By STEVE KRAH
In the know.
That’s what University of Michigan pitching coach Chris Fetter wants the hurlers in his charge to be.
“First and foremost, I want them to be knowledgeable with who they are as pitchers,” says Fetter, who is guiding to Wolverines staff this weekend in the NCAA regional at Corvallis, Ore. (Oregon State, Creighton and Cincinnati are three other competing teams). “Our eyes can deceive us. I want them to be as informed as possible about what they do and own what they do instead of just guessing.”
With Fetter leading the process, Michigan pitchers have access to many resources, including video analysis, Rapsodo and TrackMan to help them devise a plan of attack.
It becomes a combination of approaches that leads to what that player does on the hill.
“It’s not based entirely on technology, a coach or what the player thinks,” says Fetter. “But we marry all those together.”
Fetter assists his pitchers in developing an arsenal and it starts with the fastball.
“What kind of fastball do you throw?,” says Fetter. “Then, how do we attack other teams?
“It all stems with developing a relationship with the player and getting them to buy in to being learners of who they are.”
In his second second at U of M, Fetter has helped produce a number of capable pitchers.
In 2018, Tommy Henry made the all-Big Ten Conference second team while Karl Kauffman was on the third team and Ben Dragani the third and all-freshmen teams. Four Wolverines were signed by Major League Baseball teams — Will Tribucher, Jayce Vacena, Alec Rennard and Troy Miller.
The 2019 all-conference squads include Michigan’s Jeff Criswell (first team), Kauffmann (third team) and Willie Weiss (freshmen). The MLB First-Year Player Draft is June 3-5.
Fetter is a 2004 graduate of Carmel (Ind.) High School, where he played two seasons for Tom Linkmeyer and two for Eric Lentz.
“Tom is great baseball mind, great baseball man,” says Fetter of Linkmeyer. “We still talk quite a bit.
“He took a chance on young kid. He always gave it to you straight. You always knew where you stood. He was always in your corner. I really enjoyed playing for him.”
Fetter remembers Lentz for his positive approach and knowledge of X’s and O’s.
From his 15U to 18U summer, Fetter played travel ball with the Indiana Bulls. His coaches were Dennis Kas, Craig Grow, Jeff Mercer Sr. and C.J. Glander.
“I couldn’t have played for a better summer organization,” says Fetter. “When you’re going up agains the best competition game in and game out, it helps you make the jump to the next level.
“It was a special group. There are some of the best summers of my life.”
One of his Bulls teammates was Jeff Mercer Jr., who is now head coach at Indiana University.
After a redshirt season as a freshman, the 6-foot-8 right-hander played for Michigan and head coach Rich Maloney and pitching coach Bob Keller from 2006-2009.
“From the moment Rich recruited me, he instilled a great sense of confidence in me as a player,” says Fetter of Maloney. “He really takes an interest in his players and coaching staff.
“He’s a great motivator.”
Fetter says Keller was at the forefront of teaching pitchers to be athletic and stressed pre-throwing routines and properly warming up.
As a pitching coach, Fetter works on helping his starters develop a consistent routine between appearances while monitoring the workload of the relievers. He pushes them on some days and lets the recover on others.
Fetter pitched in 51 games for the Wolverines (40 as a starter) and was 24-8 with a 3.32 earned run average. He struck out 248 and walked 72 in 278 innings. He also pitched for Cotuit Kettleers of the summer collegiate Cape Cod Baseball League in 2007.
When the 2009 MLB Draft came, Fetter was selected in the ninth round by the San Diego Padres. He pitched for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2009 and 2012. His manager at Eugene in 2012 was former Notre Dame head coach and current Milwaukee Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy.
After 51 appearances (37 as a starter), Fetter played his last pro season in 2012 and began coaching in the Padres system in 2013.
Fetter was an assistant coach for the San Antonio Missions and former big leaguer Rich Dauer was the manager and Jimmy Jones the pitching coach.
“They were a great couple of mentors,” says Fetter of Dauer and Jones. “(Dauer) taught me overall game management. From (Jones), I learned about the art of teaching the delivery — rhythm, balance, timing.
“Those are two of the countless people along the way.”
Fetter went from the Padres to becoming a scout for the Los Angeles Angels.
“I go to watch the game from a different perspective,” says Fetter. “I was able formulate opinions on what players do well.”
For the 2016 season, Fetter was reunited with Maloney as his pitching coach at Ball State University, where he got to apply things he had learned as a pro coach and scout.
Three of Fetter’s standout BSU pitchers were Colin Brockhouse, B.J. Butler and Zach Plesac. This past week, Plesac made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians.
He then worked in player development with the Los Angeles Dodgers, learning how that organization uses analytics.
That led him to joining the staff of Michigan head coach Erik Bakich.
“He is all-in 24/7,” says Fetter of Bakich. “He’s completely energetic. He lifts everyone up around him. He’s very positive and very prepared.
“He pushes all these guys to play their best and get 100 percent better in their own process of development.”
Fetter, 33, and wife Jessica have a son named Cole. He turned five months next week.
Chris Fetter is in his second season as pitching coach for the University of Michigan baseball team in 2019. He pitched for the Wolverines from 2006-09. (University of Michigan Photo)
As pitching coach for the University of Michigan baseball team, Chris Fetter (center) wants his players to be as knowledgeable as possible about what they do and bring it to the mound. Starting May 31, the Wolverines are in the NCAA regional at Corvallis, Ore. (University of Michigan Photo)
Chris Fetter, a 2004 Carmel (Ind.) High School graduate and former Indiana Bulls, pitcher in the San Diego Padres organization and assistant at Ball State University, is in his second season as pitching coach for the University of Michigan baseball team in 2019. (University of Michigan Photo)