By STEVE KRAH
Mark Haley worked for decades on the development side of professional baseball.
He was a minor league coach or manager in the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations. His job was to get players ready for the next level. If they continued to develop, they had a chance to land in the major leagues.
He was a manager at Low Class-A South Bend (Ind.) and took the Silver Hawks to the postseason in seven of his 10 seasons (2005-14).
Haley, who now runs the 1st Source Banking Performance Center at Four Winds Field and coaches the South Bend Cubs travel teams, rejects the idea that winning has to be sacrificed for development.
“I’m a firm believer after all my years, I want to develop winners,” said Haley during the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club session Tuesday, Jan. 8. “In the minors, it’s hard because everybody moves. But now, you’re finding that development is great. But develop winners, too.
“They work together.”
What is winning to Haley?
“It’s being able to execute,” said Haley. “It’s being able to get bunts down. That’s going to lead to the ultimate goal of the team because you’re winning at the plate. You’re getting your walks. You’re putting the ball in-play hard.
“We don’t read launch angles. We want bat speed with solid contact.”
Bottom line: Develop winners.
“If you’re in a tournament and you’re in the championship, I’m sorry guys, but the blood’s coming out,” said Haley. “I want to win any way I can. That’s just the way I am.
“It’s fun because we go into another mode. They see that and say, ‘I kind of like this.’”
That leads to the players paying more attention to their skills, maybe taking more cuts or ground balls in practice. They’re understand what it means to be in the right places for the cut-off or running the bases hard.
“But we still have to be socially correct,” said Haley. “There’s a right way to do it. You have to respect your opponent. I’m going to take you out, but I respect the fact that you’re there and competing.
“Watching kids and working with kids, success is so important. We’ve got to figure out ways to make them successful. We teach them they have to earn that and pay the price. Success cannot come too easy. They have to work for it and get rewarded.”
Haley talked about coaching the bases and broke down several situations. He said he spent 45 minutes before each game going over scouting reports and opponent tendencies.
“Nobody talks about it, but coaching third base is a game-winning situation most of the time,” said Haley. “It’s all the little things that a good third base coach does that you don’t even know about.”
It’s important to be able to read the angles on fly balls and realize when you have the advantage and when you don’t.
“The third base coach sets the tone of your offense,” said Haley. “From when he starts from the dugout to third base, I see what kind of team he has by how he handles himself.”
When Haley worked for the White Sox, they insisted that all third base coaches hustle to their position.
“The minute you get to home plate, you run all the way to front of the box,” said Haley. “You’re not going to walk to third base.”
As to location while coaching and giving the sign, Haley said he prefers to be to the right of the pitcher so he is closer to the hitter and can connect with his baserunners.
Body language is also key. Haley doesn’t want to see a third base coach with his arms folded over his chest.
“In the big leagues, they’re the Energizer Bunny. ‘Come on, let’s go!’ They’re always communicating,” said Haley.
After the sign is given, the coach moves the back of the box or beyond to keep from getting smoked by a line drive.
“When giving signs, keep it as simple as possible,” said Haley. “But you do have guys who are masters as picking. I’ll pick up your signs real quick.
“When you do your signs, you have to do at least eight and use both hands and both sides of the body. Do you have to practice in the mirror? Yes.”
Reading where the shortstop and second basemen are with a runner at second base is also the responsibility of the third base coach. He gives verbal signs to the runner to let him know if they can add to their lead or they should be aware of a pick-off throw.
As a third base coach, Haley expects his runner’s to be going all-out and he will tell them when to stop or go. If they don’t go as fast as he expects, they put pressure on him.
With a runner on first base, the responsibility of the first base coach is to tell the runner the number of outs, position of the outfielders, time the pitcher’s delivery to the plate (often with a stop watch).
“Both the third base and first base coaches need to know where the outfielders are,” said Haley. “Because you have to read balls off the bat.”
Haley said a time of 1.2 seconds or faster from the pitcher to the catcher is quick. If it’s 1.5 or slower, it’s a good time to run.
Base coaches can read an outfielder’s throw. If his release is high, it’s likely the throw will go high and miss the cut-off man.
“It’s so important for outfielders — even if they can’t throw — to keep the head high and the ball low because it freezes everybody (on the bases),” said Haley. “You start launching and they’re running.”
And just because the opposing catcher shows a cannon throwing the ball to second base between innings doesn’t mean he can do the same with a batter swinging through the zone interrupting his timing.
“Don’t let the scare you,” said Haley. “Sometimes that’s all show.”
Haley also covered topics like conserving outs, understanding your lineup, scouting your opponent, understanding the opposing manager, controlling an inning and relaying signs.
“You’ve got 27 outs,” said Haley. “Make them count. Don’t give freebies.”
Generally speaking, Haley has to think he has a 75 percent chance of executing to put on a play.
It also helps to read the situation when it comes to bunting.
“If I’ve got a third baseman that struggles, I’m going to wear him out,” says Haley.
Haley really likes to scout the opponent.
“Watch everything that they do,” said Haley. “Watch them play catch and see who has the strong arms out there.”
Opposing managers are creatures of habit.
Haley knew that Ryne Sandberg, when he was managing in the Midwest League, was predictable in many of his moves be it bunt, hit-and-run, pick-off and more.
“Every time he did something and it worked when that situation came around again, he’s going to do it again,” said Haley. “I tell the kids, ‘Watch the game. Didn’t you see it in the second inning, it was the same thing?’ Watch the game. They’ll tip off a lot of things.”
Haley knows his lineup and when he can push things. When he had burner Ender Inciarte with the Silver Hawks in 2010-12, he often batted him in the No. 9 hole and used his speed to put pressure on the opponent.
“I like aggressive teams,” said Haley. “I like to push. You’ll see teams that can’t handle that.”
Controlling the pace of an inning is a Haley speciality.
“The reason they’re having time clocks is because of guys like me,” said Haley. “I can slow the game down unbelievably. ‘How are you 15?’ My bullpen’s not ready yet, so I have to slow this inning down.”
Haley notes that many catchers will drop their fingers when giving signs. If you pick up on that, you can pass that along to your teammates.
“I tell my catcher to change their signs so (the opponent) can’t pick it up,” said Haley.
The South Bend Cubs Foundation is looking to help the needs of the community through baseball. There are various phases: Academy, Cubbies Coaches Club, Prep League (middle-schoolers) and Travel program (high schoolers and possibly college).
“We want to give every kid the opportunity to play even if they may not be able to afford it,” said Haley.
Haley said the ultimate vision of the foundation is to get into all South Bend elementary schools and have two teachers that understand baseball run the program with assistance from volunteers, including area high school and youth coaches .
To learn more about the Cubbies Coaches Club, which meets monthly during the winter months, call (574) 404-3636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Haley managed the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks from 2005-14. Here he hits a fungo before a 2012 game in Lake County. (Steve Krah Photo)
Mark Haley leads the 1st Source Banking Performance Center and the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs Foundation. He spoke to the Cubbies Coaches Club on winning, development and offensive strategy Jan. 8. (South Bend Cubs Photo)