By STEVE KRAH
Elliott Cribby has knowledge to share about throwing a baseball.
But the main reason the Redmond, Wash., native became a coach was to build relationships and have a lasting impact on young men.
“I want to help them achieve their dreams,” says Cribby, the first-year pitching coach at Purdue University. “I get more joy doing that than I ever did when I was playing.”
The former University of Washington closer has learned how to communicate with Generation Z.
“They have a lot of questions,” says Cribby, 33. “They want to know why on a lot of things.”
Teaching methods have changed since Cribby was pitching for Lake Washington High School, Columbia Basin College, Washington and the independent professional Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks.
“It can’t be all tough love or you’ll lose them,” says Cribby. “You have to be able to communicate the way they communicate today.”
The current generation is more visual and they take in information by doing rather than listening to a long lecture.
Cribby gets players to understand concepts like mechanics, mentality and strategy by sharing videos he’s seen on social media and by letting them see what they can do with the baseball in their hand.
A presenter at the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic in Indianapolis, Cribby emphasizes communication and scheduling, maximizing time efficiency, bullpen work, simulating a game-like environment, “turning up the heat,” setting expectations, sticking with a plan, consistency and training the arm for strength and health as he gets the Boilermakers ready for the 2019 season opener on Feb. 15 at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Cribby insists that his athletes know what they’re going to be throwing in advance and posts a weekly schedule.
He cautions high school coaches about time.
“Understand your time is precious,” says Cribby. “March to May is three months.
“You must get creative to maximize the limited hours you have to get your pitchers the work that you need.”
Cribby says pitchers need their work everyday. They can build “feel” and confidence with 15 pitches per day in practice. They should work basic locations first. Down and away is thrown most at the high school level.
“Flat grounds are the best way to get the most reps in with the limited practice hours,” says Cribby. “However, they must be intentfull! You as coaches must control that. A miss up in the zone is not OK!”
If weather dictates, game-like conditions can be simulated in the cage with a mobile mound.
“Pitchers need to have hitters in the box as much as possible when they are throwing live or in a flat ground,” says Cribby.
Coaches should make their voices heard to create pressure.
“Don’t be afraid to get vocal!,” says Cribby. “Pitchers need to practice being ‘under fire.’ These environments in practice should be difficult.”
It’s key to teach them what creates success on the mound. That’s how to pitch.
Cribby insists that coaches do not deviate from the plan.
“Stay consistent with your mission,” says Cribby.
At Purdue, pitchers do a lot of throwing.
“The arm must be conditioned to the point where it can withstand the violence of throwing explosively through each start/appearance,” says Cribby.
For about 10 weeks since November, the Boilers have been ramping up and throwing long toss to build arm strength.
“Our guys throw twice a week and get after it,” says Cribby. “We want them to get adequate rest between throwing days. The number of throws is managed.
“The goal is to throw a little father each time out.”
Cribby has seen velocity increase as players are able to increase the distance of their long toss.
After long toss come two max-effort pull down throws.
They throw it on a line as hard they can,” says Cribby.
Then comes several arm care exercises. There are explosive movements with medicine balls along with core, forearm and shoulder work.
“We want to build up the whole arm and not just the shoulder,” says Cribby.
He has been on the job since July and Purdue pitchers have been competing since the fall. The first scrimmage of the preseason phase of practice was last Sunday. Cribby expects mound roles for the season to be defined in the next 10 days or so.
“The strength of the pitching staff is we have a lot of options,” says Cribby. “1 to 16, I’m pretty comfortable with the group we have.”
Among the arms is right-handers Andrew Bohm, Trevor Cheaney, Bo Hofstra, Trent Johnson, Dalton Parker and Drew Peterson and left-handers Ryan Beard and Hayden Wynja.
Redshirt sophomore Bohm started the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Minnesota and an NCAA Regional game against Houston in 2018. Purdue went 38-21 overall and 17-6 in the Big Ten.
Junior Cheaney made 29 appearances for the ’18 Boilers. Sophomore Hofstra got into 28 games (27 in relief). Sophomore Johnson, a Crawfordsville High School graduate, started half of his 18 appearances. Junior Parker was in the bullpen for all 18 of his contests, but he could find himself starting this spring.
Freshman Peterson (Chesterton) reminds Cribby of former teammate Tim Lincecum (he played with the future big leaguer during summer ball in high school and at Washington).
But not because of stature — Peterson is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds and Lincecum 5-11, 170.
“They’e both happy-go-lucky,” says Cribby. “When they get on the mound, they are bulldogs. Play time is over. When the outing is over, they go back to their fun-loving selves.”
When Cribby met Lincecum, the latter was about 5-5. But he made the summer team and went on to have that dominating stretch for the San Francisco Giants (he went 61-26 with a 2.80 earned run average and 977 strikeouts in 881 innings from 2008-11).
“He always had an unorthodox approach with torque from the lower hips to the upper half,” says Cribby of Lincecum. “He loads up and (the pitch is) like a bullet coming out of a gun.”
Senior Beard started 11 times in 15 games last spring. Redshirt freshman Wynja (Heritage Christian) sat out the season and got stronger. the 6-8 southpaw was drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves but did not sign.
Cribby notes that Purdue’s 2018 closer, Ross Learnard, threw his fastball around 82 mph but came at the batter from the left side with a “funky” slot.
Seattle lefty submariner Will Dennis led the country in ground ball ratio and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. He was still in pro ball in 2018.
“(Dennis) got outs,” says Cribby. “And that’s what it’s all about.”
Cribby likes his pitchers to have clean, repeatable motions and have mastery of a fastball, breaking ball and change-up to both sides of the plate. They must also have the ability to hold runners and understand counts.
While it seems that every reliever in the bullpen throws 95 mph-plus, college pitchers can excel with the right arm angle and a change of speeds.
Pitchers should be their own best coaches.
“We can’t be with our guys when they get to professional baseball where they’ll be competing with elite talent from all over the world,” says Cribby. “They need to know their mechanics better than anybody else.
“Do you want to be taken seriously? Be consistent everyday.”
At Purdue, that means in the classroom and on the field.
Cribby uses the stock market as a metaphor with his pitchers.
“I want to invest in you,” says Cribby. “With 18- and 19-year olds, it takes time
“Success creates confidence which creates a career.”
Cribby was brought to West Lafayette by Boilermakers head coach Mark Wasikowski, who played at the University of Hawaii and Pepperdine University in California and was an assistant at Southeast Missouri State, Florida, Arizona and Oregon before taking over at Purdue prior to the 2017 season.
“Coach Wasikowski is one of the best and brightest baseball minds I’ve been around,” says Cribby, who pitched against his Arizona teams and got to know ‘Waz’ when he was coaching at Oregon. “The detail is tremendous. He sees it in different ways.”
Wasikowski learned much about baseball on the staffs of Arizona’s Andy Lopez (a American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer) and Oregon’s George Horton.
Cribby, who made 36 appearances with 10 wins and 13 saves in three seasons as a righty reliever at Washington, earned a sociology degree then a masters in intercollegiate athletic leadership from the Pac-12 Conference school. His father, Ed, was a four-year letterman for the Huskies (1974-77) and retired last year after 38 years at Boeing. His mother, Pam, also retired from the Aerospace and defense manufacturer.
Done as a player and working in a Trader Joe’s, Cribby coached with Baseball Northwest and at Columbia Basin and was asked by a friend to coach the junior varsity squad at Eastside Catholic High School near Seattle.
Former Seattle Mariners slugger Jay Buhner recommended Cribby for the head coaching job at Mount Si High in Snoqualmie, Wash., 30 miles east of Seattle. The Wildcats won a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Class 3A state championship in his first season (2011) and were successful the second year.
Cribby went to Abilene (Texas) Christian University for the one season (2013) on the coaching staff of Ken Knutson, helping to lower the Wildcats’ team ERA from 6.35 the previous year to 4.38, then returned to the Pacific Northwest and was pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Seattle University (2014-18) on a staff led by Donny Harrel. He helped lead the Redhawks to 30-plus wins in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Seattle won a program-record 37 games and the Western Athletic Conference title in 2016.
Elliott and Shannon Cribby have been married six years and have two dogs.
Elliott Cribby, a native of Redmond, Wash., who pitched at the University of Washington, enters his first season as baseball pitching coach at Purdue University in 2019. (Purdue University Photo)