By STEVE KRAH
Don’t focus on what they’re doing wrong.
Figure out a way to do it the right way.
That was one of the messages at the monthly Cubbies Coaches Club hosted by the South Bend Cubs Performance Center.
When the shortstop boots a grounder or a catcher throws a ball a mile over the second baseman’s head, it’s easy to see that was a mistake.
“Everybody understands what you’re doing wrong,” Performance Center director Mark Haley said. “The hard part is getting it right.”
The key question for the player is: What should I have done?
Getting to players at the youth and high school levels to understand that is important.
Having that message delivered in a civil manner is also very helpful.
Veteran coach Jeff Buysse, father of Performance Center hitting and catching instructor and South Bend Washington High School head coach Doug Buysse, tells a story about former Washington coach Ric Tomaszewski to prove the point.
“T-6” was appearing at a coaches clinic in Illinois that had the coaches attempting to hit balls off the tee.
“They’re knocking the tees over,” Jeff Buysse said of a session led by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “All of a sudden I hear that voice that I’ve heard so much: ‘STOP! Did you guys not listen to a word I said?’ His veins are popping out. He’s pacing and saying things like ‘Did you guys not listen?’ Then he stopped and asked, ‘Did that feel good? Is that going to make you better at hitting the ball off the tee?’”
So instead of yelling at the 10-year-old that is having trouble doing the same thing or some other baseball activity, calmly point out the correct way of doing it and don’t leave them cowering in fear.
If the kid can play loose, he’s more likely to play with a spring in his step.
It’s energy that coaches want to see from players.
Haley and Doug Buysse were catchers as players and see that energy is especially critical behind the dish, where you can’t take a pitch off or it becomes costly to the whole team.
“The guy that has the high energy and takes change are the guys who will get a chance (at the pro level),” Haley said. “Everybody watches them and they create energy.”
Hyper guys can good catchers.
“It’s amazing how that just plays into the cards for him,” Haley said. “He’s got everything covered. He never gets bored.”
Buysse, who was a receiver at Washington and Saint Joseph’s College, wants a spark plug for a catcher.
“The kid that’s the loudest, that’s the one I want behind the plate,” Doug Buysse said.
At Washington, Buysse expects his players to be selfless, selling out for their teammates, and to bring energy.
“That’s what you are supposed to bring everyday and we have an energy target,” Doug Buysse said. “Most days we lose.”
Haley, who spent 23 seasons as a coach or manager on the player development side of professional baseball including 10 as manager of the South Bend Silver Hawks (2015-14), now coaches travel teams in the I-94 League. He wants to win, but the emphasis is placed elsewhere.
“It’s about teammates, relationships, responsibility,” Haley said.
The goal for Haley and company is lifting the level of baseball in the area and will lend a hand to any player or coach trying to do things the right way. Attending CCC sessions or having days with leagues or teams are a few ways to make this happen.
“We’ll help as much as we can,” Haley said.
Making relationships at the next level is helpful and Doug Buysse takes his Washington players to a Notre Dame game every year. The players and parents get to see the difference between high school and NCAA Division I talent.
One question was posed by a Little League coach about playing multiple positions.
The consensus: Don’t lock yourself in so early when they are still learning the game. Even well-established players will change positions. Haley pointed out that Buster Posey transitioned from shortstop to catcher.
Doug Buysse remembers that when he coached JV baseball and asked each player their position. Pitcher and shortstop was the response each time.
“They can’t all be that,” Doug Buysse said. “Pick something else.”
Even though that team didn’t win too many games, players bought into the always-hustling mentality and sprinted out to the foul line after each game and awaited Buysse’s post-game remarks.
The next Cubbies Coaches Club meeting is slated for Tuesday, March 21. RSVP at least a week in advance to Doug Buysee at firstname.lastname@example.org.