By STEVE KRAH
Denton Sagerman no longer stares down batters or tries to get the baseball past them with his pitches.
But he still has a competitive spirit and he uses it in his roles as Director of Operations/Pitching Development for Indiana University baseball.
“I love competing,” says Sagerman, who started working in Bloomington in August 2018. .”It’s very hard to replicate that once you’re done playing.”
As a right-handed pitcher at the University of Dayton, Sagerman had the ball and could dictate to his opponent.
Now he finds a competitive outlet in the weight room, where he can measure his progress, and in his job.
“In my professional development, I compete,” says Sagerman, 27. “I read about what everybody else is doing. I try to replicate that here and be the best at what I do in the country.
“That’s the goal that motivates me every single day.”
Sagerman’s favorite part of playing was development.
“What are the tools I can use to get better?,” says Sagerman. “I could measure where I was at and show quantitatively where I was going.
“I always wanted to be in a baseball development role.”
What does Sagerman do as a baseball operations man?
“All of the administrative tasks,” says Sagerman. “Everything outside coaching and recruiting.”
He is there to support head coach Jeff Mercer, associate head coach/pitching Justin Parker, assistant coach/recruiting director Dan Held, volunteer assistant Derek Simmons, director of player development Scott Rolen and the rest of the Hoosiers.
Sagerman is responsible for budgeting, scheduling, travel coordination, video breakdown and managing the role of analytics within the program; amongst other general program operations.
Some tools at his disposal include TrackMan, Rapsodo Pitching, HitTrax and WIN Reality (virtual reality).
There plenty of challenges. One example is with budgeting.
“It’s hard knowing what the landscape is going to look like one, two, three years out and the costs that can add up and the things that are unforeseen,” says Sagerman. “There are minute details and you make sure all of those are accounted for in your planning process.”
When IU goes on the road, Sagerman works with a travel agent and sets up a bus company. The driver is given a full itinerary. Staying at the team hotel, the driver is available whenever team members need the bus. When possible, drivers who are familiar with the Hoosiers are requested.
Sagerman assists Parker with pitch design.
“I enjoy working with all the different tools and making the data applicable to players and coaches,” says Sagerman. “As each class comes in they know more about technology. The coaches do a good job of explaining what the data means.
“It’s not just overwhelming them with an Excel sheet of data.”
IU’s Bart Kaufman Field is equipped with a TrackMan video system which allows Sagerman to present postgame reports to pitchers on every single pitch. They can learn many things about the quality of those pitches, including location and effectiveness, and apply that in the future.
“They can see that their slider in the game was 1 mph slower with an inch less horizontal break than they’ve seen in practice or other games,” says Sagerman.
Another way to make pitches better is by finding comparable data from professional pitchers.
On the hitting side, a heat map of the strike zone can be created to show exit velocity and launch angle and a profile is built.
Sagerman says since this information is available to the opponent, they can use it to attack a hitter’s weaknesses.
“As a hitter, I need to train myself to not swing or hit that pitch better,” says Sagerman.
A virtual reality system helps hitters with pitch recognition. They see how quickly they can pick up pitch type and location.
“We do a good job of using utilizing all the different pieces of technology to paint a picture for that specific athlete,” says Sagerman. “I didn’t access to any of this stuff in college. The boom of tech/analytics has come about in the last two or three years.
“It would have helped my career immensely.”
Sagerman has that there is a misconception that with technology comes an infinite outcome. It must be applied correctly to help the user.
Also, limited resources can bring about results. Sagerman was a coach and administrator with the Dayton Classics travel baseball organization. The Classics used a radar gun. Launch angle was measured with strings in the batting cage.
Before coming to IU, Sagerman was Director of Baseball Operations at Wright State University, under head coach Mercer, while focusing on analytics and its use in player development. Before that the graduate of Olmsted Falls (Ohio) High School was employed as an aerospace engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base specializing in Computational Fluid Dynamics as well as a varsity coach at Centerville (Ohio) High School.
Sagerman has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Dayton and a master’s in Sport and Athletic Administration from Gonzaga University.
“My education taught me problem-solving and organizational skills,” says Sagerman. “The engineering, I use on analytics and the pitching side.”
A typical day for Sagerman when the Hoosiers are at home begins with him arriving at the stadium around 7 a.m. for a workout. He then splits his time between operations and pitching tasks.
He answers general emails and communicates with the opposing director of operations.
Sagerman works with IU’s game management staff and he also makes sure the team has the day’s schedule and knows which uniforms to wear. He sees that the pregame meal is set up. He assists the staff in preparing lineup cards.
During the game, he keeps his own scorecard and makes notes. He is also there to make sure everything goes smoothly and is there to get anything needed by the coaches. Monitoring the weather is also part of his job.
After the game, Sagerman runs pitching and hitting reports and gets those to the coaching staff. He also makes sure the team has the schedule for the next day.
“They’re definitely some long days for sure,” says Sagerman.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana played its last game of the 2020 season March 11 (the Hoosiers finished 9-6).
During quarantine time, Sagerman has been working on long-term projects.
“I’m looking for the most efficient processes and to be more organized, efficient and effective,” says Sagerman. “I’m also doing some prep for next year like ordering equipment.”
Denton Sagerman is the Director of Operations/Pitching Development for Indiana University baseball. (Indiana University Photo)