Miguel Menendez’s Amazing Coaching System 1

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

TAMPA, Fla. — Jesuit High School in Tampa is one of the powerhouse baseball programs in the nation led by Head Coach Miguel Menendez.

Jesuit (9-0) was ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30 National H.S. Poll presented by Diamond Pro when spring sports were stopped across the nation because of coronavirus.

The Tigers had been No. 1 in the nation four straight polls.

The Jesuit baseball program has a tradition of excellence that includes five state titles (1994, 1997, 2000, 2014, 2019), dozens of district and region titles and several nationally ranked teams, including the 1997 national champions.

Hundreds of alumni have played baseball collegiately and professionally, including Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Al Lopez, New York Yankee Lou Piniella and current major leaguers Sam Dyson, Joe Hudson, Lance McCullers, Kevin Quackenbush and Shane Robinson.

Menendez is in his sixth year as the skipper at Jesuit H.S. Overall, he has been a head coach 14 years. He previously coached at Key West H.S. (Key West, Fla.).

This special story about Jesuit High School delves into the amazing system that Menendez utilizes to get the most out of his players.

Entering the 2020 season as the No. 1 team in the nation by Collegiate Baseball, his team featured 13 players who committed or signed to play at the NCAA Div. I level, including 8 pitchers.

“For me, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the culture of our program,” said Menendez.

“We get kids from all over Tampa since we are a private school. We always have a summer team comprised of incoming freshmen.

“I coach that team in the summer to get them acclimated and get them up to speed on what we want and expect at Jesuit High School. The expectation of how our program works is important to instill immediately before our incoming freshmen even attend one class.

“An important area I always discuss with the newcomers is how important it is for the players to take ownership of what they do if they expect to get the most out of their experience at Jesuit H.S. during the next four years.

“We want them to play an active role and not have me or my coaching staff lead them. They will have a plan and do things on their own to get better. That is a big thing with our kids.

“They not only work hard when they are with our baseball program. But they work hard on their own outside the program. All of this allows them to improve and get better.

“We make them understand that to get to the level they want to be at, working hard at their skills is important, and they need to drive that work ethic.”

Few varsity head high school coaches across the USA dedicate their time working with incoming freshmen like Menendez does because frankly they are tired after working with the varsity the previous fall and spring. They need time off to refresh their batteries.

Not Menendez.

“We won the 6A Florida state title on a Friday in 2019. Then we started freshman tryouts three days later on Monday. I had a couple of days off.

“But coaching baseball is something I love to do. I don’t coach the varsity team or travel teams during the summer. I want to be with our incoming freshmen. Getting a chance to meet those new guys is invigorating to me.

“The freshmen play in a league which has county schools involved. It is a JV level league. So other teams play with their JV squads. There are usually only one or two other schools who strictly use their freshmen like us. It’s a good challenge for our guys because they are playing against older athletes. 

“I firmly believe it is important for the incoming freshmen to have the varsity head coach working with them at this time.

“They have so many questions on what the system is and how they can improve.

“And for me, I get to know them. We are big on building relationships with players. Guys want to know they can trust you with anything that might come up. They need to know you have their best interests at heart.

“Getting to know the incoming freshmen in a less pressure situation is incredibly helpful for all parties. I obviously get to see what type of players we have who are new to the program. They become more comfortable with the program as they get to know me.

“When our older players in the program see this interaction with the new freshmen and the head coach, they take great pride in helping our younger players grow, improve and mature. We talk about leaving a legacy in our program. It isn’t strictly what you do when you are here. It’s what you leave behind with leadership.

“I love it when our older guys take our younger players under their wings and help them. They see I care about those guys and care about every player in our program from those in our freshmen, JV and varsity teams.

“I am proud of graduates who come back to the program and talk to our guys in the off-season. We are a big family of current and former players. We love our graduates to be around who go on to college or pro baseball.”

To read more of this in-depth story on how Miguel Menendez of Jesuit H.S. (Tampa, Fla.) runs his remarkable program, purchase the April 17, 2020 edition or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It delves into all areas of his program.