April 28, 2016
By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — One of the greatest high school baseball coaches in history is Sammy Blalock, skipper at Rancho Bernardo High School (San Diego, Calif.).
Blalock recently picked up his 900th career victory when the Broncos beat Eastlake, 13-2 during the 66th annual Lions Tournament in San Diego. His overall record in 41 years of coaching on the high school level is 900-321.
Only two other high school baseball coaches in California history have surpassed 900 wins – El Segundo’s John Stephenson (1,059) and Rancho Cordova’s Guy Anderson (927).
Nationally, 26 coaches have reached the 900 win plateau.
Blalock started his coaching career in 1975 at Mount Carmel High School where he won 300 games, nine league titles and four San Diego section championships.
He left in 1990 to coach at Rancho Bernardo where he has led teams to 22 league titles and 12 section championships.
He has sent numerous players to professional baseball, including first-round draft picks Billy Beane, Cole Hamels, Danny Putnam, Allan Dykstra, John Drennen, Matt Wheatland, Scott Heard, Jamie Jones, and Alex Jackson.
Blalock gave a succinct answer as to why he has been such a successful coach for so many years.
“We have 5 simple steps to having a successful baseball season,” said Blalock.
“First, always do your best, no more and no less. Keep in mind that your best will never be the same from one moment to the next. Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best.
“Second, embrace failure because no excuses are needed. Failure is a big part of baseball, so learn to deal with it. Part of being your best is accepting your mistakes and learning from them. Fear not failure. Have awareness, learn from your mistakes and move on. Excuses after failures only delay your learning.
“Third, focus (mental toughness). Focus on things you can control. Control of emotions allows for control of behavior. Practice like you perform. Perform like you practice. We try to focus in on today. Somebody asked me about my career. I responded that all a career embodies is a bunch of days. Have a good day today and work on what you need to do today, and your career will be an accumulation of many good days.
“It’s important to get this concept across to our kids. Don’t worry about last week when you were 1-for-20. Let’s look at today and be as good as we can be. Focus is what you have control of and what you don’t have control of. So do your best to control what you can whether that be emotions that need to be corrected as you take a deep breath and relax or whether you need to kick yourself in the butt and pick yourself up because you’re down.”
Blalock gave a vivid example concerning pitcher pickoff plays.
“If a pitcher is on the field working on reading pickoff signs and executing a pickoff play, all of our other pitchers are on the side watching and simulating in their heads what they need to do. While one player is utilizing his thought process and physical skills, every other pitcher is doing that in their minds.
“This technique works incredibly well. Instead of one pitcher or player just getting a few opportunities to perform a skill during practice, everyone gets numerous chances through this system.”
Blalock said the fourth major area is the team.
“We want kids to focus on our team and not what the other team does. I have seen that happen way too often when teams get wrapped up with what other teams are doing. So we want to focus on our team.
“Treat others the way you want to be treated is also important. Together everyone achieves more. It’s always we before me. Concentrate on our team, not the opposition. The outcome of the game is firmly in our hands, not in the other team’s.
“Fifth, Play Ball. Enjoy the process of playing and improving your skills. Have fun playing the game. Treat the game with respect, and the game will respect you. I learned this from former UCLA Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden years ago. He was really an inspiration to me as a coach because I coached basketball at one time as well. He firmly believed that players needed to have fun during the course of the game and learn to focus on the game while enjoying it.”
To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the April 22, 2016 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.
Blalock also delves into the offense of philosophy of Rancho Bernardo which features an aggressive approach with little bunting, how his players develop skills during a precise organizational program throughout the year, his unique training session that teaches players how to play the game offensively and defensively and how everyone can contribute by maximizing their best skills.
Plus, Blalock explains why getting the front foot down early prior to hitting a pitch may not be the best approach, how the knob of the bat and back knee work together, and finding one or two simple hitting adjustments that will help each offense player.
An extremely talented surfer, he also talks about his run-in with a crocodile in Costa Rica.