By STEVE KRAH
Brett Andrzejewski learned about making adjustments as a baseball player and he’s doing the same as a coach.
At Westfield (Ind.) High School, the right-handed pitcher changed from a three-quarter overhand to sidearm delivery slot prior to his junior season.
Andrzejewski was a second baseman growing up, but he had an all-stater as a classmate who played that position in Brandon Thomas.
“I was OK defensively, but couldn’t hit to save my life,” says Andrzejewski.
Shamrocks coach Ryan Bunnell told him during the off-season prior his junior year that Brett needed to find his niche.
Off the mound, Brett did not throw very hard. But Andrzejewski found that when he threw a ball after picking it up off the ground that it moved and he thought he just might have something.
In his senior year of 2009 while throwing to classmate and future big league catcher Kevin Plawecki, Andrzejewski was part of Westfield’s IHSAA Class 4A state runner-up finish and went on to pitch four seasons of college baseball — 2010 at Franklin (Ind.) College, 2011 at Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College and 2012 and 2013 at Purdue University. The Boilermakers won a Big Ten Conference championship in 2012.
The righty became kind of a right-handed specialist coming from a low angle. All 84 of his collegiate appearances were out of the bullpen.
“My breaking ball was starting behind them,” says Andrzejewski. “I had a lot of run and not a lot of velocity. I was 76 to 78 mph, usually.
“It bought me time on my playing career so I was appreciative of it.”
The son of Brian and Ann and older brother of Tyler and Chase, Brett Andrzejewski earned a history degree from Purdue in 2013, got his teaching certification from Indiana Wesleyan University and spent one season as pitching coach at Mississinewa High School in Gas City, Ind.
Brett got married and he and wife Michelle went to Florida. He got a job teaching social studies and serving as head baseball coach at Southeast High School, which is located in Bradenton and has about 1,800 students. The 2019 season will be his fourth.
Competing in Florida High School Athletic Association Class 5A (there are currently nine classes for baseball) and with limited resources like he experienced at Mississinewa, Andrzejewski has learned to be smart about his baseball purchases and making the most of what he’s got.
“It forces you as a coach to be creative,” says Andrzejewski, who benefits from Southeast’s agriculture classes working on his field.
To make his players appreciate what they have, he sometimes takes them in the gym for practice even on a sunny day.
“We’re one of the few places in the country that can field ground balls on grass all year,” says Andrzejewski.
Knowing their coach is from Indiana, they ask him if he’s ever played in the snow. That answer is yes.
The baseball timetable in Florida is about several weeks ahead of Indiana.
The FHSAA allows practice to begin Jan. 28 with a first contest date of Feb. 11. Districts, regional and state championships run from May 6-June 1.
Practice for the IHSAA begins March 11 with the first contest March 25 and state tournament series going from May 22-June 18.
Taking from his own experiences, Andrzejewski tells his Southeast Seminoles that they, too, might have to make adjustments to contribute on the diamond.
“Your talent level will take you so far,” says Andrzejewski. “You’ve got to find a way.
“For some guys it might be a sidearm thing or finding a different position or so on and so forth.”
Andrzejewski credits Bunnell for planting a seed.
“Playing for Coach Bunnell inspired me to think about the mental side of the game,” says Andrzejewski. “I had always been interested in it.
“Playing for him is what eventually led me to become a coach.”
At Purdue, Andrzejewski’s head coach was Doug Schreiber.
“Coach Schreib was definitely someone who had that high-intensity approach to coaching,” says Andrzejewski. “That fit my personality. I’m an ultra-competitive guy. He motivated me.”
Andrzejewski also learns from other minds. He attended his first American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Indianapolis in 2018. He was among the 6,600 coaches at the 2019 event in Dallas.
“I learned so much,” says Andrzejewski. “I was a pitcher so I try to go where my deficiencies are.”
He soaks up as much information on hitting and defense and brings it back to his program.
Not that he uses everything exactly as presented.
“You walk in there with a filter,” says Andrzejewski. “How can my program benefit from this, whether it’s a piece of technology or instruction?
“At Southeast, I’ve had one pitcher who’s thrown over 80 mph since I’ve been there. I’m not going to have guys who will light up the radar gun, so we’ve got to find ways to get those 21 outs.”
Brett Andrzejewski, graduate of Westfield (Ind.) High School and Purdue University, is going into his fourth season as head baseball coach at Southeast High School in Bradenton, Fla. (Steve Krah Photo)