ball when it comes to curves since pitchers have been throwing with the high seam baseball for years. It’s a bit different throwing the flat seam ball, but eventually pitchers adjust.”

Johnson believes there will be fewer blisters with pitchers when they transition into pro ball since pitchers won’t try to grip the seams tighter.

Keilitz said that NCAA Division II and III coaches will be notified of the flat seam ball change in the Division I championship and the reasons why so they can vote on whether a change should take place in those championships.

“Usually there is a trickle down effect when Division I makes a change. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change made for the Division II, III, NAIA, and junior college championships. High schools have had a major drop off offensively as well. So they could go to the flat seam ball also.”

Conquering Hidden Fears — The Mind Game

Conquering Hidden Fears — The Mind Game

Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(March 23, 2012 Edition)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The quest never stops for Riverside Community College Head Coach Dennis Rogers.

Over the years this highly successful skipper, who has led the Tigers to four California Community College titles, has brought in people from all walks of life to give his teams an insight into how excellence can be achieved.

His latest fabulous speaker was Alex Honnold, the greatest free solo climber in the world who talked to his team recently about the mental mine field he endures each time he tries to scale the face of a mountain.

Free solo climbing is without question the most dangerous sport in the world and involves scaling massive rock walls virtually straight up without any ropes or protective gear.

Only a few brave people in the world even attempt it.

The remarkable ascent of a free solo climber involves a person with no fear as he utilizes his shoes, fingertips and tremendous mental focus searching out small cracks to grab along the way.

This extreme form of climbing appears to be a suicide mission in waiting.

The rock walls he scales throughout the world are incredibly intimidating.

With this treacherous type of climbing, one slip, one heavy wind gust, one lapse of concentration, and you are history as you fall thousands of feet to a horrible death.

With free soloing, you have no partner, no safety net…nothing.

At the age of 23, the 5-foot-11 Honnold pulled off an amazing feat by scaling the towering northwest face of Half Dome in September of 2008.

This nearly 2,000-foot granite wall towers above Yosemite National Park. And before Honnold free soloed this wall, nobody had ever contemplated doing it before because of the danger.

 To give you a perspective, the height of Half Dome is almost the same as the Empire State Building in New York City at 102 stories.

And Half Dome is such an imposing vertical climb that attempting to reverse his climb downward was out of the question if he got into trouble. There was only one direction he could go…up.

At one stage of the climb, he actually froze because of the difficulty. But after gaining his composure, he focused intently and climbed his way out of trouble and to the top as he made history.

After seeing The Ascent Of Alex Honnold on “60 Minutes,” Rogers became obsessed with tracking Honnold down to ask him how he is mentally able to climb in this fashion and share this knowledge with his baseball players.

What Rogers found was an engaging personality who mastered climbing in a precision manner.

While baseball players today at a young age don’t practice nearly enough to master skills and instead play game after game on the youth level and on club teams, Honnold trained to climb indoors for about six years before he ever ventured outside to climb on rock walls.

At the age of five, his mother Dierdre Wolownick took him to a climbing gym in Davis, Calif. where he started scaled a wall immediately. At the age of 10, his father Charles Honnold began taking Alex to a climbing gym in Sacramento.

“In talking to Alex, he got mesmerized by learning everything he could about climbing,” said Rogers.

“He wanted to master the inside gym before he ever went outside. Let’s relate this to baseball and how our youth programs work. The way we do things on this level is play game after game without practicing and honing the skills necessary to be better. What Alex did makes perfect sense.

“Let’s teach young kids how to throw, how to field a ball and swing a bat. Let these kids grow and curtail the games until we can master those concepts. That was the big point I took out of Alex Honnold. He mastered what his body was supposed to do. This was over the six year period with body growth, hormone changes and other dynamics before he went and played a ‘game’ on the big mountain.

“You could take a thousand things from Alex and how he learned to climb. You can also relate what he does in life. The problem I have with athletes today is that they are pushed too fast at a young age. So many people believe that greatness must come quick because it’s there. But 99.9 percent of people don’t have this greatness quality. You have to slow down and do things correctly so there is a mastery of what we are doing.”

Rogers was asked how young baseball players can specifically master the mechanics of the sport and how much time he thought it would take.

“Teaching starts with the parents. They help with their kid’s education which is a high priority. But their development in other areas, including sports, is essential as well.

“And parents must learn to slow down the entire process. Get a perspective and take the emotion out of it because your son is five years old. Let him be a kid as well as learn something.

“I feel coaches must be trained better on the youth level as well. Youth coaches must learn not only how to instruct young athletes but understand and communicate what total development means.

“How do you teach winning? You teach winning through development, preparation and all that. I don’t think our current system will change in my life though.”

Rogers said that it was fascinating studying Honnold.

“With a team sport such as baseball, you can be covered up by team dynamics. The rightfielder can have a bad day while the team could do well. And he can be protected from his failures for that day. But in an individual sport such as free solo climbing that Alex does, you are the team psychologist, motivator, nutritionist and so on. You are the whole team. That to me says right there that it takes a lot more mental toughness and mental preparation and recoverability mentally than any team sport scenario.

“The other thing I learned from Alex that was when he learned everything he could about climbing in a gym for six years, he ventured out to the mountain and trained there with ropes. But he learned that if he was going to be a free solo climber, he would not scale the walls of mountains with ropes. So he had to eliminate the fear and thought of falling.”

Passion For Climbing
Rogers said Honnold already had a passion for climbing before he climbed a mountain for the first time even though he put in years of focused practice time to be skilled at his craft.

“With many baseball players, you don’t see this passion emerge until they are 27 or 28 years old. When they have this passion, they don’t question anything. They have a game plan and know it inside out and top to bottom.

“In watching Alex go through the process of free soloing the side of a mountain wall on the ’60 Minutes’ telecast, he analytically studies all the cracks and crevasses as he climbs it with ropes in previous ascents. As he goes up the face of the mountain with ropes, he then makes adjustments and re-climbs it over and over again until he feels that he can free solo it.

“It’s the same in baseball with adjustments. A pitcher is throwing fastballs and then comes in with curves with two strikes. The batter make adjustments. Then the pitcher will counter with adjustments of his own.”

Rogers said when Honnold comes to a point in a climb that becomes extremely difficult, he turns the music off, stops talking to friends and becomes more diligent at the task at hand.

“Then he is able to go to another zone immediately as far as focus. Alex sees something he needs to do and handle, so he zones in and does it. Alex told me he has this innate ability to know when he needs to focus on this higher level and respond to it. He told me when he faces these challenging situations, the adrenaline in his body doesn’t change. Alex has the ability of seeing a problem and doing something about it before it takes place.”

Rogers said it would be remarkable if baseball players could focus at this high level immediately when they needed to without adrenalin coursing through the body at a higher level as the athlete remains calm like Honnold. It would change the dynamics of the game.

After all, a baseball game involves several hundred starts and stops with many players not totally focused at different segments. Rogers said if you compressed a typical game down to only the action involved, it would be about 12 ½ minutes.

“When do we really talk about the mental game in baseball? Who is the mental instructor? How consistently will we work on it? Do you really believe in it, and do you really want to apply it? In our program, we do run mental propaganda. We use Geoff Miller (Atlanta Braves’ team psychologist) individually and collectively with the team. We also use Ken Ravizza’s Heads Up Baseball book. We use Dr. Bill Harrison in regard to baseball vision.

“Most of my staff believes in all of this and executes it. But I’ll be honest with you. We may have 35 percent of the players who are along for the ride. As much as we do it, I feel kids who are there look at it and utilize it during that moment. But I don’t think a high percentage really try to utilize this during games.”

Deliberate Practice
It was brought up to Rogers that the training philosophy of Honnold mirrored an extremely important point that author Geoff Colvin brought to light in his book Talent Is Overrated.

He studied world-class performers in many disciplines and found that practicing in a precision manner on a regular basis for 10,000 hours or 10 years was absolutely essential to their development. This “deliberate practice” where they intensely focus makes them the performers they are.

He also found that there becomes a moment when motivation be-comes internalized, similar to what Honnold has done. Then what he does is his own quest and pursuit. When that happens, it typically isn’t a goal that is driving him. It is because there is something in the activity itself that he finds rewarding. Whatever that comes from is what really separates world-class performers from everybody else.

“You’ve really hit on something. Alex Honnold is the only world-class athlete I have ever met in my life who has devoted the 10,000 hours to refining his talents to pursue excellence. This drive to have intense focus such as Alex has usually starts at a young age. It doesn’t happen in the late 20s or later on in life. Then these kids accumulate all these hours of focused practice.

“When I talked to Alex privately, he doesn’t have a lot of distractions. He has a family in Sacramento and has a girlfriend. He has his van and dresses casually. Even when he spoke to our team, he dressed in mountain clothes. My point is that he eliminates all the things that don’t allow him to do what he wants to do.

“The minds of baseball players are divided. They constantly think about the reaction of their parents, other recruits being brought in, if they will retain their scholarships and things of this nature.

“Alex gets to his greatest mental focus level when he is simply pursuing excellence. So he eliminates all these distractions and keeps his life basic and simple. He has one purpose which is to climb around the world. He always goes back to Yosemite as his checkpoint. Alex finds out how much he has improved and how good he has become. He feels Yosemite is the best place in the world to check himself because of the difficulty involved.

“His talk to our players at Riverside was very revealing. Alex mentioned that he didn’t know if he could play baseball and have to perform on cue over the over again in games. The players got a big kick out of that. If a pitcher fires a pitch, it is either a ball or strike or contact with the bat. But if Alex makes a mistake free soloing on the face of a mountain, he dies. He doesn’t have another option like in baseball.

“It was amazing to hear him say that his heart rate would probably get much higher in baseball facing pitch after pitch. But here he performs the most dangerous sport in the world where you can die with one mistake, and he doesn’t dwell on that. He doesn’t think of the negatives in climbing. Alex only thinks about what he is trying to accomplish on each climb.

“Baseball could definitely learn from him. The environment in baseball is focused on failure. And players are always wondering what they will do if they don’t get a hit or pitch well.”

Self Motivation
Rogers was asked if Honnold told him the age when he became self motivated.

“While he worked at climbing since the age of five, Alex really became passionate about it at the age of 16 when he went outside and started scaling rocks. He knew he could do this because he had the previous training for a number of years and could do it without any fear. That’s been his pursuit since.

“His demeanor and calmness is amazing. He also has drive and ambition that is second to none. That’s how Alex pursues climbing. He doesn’t think of the end result or the accolades. He just thinks about the accomplishment of climbing and where the next challenge is.

“It’s the same with a hitter, fielder or pitcher. A defensive player may be able to field ground balls pretty successfully. But he will only improve when he increases his range by reading the ball better and getting better jumps. How many people are driven to work on gaining better range? That’s why you must encourage people who are driven to stay on that path. If you as the coach are trying to motivate kids on a daily basis, it simply won’t work. Self motivation by the players is crucial.”

Rogers was asked if Honnold is the type of athlete who is focused on what he can’t do well which Colvin said was an integral part of a world-class performer. So many people are undisciplined in practice and only like to do what they can already do well because it is rewarding and feels good.

“He explained that when he gets into a difficult situation where he has a concern, he will go back multiple times with ropes while climbing to figure out how to solve the situation prior to a free solo climb.

“He wants to know where he can put his foot placement better on the mountain wall and if its a technique problem. He is very analytical and has been tested as a genius. His mind works differently than mine. He sees things very differently and deeper than baseball players.

“In the ’60 Minutes’ story, he was telling the interviewer that he was going to go up the face of the mountain at Yosemite in a precise route. If you have ever been to the top of Yosemite, the height is staggeringly high. I have seen the top of this area with binoculars, and I couldn’t tell you how to get there. He had it totally mapped out in his mind, and it was amazing.

“When you see him climb, it is the most stunning thing I have ever witnessed. So I felt it was imperative to learn what he did mentally so I could tap into it and help our baseball players.”

Rogers mentioned that Alex will scale the side of a mountain 7-10 times with ropes and protective equipment to map out his path prior to a free solo climb.

“He has a special journal that he writes information in after he goes on these exploratory climbs. He writes down what route he will take and where his foot placements will be along with rock outcroppings and crevices to grab with his hands. He has maps of everything he climbs.

“It would be just like a hitter keeping a hitter’s journal or a pitcher having a pitcher’s journal. By utilizing this journal, he can tweak a climb and make adjustments after so many practice runs with ropes before the free solo climb takes place. He said that once he climbs a mountain several times, he can see the route he wants to take, feel it and anticipate where he will free solo a week before he actually does it.

“In other words, he gets a great visual picture in his mind. Once you get that, things get a lot easier to do. It’s advanced on one level. But on another, it really isn’t. Baseball players who utilize visualization like this have a tremendous edge. Baseball needs to adopt what Alex Honnold has taught us. We simply need to utilize these concepts.

“The nervous system can’t tell the difference between a synthetic experience and an actual physical experience. It’s just a shame we in baseball don’t spend as much time on the mental area as we do on the physical.”

Rents Climbing Gym
Before Honnold came to talk to his players, the skipper at Riverside Community College rented a climbing gym for his players for several hours so they could experience how difficult climbing is.

“It was amazing how the guys just stayed there. Some were a little bit better than what they anticipated. Some guys had fear, but they kept pursuing it and pursuing it. I realized if they understood what Alex had gone through, they would be able to ask him good questions when he showed up.

“We weren’t trying to make them climbers. They needed to understand what he does and embrace greatness.”

Rogers said that players don’t want to hear their coaches talk all the time about excellence.

“So why not have your players hear from great people in their chosen professions? Aren’t you ultimately trying to make your program great?

“One of the things I plan on doing is having our players read chapters in Steve Jobs’ book (written by Walter Isaacson). They will find out about his creativity, his mind and adventures. He was a brilliant guy but not really a great person. But you know what? The great ones are a little whacked anyway.

“They have to be. They are just different. We don’t embrace greatness enough. I am talking about mind greatness or skill greatness. How did they get there?”

Honnold faces extreme challenges while he is free soloing on a climb.

He might experience unexpected rain or be startled after putting his hand in a crevasse with a bat flying out which could cause him to fall.

Maybe poisonous bugs could bite a finger as he grabs a rock outcropping, or he could be hit with unexpected winds.

Alex  must always be prepared for the unexpected during climbs. Baseball players face many unique obstacles during games as well and must be mentally tough to overcome them.

“He has a pretty calm demeanor about him. But I didn’t hear him ever bring negativity into his conversations of doing a free solo climb. If he has to adjust, he will. If there is water there, OK. He has a plan if he does run into wind, heat, bugs and a whole bunch of elements. Anything negative that may happen, he has already played that through his mind. But he doesn’t publicly talk about this. He has been climbing for so long and has a great ability to block these negative thoughts out.

“As far as baseball, wouldn’t it be great if players had the ability to block out negative thoughts? All of us in the game have been trying to answer that question for ages. When negative thoughts come up, how can you eliminate them right there?

“There are very few players who have that ability. The theory has been out there that it might be better to be dumb when you play baseball because you won’t over think situations. I have always felt that is a stupid theory because you always have to think in this sport.

“I have always believed that smart wins in any athletic event. Talent is important.

“There is no question about that. But the smarter the talented individual is, the longer he will sustain his game. I have always felt that if you struggle in the classroom, then you will struggle on the diamond. And history has shown this to be true.

“Alex’s thought process is different than anybody else. His ability to pursue new things and critique himself privately allows him to work at being better in those skills. He pursues his own personal excellence and doesn’t worry about anybody else. Alex is really driven by not being the best but being the most creative. You just don’t find those of people very often.

“There have been very few people in life who have moved me.

“But Alex Honnold did that to me. He was so different, and what he does is an untapped area for baseball. He personifies greatness. And sometimes people are scared of greatness.”

Quadruple Bypass Successful For Andy Lopez

Quadruple Bypass Successful For Andy Lopez

Andy LopezUniversity of Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez continues to do well in his recovery from open heart surgery earlier this month. He has announced a complete and full return to all coaching duties beginning with the start of preseason practices Jan. 15, 2014.

“All of my doctors have assured me that the surgery went very well, and I will fully return to coaching,” Lopez said. “With the doctors’ advice, I will take the rest of our fall practice season off and resume all of my normal coaching duties when we begin preseason practices.”

Lopez, who turns 60 next month, underwent quadruple bypass surgery on Oct. 7 at Tucson Medical Center. He was released and returned home Oct. 11.

“I cannot thank the entire medical team at Tucson Medical Center enough for their care and support through this process,” Lopez said. “I am grateful of the tremendous team effort by everyone involved.

“My primary physician, Dr. Jeffrey Selwyn, got the ball rolling, and I received unbelievable treatment from my cardiologist, Dr. Salvatore Torrito, and my heart surgeon, Dr. Raj Bose. Each of them has said I will be raring to go in January.”

Now in his 13th season with the school, Lopez has led the Wildcats to eight postseason berths, including two College World Series appearances highlighted by the 2012 national championship. He was named Collegiate Baseball’s National Coach of The Year that season.

Lopez has a 1,124-685-7 (.621) in 31 years as a collegiate head coach and is 437-267-1 (.621) in 12 seasons at Arizona.

Wildcat pitching coach Shaun Cole said Lopez experiencing tightness in his back and neck for six weeks. In the week preceding the surgery, he suffered from chest pain.

“Andy then scheduled a doctor’s appointment and went back for additional tests,” said Cole.

“It was determined that surgery was the best option at that point. Andy didn’t suffer any heart attack. Fortunately, doctors discovered the problem before that happened.”

DeRenne Delves Into Bat Control, Accuracy

DeRenne Delves Into Bat Control, Accuracy

Professor/University of Hawaii

HONOLULU, Hawaii — In 1979, I asked two questions that directed my baseball research agenda:  How do you pitch and throw the baseball faster; and how to do the best hitters hit and increase their bat velocities?  

These two questions guided me to the scientific areas of biomechanics, exercise science and visual training. 

My final hitting book, The Scientific Approach to Hitting: Research Explores the Most Difficult Skill in Sport, provides the player and coach with valuable evidence on how to become a better hitter. 

This final article is from this second hitting book.

The book can be obtained from University Readers, www.universityreaders.com   

Bat Control & Accuracy
What is bat control? Can we measure it? Can we increase bat control for better hitting performances? Does bat control relate to accuracy? These questions are very important to all hitters and hitting coaches.

The following published research study gives us some tangible answers.

This study investigated the relationship among hitting components and bat control during the normal and choke-up grip swings.

Fourteen intercollegiate and professional baseball players were randomly assigned into five hitting groups.

Within each group, the following four hitting components were computed to determine the relationship between bat control in two grip conditions (normal; choke-up): (1) Swing time (bat quickness), (2) stride time, (3) bat velocity and (4) bat-ball contact accuracy. 

Results indicated significant differences (p =0.01) between choke-up and normal grips in swing time, stride time and bat velocity. 

Players using the choke-up grip swing had significant less swing time and stride time than the normal grip swing.

Results also indicated significant greater bat velocities (p = 0.01) with normal grip swings than the choke-up grip swings.

In addition, further results indicated no significant differences (p = .90) between choke-up and normal grips in bat-ball accuracy.

These findings suggest that the choke-up grip facilitates faster swing time and stride time without compromising bat velocity or contact accuracy.

To read the entire article, order the Oct. 4, 2013 issue of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.