Category Archives: College

Jarrett establishing his system for Notre Dame baseball

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Link Jarrett has spent this fall putting in his team system as the new head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Jarrett, who was named to the position July 12, is bringing his Fighting Irish to the end of its first phase of the fall. After this weekend comes a month that is more individual-oriented.

“You’ve got to have a way you do your fly-ball communication, bunt defense, first-and-third, cutoffs and relays, pickoffs and rundowns,” says Jarrett from the dugout at ND’s Frank Eck Stadium. “Those require the whole team. We wanted to make sure on the front of team practice that we implemented those things and the guys understood it.

“As you put those team concepts in play, you start learning your personnel a little bit. We’re very close to really understanding all of that, which I wanted to do by the end of this week.”

Notre Dame plays an exhibition game Saturday, Oct. 19 against NCAA Division II Southern Indiana at historic Bosse Field in Evansville. The game will benefit the fight against Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that affects one in 50,000 people in the U.S.

Sam Archuleta, son of USI head coach Tracy Archuleta, has FA.

Many pitchers are not throwing live right now and won’t make the trip to Evansville. Others will give Jarrett and his assistants (Rich Wallace, Chuck Ristano, Scott Wingo plus director of baseball operations Steve Rosen) a chance to see the program’s culture grow.

“You learn your guys as you are around them,” says Jarrett. “The No. 1 component is how we perform together out here (on the field).

“But getting to know the individuals and trying to figure out personalities and what buttons to push comes through being around them. It comes through time and working at your relationship with them.”

Jarrett sees the relationship with each athlete as an organic thing that grows naturally.

“Learning what they need as players and trying to help them individually, that also helps your relationship building because they know you’re in it for them and for the right reason,” says Jarrett. “We’re trying to find a way to make the team better and win more games. That’s the bottom line.”

The rest of the fall and winter will also include looking at potential recruits from current high school sophomores (Class of 2023) and buttoning up travel budgets and equipment details.

“Once you get back (from Christmas break) and start preseason practice, you really don’t come back up for air until June,” says Jarrett.

A native of Tallahassee, Fla., Jarrett played at Florida State University for American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Mike Martin for four seasons (1991-94 with all but 1993 being College World Series teams) and then five in the Colorado Rockies organization (1994-98).

Jarrett was an assistant coach at Flagler College (1999-2001), Florida State (2003), Mercer University (2004-05), East Carolina University (2006-09) and Auburn University (2010-12) before serving as head coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (2013-19).

Jarrett had an appreciation of Martin while playing and coaching for him and taps into that knowledge now.

“(Martin) gave me an opportunity because I can go on the field and function in his system. I could play the game,” says Jarrett. “I reflect on our (Florida State) teams and we were good, versatile baseball players. You can essentially keep yourself in most of the baseball games if you can pitch and play defense. It started there for us.

“(Martin) was a very good game tactician. I’d like to think I took some of that with me.

“You recognize when you’re around somebody who’s very special at what they do. I knew at one point that coaching was a possibility for me so I tried to soak in as much as I could.”

Jarrett says Martin had a knack for putting people in the right spot on the field, managing the game and putting guys on the mound who could function in college.

“It didn’t mean they had the best velocity or had the best draft potential necessarily,” says Jarrett. “But they were people he trusted to go out there and execute pitches and win college games with good baseball players behind them.

“That’s how we played. That’s how we won. I’m trying to do the same thing with our team here (at Notre Dame).

“We’ve got some arms that are experienced and talented. We have not played near good enough defense to compete consistently.

“You can look at the statistics and the ball in play wasn’t handled well here last year. We have to do better.”

As a former middle infielder, Jarrett tends to view the game through the lense of his shortstop and second baseman as well as his catcher and center fielder.

“I put a lot of pressure on our middle guys to run the game,” says Jarrett. “I expect that center fielder to run that entire outfield to take charge and lead.”

Jarrett is grateful to David Barnett (who has 952 career wins) for giving him his start in coaching. As athletic director and head baseball coach at Flagler, Barnett made Jarrett his first-ever full-time assistant and gave him plenty of responsibility with strength and conditioning to field maintenance.

“I learned how to run the entire operation,” says Jarrett. “He didn’t hire a coach. He gambled on hiring somebody who had some good experience as a player.

“(Barnett) taught me how to do some of the things you took for granted as a player. I’m very fortunate Dave gave me a chance to get into it at Flagler. Those were three great years in St. Augustine.”

After a season on Martin’s staff, Jarrett was hired by Craig Gibson at Mercer in Macon, Ga., where he was recruiting coordinator and helped with the field.

Randy Mazey brought Jarrett aboard at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. But about a month into the job, Billy Godwin became his boss.

Jarrett describes Godwin as a hard-nosed baseball person.

“We worked very well together,” says Jarrett. “He’s a pitching coach by trade, but is adept at coaching a lot of different parts of the game.

“He gave me Gave me tremendous flexibility to do what I wanted to do with the offense and with the recruiting.

“In my four years, created a College World Series caliber team.”

After scouting for the New York Yankees, Godwin is now head coach at UNC Greensboro.

“I hope I left him a program that’s in good shape and he’ll enjoy coaching there, too,” says Jarrett.

After Eastern Carolina came the opportunity at Auburn, where John Pawlowski was head coach.

“J.P.’s a good guy,” says Jarrett of Pawlowski. “He’s a very organized leader. He’s very detailed in what he does. He gave me an opportunity to coach in the SEC and I’m very thankful for that.

“Navigating the draft was a tricky thing at Auburn. So many recruits were drafted every year. Sometimes we out-recruited getting them to campus.

“To win the (SEC) West and host a regional was phenomenal.”

Jarrett’s first head coaching gig at UNC Greensboro produced a 215-166 record in seven seasons, including 34 or more wins the past four seasons.

As a minor league player, Jarrett was a teammate of Todd Helton, who went on to play 17 big league seasons and hit .316 with 369 home runs, 1,175 runs batted in while striking out 1,175 times in 7,962 at-bats (or about 15 percent of the time).

“Pitch for pitch, he was the toughest out I’d ever seen,” says Jarrett of Helton. “He may not have been the biggest physically or had not the most power. But his ability to manage at-bats was phenomenal.

“I started to take some of what I watched him do and kind of filed it away knowing that these are things I need to teach as a coach. Some of it was swing stuff that he did, but it was based more on his approach to the at-bat and how he was being pitched.”

Jarrett says Helton had the ability to think through how he was being pitched really well and apply that knowledge during his at-bats.

“What separated him and made him a Hall of Fame-type hitter was his innate ability to pinpoint what he was looking for, focus on it and hit it or take it if it wasn’t within his approach,” says Jarrett. “Had he been less disciplined, he would have hit for less power. He gave himself a chance to get good pitches to hit.

“Putting the ball in play pressures people and Todd was obviously very good at it.”

The way Jarrett’s breaks down the count for hitters, there’s hitting with two strikes and less than two strikes.

“The goal when you get two strikes on you is not to strike out,” says Jarrett. “The goal with less than two strikes is to drive balls and hit balls really hard.

“The strikeout is the worst thing offensively that can happen to you. You’re not putting the ball in play. In the college game, it’s even worse than in the big leagues because the defense isn’t quite as skilled or positioned or talented.”

Link, 47, and Jennifer Jarrett have two children — J.T. and Dawson. J.T. Jarrett is a junior on the North Carolina State University baseball team. Like Notre Dame, the Wolfpack are in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

While on fall break, J.T. was able to see his father and attend the USC-Notre Dame football game this past weekend. Dawson Jarrett is finishing her senior year at Northern Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C.

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Link Jarrett is the head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame. The Florida native comes to northern Indiana after serving as head coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. (University of Notre Dame Photo)

 

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Schreiber looks for Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons to be in ‘overachieve mode’

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

New Purdue Fort Wayne head baseball Doug Schreiber has been defining the culture for his Mastodons.

With the help of PFW assistants Brent McNeil, Ken Jones and Gordon Cardenas, attitude will be at the forefront.

“We’re going to have to be in overachieve mode somewhat,” says Schreiber, who was hired at PFW in July 2019. “We’re going to be looking at players to play a little bit above their skill level.

“To be able to overachieve, you have to have the intangibles. You have to have the proper attitude and outlook. We’re recruiting attitude and that’s going to be a big focus.

“We want to make sure guys understand that having a positive attitude, a maturity level and a passion to play is the foundation of the program with respect, work ethic and trust being some of the cornerstones of what we’re trying to build.”

Schreiber says he makes few guarantees to his players. He doesn’t promise them he’ll add 10 mph to their fastball, get them drafted or even give them a starting position.

“One of the things I think I can guarantee is that if you don’t have the right attitude and the right mindset, you definitely aren’t going to overachieve and play above your skill set,” says Schreiber. “You are probably going to play below your skill set.”

A head coach for 20 seasons in West Lafayette, Ind., — 18 at Purdue University (1999-2016) and two at McCutcheon High School (20018-19), Schreiber knows that Purdue Fort Wayne may not be the biggest school with the very best facilities.

But the Mastodons are NCAA Division I and expect to be competitive at that level while playing home games at Mastodon Field and training in the strength & fitness area inside the Hilliard Gates Sports Center.

How does Schreiber and company recognize the intangibles during the recruiting process?

Stuff on the mound, bat speed and range in the field are fairly evident. It’s not as obvious with other attributes.

“It’s tough.” says Schreiber. “You do have to spend a little more time. In some of the recruiting opportunities, you just get a quick look.”

Because of NCAAA rules, coaches don’t get spend as an inordinate amount of time with the prospective student-athlete. That’s where they rely on the players’ coaches (high school, travel, junior college).

Schreiber said the vetting process also includes the answers that come from casual conversation.

The Mastodons staff has learned how to read body language. It’s something they pick up on when watching a recruit when they or their teammates are struggling and it’s something they can see in players on the roster.

“We can’t see what’s inside their head, their heart or their gut,” says Schreiber. “The best way you have at least a clue on what’s going on in there is their body language.

“It definitely is a red flag when you see some disrespect and those types of things.”

It’s important because there are only so many roster spots available (up to 35 with 11.7 scholarships at the D-I level) and coaches have to get it right.

“Within their baseball life, we’re going to have compassion for them as individuals with anything that’s going on in their life,” says Schreiber. “But we just don’t have time for them to feel sorry for themselves.

“It’s a tough enough game that if they start to feel sorry for themselves, that’s the beginning of a negative attitude. They’re going to start making excuses, blaming other people or not taking responsibility. We have to have student-athletes that are mature enough and coachable enough to be able to handle adversity and persevere through those types of things.”

Schreiber says human beings have negative thoughts. What are done with those are the key.

“Do you act out on them?,” says Schreiber. “Do you voice your negative opinion? There’s all kinds of things that can get you in trouble.

“We have to teach them how to channel those negative thoughts into some positive action and positive thoughts.”

Schreiber also puts stock in mental development. With that in mind, he will have his players in classroom settings taking part in open discussions on life skills.

Topics will include “a winning mentality vs. a whining mentality” plus leadership, team unity and much more.

Prior to taking over at Purdue, Schreiber served as an assistant at Ball State University (1991-92), Butler University (1993), the University of Notre Dame (1994) and Arizona State University (1995-98).

That’s why he values his experience at McCutcheon. When he went into coaching, he thought he would be at the high school level — something his father — 13-time Hall of Famer Ken Schreiber excelled at for 39 years at LaPorte (Ind.) High School.

“I had the opportunity to keep staying at Division I,” says Schreiber. “It  just kept working out.

“To (coach) at McCutcheon, where (Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer) Jake Burton had built the program up to such a high caliber was a great experience.”

Working with high school student-athletes, Schreiber learned about patience.

“I feel like I became a better coach by coaching younger players,” says Schreiber. “Those are the players we’re going to be recruiting now.

“Getting in-tune with how they communicate amongst each other and with coaches, parents and everything was an important piece of it, too.”

After his coaching tenure at Purdue, Schreiber went into an academic job at the school then got his real estate license, but never got into that field too heavily with his coaching position at McCutcheon.

I knew I wanted to continue to coach,” says McCutcheon. “I looked into few opportunities, but when this one (at Purdue Fort Wayne) came forward it was something I was very, very interested in and was very fortunate I got the opportunity to do it.”

“Staying in Indiana was important to my wife (McCutcheon guidance counselor Sarah) and I. We had visited and done some things in Fort Wayne. I’ve recruited over here.

“Fort Wayne is a great city. It’s got a lot of everything, but it still has the small Midwest town feel.”

The Schreiber have purchased a home in Fort Wayne, meaning the coach does not have the long commute he had when he first was hired.

“Other than that, it’s been smooth and thoroughly enjoyable,” says Schreiber of the transition. “Everything has been quality. I’ve got great support from our athletic director.”

Mastodons AD Kelley Hartley Hutton was head women’s volleyball coach for 15 seasons and 13 years as Senior Woman Administrator PFW. She was a four-year player at the University of Toledo.

“She understands the coach’s perspective,” says Schreiber. “We’re into having the best student-athlete experience possible. She gets it from both ends (coach and athlete).”

Staying in the state also allows Schreiber to keep his well-established network of high school and travel ball coaches. There’s also the junior colleges in the region.

This fall, recruiting has included plenty of looks at junior college players, who tend to be more mature physically and mentally.

“That’s not to say we’re not interested in high talent high school players as well,” says Schreiber. “We’re going to try to stay very strong in Indiana — players that have gone on to junior college and those from high schools.”

Ideally, most players will be on-campus for four or five years, giving time to mature and grow into leadership roles.

“There’s a always a little bit of a learning curve,” says Schreiber. “Ultimately, our base is going to be four-year players with a good mix of junior college players.”

Purdue Fort Wayne also participates in the Midwest Student Exchange Program, where students from several surrounding states get a break on out-of-state tuition. That allows Schreiber and company to take a little wider look while keeping Indiana as the recruiting base.

PFW is currently a member of the Summit League (with North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and Western Illinois). The Mastodons are joining the Horizon League in 2020-21. The league currently features Milwaukee, Northern Kentucky, Oakland, University of Illinois-Chicago, Wright State and Youngstown State.

Schreiber says geography is one factor for the switch.

“Student-athletes are missing a lot of class because of the distance,” says Schreiber. “We do create things with scheduling in the spring that allows them to minimize missed classes.”

That includes moving classes away from late in the day Thursday or altogether Friday and taking more online classes. On the road, there is quiet time for study on the bus and in the hotel. With some long road trips ending on Monday morning, a premium is placed on time and priority management.

“It’s going to benefit them from an academic standpoint,” says Schreiber of the move to the Horizon.

With Schreiber’s hiring, the Slicer quotient doubled for the Mastodons. Doug is a 1982 LaPorte High School graduate. Mastodons senior first baseman Travis Upp, son of current LaPorte head coach Scott Upp, got his diploma at LPHS in 2016.

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Doug Schreiber is the head baseball coach at Purdue University Fort Wayne (Ind.) (Steve Krah Photo)

 

Hanover’s Bellak simplifies hitting approach

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely is not an easy thing to do well.

Grant Bellak, who enters his second season as head baseball coach at NCAA Division III Hanover (Ind.) College in 2019-20, has his Panthers (15-19 during the 2019 season) following a simplified offensive approach that he first began to develop as an assistant at D-III Franklin (Ind.) College.

In 2018, the Grizzlies were national leaders in batting average, OPS (on-base plus slugging), runs per game, home runs and walks.

Bellak presented “Simplifying the Approach for High Output Offenses” during an American Baseball Coaches Association Barnstormers Clinics stop Sept. 8 at Butler University in Indianapolis.

The full presentation can be ordered through the ABCA Barnstormers Clinics Video Library.

“The coaching community has been really, really good to me,” says Bellak, who gave shout-outs to Ryan Brownlee (ABCA Assistant Executive Director of Coaching Outreach and former Western Illinois University head coach), Bill Kurich (Webster University head coach), Adam Smith (Benedictine University head coach) and Lance Marshall (Franklin College head coach).

The Barnstormers appearance was Bellak’s first time as a presenter at an ABCA clinic.

“We look at the approach to hitting as all-encompassing,” says Bellak.

He quoted ABCA Hall of Famer Jerry Weinstein’s 2014 statement that a big league pitcher only hits what he defines as his spot 24 percent of the time.

“For us as hitters, we need to be prepared to hit a lot of ‘mistake’ pitches,” says Bellak. “That’s what you’re going to get.

“To be a high level offense, we need to simplify our approach. At the same time — as (hitting and mental skills guru) Steve Springer says — you won’t hit anything if you’re trying to hit everything.”

Bellak has developed four absolutes for his hitters.

“No. 1, you have to be the best athletic version of yourself,” says Bellak. “It can be two completely different things from our shortstop to our first baseman.

“Secondly, your front foot has to leave the ground at some point.”

Bellak can only think of a few big leaguers — Ian Kinsler and Albert Pujols are two examples — who have had a lot of success keeping their foot on the ground the entire time.

“We teach front foot down on-time,” says Bellak of his third absolute. “We want to work on sequencing from the back side of our body.”

No. 4 involves the player knowing their identity and how they fit into team goals. Hanover’s offensive team goal is an .840 OPS (ideally around .420 on-base average and .420 slugging percentage).

“Our lead-off hitter will try to get to that .840 in a significantly different way than our No. 4 hitter,” says Bellak. “By identifying what category you fit into, you will have a defined set of measurable goals to strive for.

“Being honest with yourself and your abilities will allow you to achieve your goals and help this offense win games.”

Bellak puts offensive players into four categories — Sparks, Hybrid, Hybrid-Plus and Power.

Sparks have a high on-base average, lower slugging percentage and a high number of stolen bases. They generally strike out only once per 15 at-bats and produce less than two home runs, six or more doubles and 10 to 15 stolen bases.

Hybrid players provide a high on-base average and good slugging percentage. They strike out once per 10 at-bats with two or more homers, eight or more doubles and less than six stolen bases.

Hybrid-Plus entails high marks in on-base and slugging averages and the ability to steal bases consistently with one strikeout per 10 at-bats with four or more homers, 12 or more doubles and eight or more stolen bases.

Power hitters are above average in on-base average and excellent in slugging. They will not steal bases often (four or less) and have one strikeout per eight at-bats with five or more homers, 12 or more doubles.

Bellak and his coaching staff are very careful with verbal cues.

“Kids today are very literal,” says Bellak. “You see it all the time. You say, ‘get your front foot down early.’ Then he sits and he can’t sequence properly.

For instance, Hanover coaches will never say “Use your hands” but instead say “Get Turned.”

Instead of “Go oppo,” it’s “Use the backside.”

It’s not “Let it get deep,” but “Use the fat part of the field.”

Rather than “Get on top,” they say “Release the barrel out front.”

Instead of “Use your hands,” it’s “Get turned.”

Following the advice of mental performance expert Brian Cain, words that end with “not” or “‘nt” are not to be used as cues because those negatives stick in the player’s brains.

“We try to change those to ‘you can,’ ‘you will’ vs. ‘won’t,’ ‘don’t,’ ‘can’t.’”

Bellak wants his hitters to “hunt” pitches (aggressive) rather than thinking in terms of a passive word like “wait.”

Hitters ask themselves questions like “Where have I had success?,” “Where do function best?” or “Where am I hitting the ball the hardest and why would I come away from that?”

As a visual tool, Bellak has his players place a large ball (around the size of a basketball) and put it over the plate where they feel they will be most-successful at the plate.

“It’s a pitch they are looking for and they can touch it, see it and feel it,” says Bellak. “We tell them during BP that they’re not going to let any pitches touch their glass ball.”

There is freedom to move the ball around to suit the hitters’ strengths. Power hitters typically want pitches that are “middle-in.”

“Expect them to take more pitches in BP because they’ll say, ‘Coach, that was a little bit off my glass ball,” says Bellak. “But, all of a sudden, they become more refined in their approach and we create height, depth and location.

“It really focuses their approach. It’s simple. It doesn’t take long to explain. You’re getting them free to what they want to do at the plate as hitters.

“With the influx of data, most hitters these days are pretty honest with themselves. I know which pitch I’m going to hammer.”

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Grant Bellak is the head baseball coach at Hanover (Ind.) College. (Hanover College Photo)

 

Ulrey insists his Kankakee CC batters hit the ball hard

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nick Ulrey instructs the catchers and hitters in the Kankakee (Ill.) Community College baseball program and teaches lessons to youngsters.

The former New Palestine (Ind.) High School, KCC and University of Missouri St. Louis player wants them all to see hitting in three parts — approach, timing and swing.

“The approach is what you can control 100 percent of the time,” says Ulrey. “You’re timing and swing aren’t going to be perfect every time.”

That approach includes always trying to hit the ball hard.

“I preach hard-hit balls rather than launch angle,” says Ulrey. “We’re never thinking about hitting a ball over the fence. We’re always trying to hit the ball through the center field wall.

“Even with two strikes, we will shorten up but we are still driving the baseball.”

Ulrey wants his hitters to have Quality At-Bats. He defines a QAB as one that results in the following: a hard-hit ball, seven-pitch at-bat, single, double, triple, home run, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, walk, hit by pitch or moving the runner over with no outs.

When it comes to the swing, Ulrey works with the hitter’s natural tendencies.

“I’m not a one-way guy,” says Ulrey. “They might be down and through the zone as a contact hitter or a power hitter with a little higher launch angle.

“I make sure they’re getting the work they need and I stress talking about the mental side of the game.”

The verbiage Ulrey uses with hitters is always positive.

He asks them to “drive the ball the other way” rather than “getting themselves out” to move a runner.

“You never want to give your AB away,” says Ulrey.

Rarely has Ulrey given away a day to be around baseball. He’s at KCC games and practices six days a week this fall.

On Sundays, he travels back to Greenfield, Ind., for instruction at The Yard Sports Complex, owned and operated by older brother Chris Ulrey.

Seven years older than Nick, Chris has served as a guide to his younger brother and even served a year on the KCC staff during Nick’s sophomore season with the Cavaliers.

“(Chris) is a great mentor,” says Nick Ulrey. “Ninety percent of what I know as a hitting coach, I learned from him.”

When he’s not working with KCC players or those at The Yard, Ulrey is running camps at Fundamentals Sports Academy in Dwight, Ill.

“I’m around the game seven days a week,” says Ulrey, 24. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stray away from that.

“It’s what I love to do.”

That comes across to the athletes he is instructing.

“Players are real receptive to what you’re saying,” says Ulrey. “Most people want to get to the next level.”

Ulrey played four years of baseball at New Palestine. He was mostly a junior varsity player as a freshman and Al Cooper was the varsity head coach. Shawn Lyons took over the Dragons in Ulrey’s sophomore year.

The father of classmate Corey Lyons, Shawn Lyons had coached Nick and his son on New Palestine youth teams.

“He prepared me more than I ever could hope for,” says Ulrey of the elder Lyons. “We were learning mental side of the game at 10. He prepared me well for the college level.”

Ulrey’s collegiate career started at KCC in 2013, where he started both years behind the plate. He was an all-National Junior College Athletic Association Region 4 performer and is on eight career hitting record lists.

He transferred to NCAA Division II UMSL, where he was a two-time all-Great Lakes Valley Conference selection and led the conference both years in runners caught stealing.

Ulrey was brought to St. Louis by Jim Brady, who died of cancer in 2017 as Ulrey was about to begin his coaching career with the Tritons.

“He was a great man and an even better coach,” says Ulrey of Brady.

Cory Wahl took over the USML program.

“He was a well-rounded guy,” says Ulrey. “He coached at several schools, (including an assistant stint at Vincennes University) he was very versatile and brought a lot of knowledge to UMSL. I learned a lot from him.”

Ulrey holds a degree in Criminal Justice from UMSL.

At Kankakee, Todd Post is the head coach and (former Valparaiso University pitcher) Bryce Shafer is the other assistant.

“He knows more about the game than any coach I’ve ever met,” says Ulrey of Post has led the KCC program since 2001 and earned an NJCAA Division II national title in 2017. “(Shafer) does an unbelievable job with the pitchers and strength and conditioning.”

KCC players spend plenty of time in the weight room in the fall, winter and spring. They are on individualized programs designed to improve weaknesses and enhance strengths.

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Nick Ulrey, a New Palestine (Ind.) High School graduate, is a baseball assistant coach at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College. (Kankakee Community College Photo)

 

Goff wants Purdue baseballers to sport ‘attitude of gratitude’

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BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Greg Goff wants his Purdue University baseball players to play the game well.

But there’s so much more the new head coach has in mind for the young men in his program.

Goff says he believes that “good things happen to good people” and makes that a priority for his squad.

“Having a program that the Boilermaker fan base and people are proud of, that’s really important for me,” says Goff. “I tell our guys all the time, we’ve got to have integrity.

“I want our guys to do things right. I want to be able to look people in the eye because my players are going to class. They’re getting their degrees. They’re being good citizens. We’re making an impact in the community.

“I want to be proud of our players. I want them to be men of service and have an attitude of gratitude. It’s such a privilege (to play college baseball). It goes by so far. This four- or five-year window these guys have can make such huge impact on others.”

Goff asks each Purdue player to contribute at least 10 hours of community service before the end of the fall term. So far, they’ve done things like share a meal with senior citizens and read to elementary students.

“It’s important for people to see our guys,” says Goff. “The more people can see the product that we have, hopefully they’ll come watch in the spring.”

Purdue has a 45-day window of fall training that started about 10 days ago and will run mid-October. By NCAA rule, the Boilers are allowed to train for 20 hours per week.

Three exhibition games are on the fall calendar. The Ontario Blue Jays came to Alexander Field on Sept. 13. There are home contests slated with Heartland Community College (Oct. 5) and Wabash Valley College (Oct. 11).

“The emphasis in the fall is to continue to instill the daily work habits I want,” says Goff. “For the two or three hours we have each day, really focus on that.

“I don’t think you can get better if you don’t really focus in and do those things.”

When the fall concludes, Purdue baseball will shut it down and then go into off-season speed and agility work and be restricted to eight hours of organized training time per week.

“I’ve been really, really pleased with our guys,” says Goff. “They have made such a tremendous commitment to what we’re asking them to do.”

Goff wants his athletes to grow and develop beyond the diamond.

“We want to help our guys understand the importance of making good decisions on a daily basis,” says Goff. “We tell them that when that alarm clock goes off, don’t hit that snooze.

“Let’s get up and make a great day out of it and make a difference in somebody’s life.”

Goff takes over the Boilermakers from Mark Wasikowski.

Waz left West Lafayette after three seasons to become head coach at the University of Oregon. Goff joined Purdue baseball as an assistant coach in July 2017 and was promoted to head coach in June 2019.

“Coach Wasikowski left the program in really good shape,” says Goff. “In all the places I’ve taken over, this is by far the best situation.”

Goff has previously served as a college head coach with stops at Campbell University (2008-14), Louisiana Tech University (2015-16) and the University of Alabama (2017) as well as NCAA Division II University of Montevallo (2004-07).

He was also pitching coach at the University of Kentucky (2000-03) and served as an assistant at Southeast Missouri State University (1998-99) and his alma mater Delta State University (1994-97).

Goff has coached several future professionals, including big league pitchers-to-be Brandon Webb and Joe Blanton at Kentucky.

Goff’s Purdue coaching staff features Cooper Fouts, Chris Marx, Harry Shipley and John Madia.

Growing up in Jackson, Tenn., the son of James and Cora Goff, Greg credits his mother for teaching him much about the game and about life.

“My mom had such great impact on me,” says Goff of his late mother. “She coached me. My dad had to work all the time.

“I learned how strong she was and had to fight for where she was.”

Goff went on to Delta State where he learned from Bill Marchant and Mike Kinnison at Delta State.

More lessons were taught by Mark Hogan at Southeast Missouri State and Keith Madison at Kentucky. Madison is an American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer and Kinnison is to be inducted in January 2020.

“Those guys have had such huge impact on my life,” says Goff. “Hopefully, one day, I can impact players like they did.

“I learned so many life lessons with (Madison). He changed changed the direction of my life. I was so into this baseball. And I love baseball.

“He helped me put it in perspective. Wow, what a mentor he was for me.”

Greg and Tina Goff have four daughters — Kara, Kiley, Kolby and Kenzie. Kara plays softball at LSU.

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Greg Goff (right) wants to have the impact on players that many of the mentors during his long baseball path have had on him. Goff was named head baseball coach at Purdue University in June 2019. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff brings enthusiasm to his role as a baseball coach. After two seasons as a Purdue University assistant, he is now the Boilermakers head coach. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff (right) brings plenty of experience to his new role as head baseball coach at Purdue University. He has 14 seasons of head coaching and many more as an assistant to drew from when leading the Boilermakers. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff, now head baseball coach at Purdue University, looks to impact his players both on and off the diamond. He is stressing academics and service as well as athletic achievement. (Purdue University Photo)

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Greg Goff will be pointing the way for the Purdue University baseball coach as head coach. He was named to that position in June 2019 after serving two seasons under Mark Wasikowski. (Purdue University Photo)

GREGOFF1Greg Goff was named head baseball coach at Purdue University in June 2019. He has been on the Purdue staff since July 2017. He has been a college head coach for 14 seasons and spent several others as an assistant. (Purdue University Photo)

 

Indiana Wesleyan’s Benjamin affirms priority of coaching communication

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Rich Benjamin has been the head baseball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University since the 2016 season.

His Wildcats have gone 123-105-1 overall and 62-47 in Crossroads League play during Benjamin’s tenure with a CL tournament title in

2016 and a 2018 CL Regular Season Championship leading to two NAIA Opening Round appearances in 2016 and 2018.

A big part of the culture revolving around the IWU program involves improving communication each year.

Benjamin, who was head coach at Judson University in Elgin, Ill., for eight seasons, winning eight championships before taking over in Marion, addressed communication’s impact on coachability at the American Baseball Coaches Association Barnstormers Clinics stop Sept. 8 at Butler University.

The full presentation can be ordered through the ABCA Barnstormers Clinics Video Library.

“Guys come in on Day 1 and they seem very coachable,” says Benjamin.

Benjamin says coaches may notice some players that are a little standoffish or hard to influence while others are coachable throughout the entire experience.

In many cases, players have a personal instructor, adding more voices to the room.

“You’re trying to navigate all those variables,” says Benjamin. “The vision is the allow the player to play competent-unconscious.”

That vision comes with a set of values.

The first is asking open-ended questions (coach to coach, coach to player, player to coach and player to player) and minimizing statements.

Why is this done?

“I’m trying to develop the awareness and self-awareness of the player by asking him an open-ended question.

 “By slowing things down, conversations with players become much more of a dialogue instead of a one-way statement.

“You know a lot more about your players because you’re getting a lot more feedback.”

The player is given a chance to do some self-discovery by answering the open-ended questions.

Benjamin says if a player doesn’t have awareness (knowing what is going on around you) and self-awareness (knowing what you are experiencing), they cannot effectively implement information.

“If anytime they’re stuck  they’re looking for a statement, they will have the inability to self-diagnosis pitch-to-pitch during competition.” says Benjamin.

“It’s Strike 1 and they look down to third base and say, ‘Coach, what now?’ You can’t do that. You’ve got to learn how to talk to yourself.

“Most young players talk to themselves in statements instead of open-ended questions. Most statements are negative and not positive and solution-driven.”

Benjamin has found that as players develop they ask themselves open-ended questions, they find a solution the vast majority of the time.

“The coach is there as a sounding board, a facilitator, a counselor, awareness raiser and available when the player gets ‘stuck’ to offer a suggestion,” says Benjamin, who wants his players to own the process.

“If they own it, the ceiling is them. If I own it, their ceiling is me. If their ceiling is me, they’re never going to hit a curveball because I couldn’t do it.”

The relationship becomes a partnership.

“It’s not a threat and it’s not a power struggle,” says Benjamin.

The additional value of communication helping coachability is the coaching staff being aware of the person before the player. Assistant coaches are vital in this area as the front lines of knowing the room.

“There’s death in the family,” says Benjamin. “Girlfriends, adjusting academically, or something going on in the home.

“Nobody on the coaching staff should ever be surprised about what’s going on in a player’s life; it gives you a clearer picture of all the influences in that person’s life when they enter training.”

As a coaching staff, There are typically two individualized meetings a week in which, as a staff, we go down each name on the roster discussing who has what needs that we may be able to meet through various aspects of the program.”

The Indiana Wesleyan staff has players focus on one objective at a time (approach, plan or skill). By showing restraint, they can avoid information overload.

“It is impossible to play unconscious and knowledgeable if we’re carrying all these different things into our performance time,” says Benjamin. “If you’re trying to balance two or three different things, it becomes impossible to execute one.”

At IWU, that one thing for a player might take the entire fall. They focus on the objective, they achieve it and then they move on.

Benjamin desires the coaching staff to over communicate with each other, to be open and always seeking growth.

Benjamin admits that investing in assistants development was not a strength earlier in his coaching career.

Having operated during the first half of his career with just one volunteer assistant, who worked during the day, Benjamin’s ability to understand the value and importance of investing into his assistants was behind. “The last two years, I’ve grown in the ability to delegate, mentor, and invest daily in our assistant coaches.

By doing so, the atmosphere and the productivity is up.”

Benjamin looks to provide a safe atmosphere for his assistants to ask questions.

“That’s how we get better,” says Benjamin. “We talk about players needing to be coached-up, but so do coaches.”

“As a coaching staff, we have blind spots. But if we ask each other open-ended questions, it’s not a threat. It’s an opportunity to grow.”

Benjamin says, “In coaching, time is maybe the most valuable aspect.”

As a coaching staff preparing for this Fall training season, Benjamin and his staff noticed that the areas in which we failed the most in coaching, was coaching a player inside too tight of a time restraint.

Benjamin says a coaching session must provide clarity by the coach and the player, because that often requires time, coaches needed to decide when the best time was to address a coaching opportunity.

Because it negatively impacts trust, the idea is to avoid “Drive-By coaching.”

IWU coaches witnessed this the most in the side cages during Batting Practice rotations.

Rotations may be 8-15 minutes depending on the day.

If four hitters arrive in the side batting cages with limited time, then we found ourselves making a lot of statements since we did not have the time capacity to create the amount of clarity as you would in a different segment of training, early work, or post work.

Now, if we get a coaching opportunity in the cages, we ask ourselves if the player has the foundational awareness and self-awareness to find a solution in the limited amount of time without transferring ownership of the hitter’s development.

If there is not enough time to effectively coach that player in that session, we will act on the coaching opportunity post practice or early work the next day.

“We want to create opportunities for growth so there’s time to land that plane,” says Benjamin.

Practices for the Wildcats are divided into training zones and performance zones.

Training zones entail many reps and a lot of teaching.

“Nothing’s really being measured,” says Benjamin. “It’s a zone where you can make mistakes and experiment.”

Benjamin notes that baseball players in general are training now more than ever.

“Guys are hitting all the time. They’re training all the time,” says Benjamin. “They become really, really good at training.”

That’s where the performance zone comes in, where there is competition with some kind of award or consequence.

“You have to win,” says Benjamin. “We’re transitioning from the training zone where you’re allowed to think, to the performance zone where you shut this thing (points to head) off, get unconscious and just try to win the moment.

“You just try to go beat the other guy.”

This fall, a typical Wildcats practice has three competitions (performance zones) and one learning moment (training zone), in addition, early work is designed as a training zone.

IWU also emphasizes peer-to-peer competere.

“It’s the Latin word for competition and it means to strive together,”

says Benjamin. The personal best comes out by competing with another person.

It does not happen overnight, but it can be healthy for two players to be vying to be the starting shortstop.

It’s often been found that one wins the job and the other ends up starting, too, perhaps at second base or third base.

“Competition is an opportunity and not a threat,” says Benjamin. “We have to have competition. It’s the only way we’ll find out what our personal best is.”

Benjamin invites players to join the IWU program based on three factors — humility, motor and skill.

“They have the confidence to say ‘I’m really good’ and the humility to say ‘I need to get better.’ That’s vital.

“In psychology, they say your self-confidence shows up before your self-awareness does.”

Motor means the ability to work hard with intention each day.

“Skill can always be developed if the first two exist.” says Benjamin.

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Rich Benjamin is the head baseball coach at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. His first season leading the Wildcats was 2016. (Indiana Wesleyan University Photo)

 

Meyer uses many tools to assess Butler hitters

RBILOGOSMALL copy

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Brian Meyer coaches hitters at Butler University.

The NCAA Division I program trains and plays at Bulldog Park, which is less than eight miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Meyer uses auto racing metaphors when explaining the way he develops Dawgs hitters.

Like racing owners put their money in the car, baseball coaches are invested in the players.

Meyer says goal in player development is to make the athletes the best they can be within the framework of the team. Assessments are done to know the strengths of each player. One player might be known for his power and another his speed.

“We want to know the tools we’re working with,” says Meyer. who shared some developmental concepts at the American Baseball Coaches Association Barnstormers Clinics stop Sept. 8 at Butler. “It’s our responsibility to assesses and know what their strengths and weaknesses are and then to read the dashboard as to what’s going on with them. If it’s a mechanical problem, we go back to their movement screening. Maybe they’re mentally clouded.”

There’s schoolwork. On the baseball side, there’s personal instructors, high school and travel coaches and even family members putting in their two cents worth.

“There are a lot of people in these guys’ heads,” says Meyer. “It’s our job as coaches to de-clutter.

“We want to simplify and get the entire pit crew on the same page. We’re all invested to make these guys better. If it takes a call from me to (a given player’s) coach back home who he worked with all summer to get a better understanding of the things they worked on, that’s fine by me.”

Meyer says it’s important let players’ talents shine through and not try to change everything about them.

“You guys kept guys on your team for a reason,” says Meyer. “It’s OK to let them fail because then they’ll come crawling to us looking for help.

“Everybody is on the same page and there is a trust that is built into that.”

Certified by OnBase University — an educational organization dedicated to the study of how the human body functions in relation to baseball and softball — Meyer puts his hitters through a battery of tests to learn their movement patterns.

These tests determine an individual’s deficiencies and strengths.

“If I know how his body works, I can coach him better,” says Meyer. “I can give him exercises to improves his deficiency or I can coach around it.

Meyer is currently in the process of putting together individualized hitting plans based upon physical abilities and limitations.

Players also have their vision tested by Dr. Joe LaPlaca of Ares Elite Sports Vision.

“We all know how important eyes are to hitting a baseball,” says Meyer. “(A player) may not be able to pick up a breaking ball because his depth perception or convergence isn’t as good as some other guys.”

A test for power that correlates to exit velocity involves the scores from doing vertical jump, seated chest pass and a lying overhead medicine ball throw. Borrowed from golf, Meyer says this kind of testing is just coming to baseball.

Butler uses Blast Motion, Rapsodo and other devices to assess players.

“With technology, it forces us as coaches to think a little bit differently,” says Meyer. “We have to truly understand what each individual player needs.

“But if we don’t understand how their body moves, all this data doesn’t do us any good.”

The Bulldogs also go through a VARK assessment for athletes. This tells how they learn the best — Visual, Aural, Read/White or Kinesthetic.

“It’s important for us to know how these guys learn,” says Meyer. “(Player A) learns differently from (Player B) who learns differently from (Player C).”

Knowing this, gives coaches different avenues to reach players.

“With some guys it may be beneficial for us to just talk one-on-one,” says Meyer. “Some of them have to see a video. Some of them would rather read it.

“The more we can reach our players individually, the better chance they have to develop.”

Individual swing goals involve activating the kinetic chain as considering hip and spin activation as well as core stability, rotation and anti-rotation. The idea is to move efficiently.

Butler hitters go through a series of exercises and drills, including banded load, PVC series, fungo hit, tee work, front toss and live focus.

An example of a focus of the day would be the 3-plate drill (plates set up at varying distances from the mound of pitching machine) for rhythm and timing and a 2-plate off-speed drill for pitch recognition.

The offensive goal at Butler, which plays Illinois at Grand Park in Westfield at 5:05 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, is to become a team of run producers.

A formula gauge this production is total at-bats over runs scored plus runs batted in minus home runs. In 2019, Butler’s rate was 2.9.

Meyer says there must be selflessness up and down the lineup to help the team win.

Meyer is a volunteer assistant at Butler (the NCAA currently only allows for two paid assistants at the Division I level and will soon be voting on adding a third paid position).

The summer of 2016 is when Meyer joined head coach Dave Schrage’s staff at Butler. Before that Meyer was director of baseball operations for five seasons at Tulane University in New Orleans. He also coached at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and Otterbein (Ohio) College, where he was a three-year starter at second base. He is a native of North Royalton, Ohio.

Brian and Ashley Meyer have a son named Walker.

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Butler University hitting coach Brian Meyer (left) talks with Harrison Freed during the 2019 baseball season. (Butler University Photo)

BRIANMEYER1Brian Meyer is the hitting coach for the Butler University baseball program in Indianapolis. Meyer employs many tools help the Bulldogs. (Butler University Photo)