Thursday, December 22, 2011

11 in '11

Hopefully everyone is enjoying their holiday seasons! It has been quite a record-breaking year for Storm baseball in 2011 and 2012 is shaping up to be even better. This will be the last blog post of 2011 but there will be plenty more to come in 2012, including some new segments and features. So in the spirit of holiday sports journalism and my apologies to David Letterman, here is a countdown of the Top 11 moments in 2011 from the home office in Omaha, NE, Painesville, OH. Enjoy!

Top 10 Memorable Moments from 2011
11. Program hosts inaugural alumni game. [Full Story]

10. Summer Success: Junior pitchers Adam Beach and Tyler Minnich were named All-Stars in their respective summer leagues. [Full Story] Brayan Cacique wins NABF World Series MVP Award. [Full Story] Brian Kilway, Pat Kilway and Brad Raley led the Pineville Pioneers to summer championship. [Full Story]

9. Five Storm players named to All-GLIAC Team (1st Team: Brandon James, Ryan Rua; 2nd Team: Matt Toth; Honorable Mention: Doug Fox, Jae Leeworthy) [Full Story]

8. James and Rua earn NCBWA All-Region honors. [Full Story]

7. Toth wins the program's first ever Gold Glove Award. [Full Story] [Video/Story]

6. Rua named All-American by Daktronics. [Full Story]

5. Program's first GLIAC win versus Hillsdale, 6-1. [Box Score/Recap]

4. The Storm offense finished 2nd in hitting (.313), slugging (.422) and home runs (23) and led the GLIAC in stolen bases (75).

3. Brandon James walks-off against Ashland in the bottom of the 9th. [YouTube]

2. Set program record for wins with 2-1 victory over Wayne State. [Recap/Box Score/Audio]

1. Junior shortstop Ryan Rua was selected in the 17th round of the MLB draft by the Texas Rangers. [Full Story] Follow Ryan's journey through the minor leagues here and check out his twitter feed here.

So there you have it…the top moments of the past year. I hope you've enjoyed the trip down memory lane but as Harold MacMillan once said, "use the past as a springboard, not a sofa." With that in mind, here's to 2012! I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Stay tuned for news and updates throughout the new year from The Cave's twitter feed (@thecoachscave). For more on the Storm baseball and other Lake Erie athletic programs, visit www.lakeeriestorm.com. RAGE ON!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Camp Wonderland

The Lake Erie baseball team will host a one-day Pitchers and Catchers Instructional Clinic on Saturday, December 10 at the Jerome T. Osbrorne Family Athletic & Welness Center. Campers in grades 4-12 will have the opportunity to work on individual skills work in their specific positions and finish with a live bullpen session. There will also be an overflow date the following day at 10am. For more information, check out the camp brochure.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flipping Out

There are still about four weeks left of individual work and off-season strength and speed training before Thanksgiving break is upon us when all team work shuts down until January. Part of the fun of strength training is being able to show off the hard work that has been put in during a training regimen. Earlier this fall, while still in fall practice, the team had such an opportunity in the SFL Fitness Challenge Series. In this event, all three teams had their chance to flip a tractor tire from the left field foul line to a distance of 150 feet away and back. The team with the fastest time would take home the belt.


2011 Tire Flip Results
Green - 2:42
Gray - 2:50
Black - 2:53 (incurred a 10-second penalty)

Check out this, along with many other videos on The Coach's Cave YouTube page and follow updates throughout the year on The coach's Cave twitter feed @thecoachscave.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The "I" in Team

When Black Team shortstop Sean Mathews fielded the routine ground ball and threw to first to retire the hard-charging base runner, he collectively ended the Storm Fall League, a championship drought, and the fall practice season, all in less than four seconds. As the dust settled on the Black Team's celebration after their first title of the four-year history of the SFL, and the final piece of proverbial confetti fell to the Kiwanis turf, the player's had now earned a break from the game they had worked at so diligently the past 45 days.

During an off week, the time seems to fly by even faster than in a normal week. A round of golf, a morning or two to sleep in past 9:00, and the next thing you know "The Friday Song" is playing and you realize you haven't even come close to getting through your to-do list. You blink an eye and the weekend has come and gone and it's time to get back to work.

With the off week in the rearview mirror, it was time to get back on course in our preparation for spring 2012. Off-season strength training was about to begin to go along with individual workouts, which will dominate our time through the Thanksgiving break. Here's a look into the first week back in action.

MONDAY
9:23 am - Today is the first day of our off-season strength and conditioning program which is set to begin. The workouts had been designed but the workout cards still needed to be printed. I wanted to wait until today to print them out in case I wanted to add an exercise to the program. I made a small change to the program and sent it off to the mailroom for printing.

11:15 am - Randy Jackson called from the mailroom and said there was a problem with the network and the printer wasn't responding. It was a minor problem but it would mean the lifting cards wouldn't be ready until Wednesday. I guess this is what I get for waiting until the last minute.

2:03 pm - I printed off copies of the workout on regular paper and headed off to Ritchie Gym. Like we had done during fall ball, the position players and pitchers were split into to separate weight rooms so Coach Sank would stay back at the Osborne Rec Center. The format worked in the fall and it would work again now. The two groups were on different workout programs to begin with, so the position segregation just made sense.

3:20 pm - With the first "swoll session" completed, the position players headed back to the Rec Center for their agility work and speed training. While position players worked their agility stations, the pitchers worked on their aerobic conditioning.

TUESDAY
12:47 pm - Today was the first day of individuals and both Coach Sank and I had full plates. I had four groups coming in starting at 1 pm with a pair of catchers, followed immediately by the corner infielders, middle infielders, and finally, the first baseman. Preparation is key when you have four different groups, all working different fundamentals, so I set to the gym to get set up.

1:10 pm - The catchers finished their throwing progressions and were ready for drill work. Today's focus was receiving, blocking, and throwing transfers. There were some drills I received from the milwaukee Brewers catching coordinator that I wanted to try so I was excited to see them in action.

1:45 pm - The third baseman started early. Early in the sense that their time overlapped and spent the first 15 minutes on throwing and working their hands. We finished working on double play feeds, something we have progressively improved upon throughout the fall.

2:30 pm - The middle infielders arrived for their session while I finished the final 15 minutes in the hot corner. Their daily routine consists of throwing, short hops, and ball-handling before getting into ground balls. The ground ball routine I put my infielders through has changed slightly over the past eight years but the concepts have remained the same.

3:35 pm - The first baseman were the last group of the day and I was ready. I get really involved in the drills and sometimes join in just to show them what its like. every practice that focuses on individual skills, the first baseman go through a series of drills developed into a routine by a Mississippi State assistant coach, which I began using after listening to him speak at a convention in either Chicago or Orlando (I can't remember which).

5:47 pm - Sitting at my desk, recapping the workouts, I was asked by our sports information director if I would mind filling in on the Storm Report at the Harry Buffalo in Painesville. I wasn't sure what I would talk about or who would be interested in hearing about baseball in the middle of the fall sports season, but the SFL provided some content and the show went off without a hitch. I was very conscious of the potential of voice immodulation but a text from my brother put my thoughts at ease...sorry Jacob Silj.

WEDNESDAY
11:36 am - Wednesday is similar to Monday and is my boring day of the week, if you will. I didn't have any individuals today but I did have to pick up my lifting cards for our second workout. So I made the walk over the College Hall mail room to pick up the cards and to say hello to Tiberius.

THURSDAY
12:52 pm - This is my "off day" for the week but I still had a shift at the golf course. But as I neared Stonewater Golf Club, I received a text stating I didn't need to come in because the rain had been keeping the golfers away. I should have texted before I left campus but better late than never.

1:21 pm - I got back to the office and jumped on the bike to loosen up from the recent resumption of my lifting program. We had a special guest hitting with the team when I arrived. Ryan Rua was back from Arizona and needed to get some work in. After fall instructs finished, he didn't have any team commitments with the Texas Rangers until he had to report for spring training in February.

FRIDAY
12:15 pm - It was lunch time and the cafeteria was holding an Oktoberfest event so we went over to get some free samples before the final individual workouts of the week.

1:30 pm - My second group of catchers came in to complete the week of individual workouts. The three-man group went through the same drills as the pair from Tuesday but with an extra man in the group, we didn't get quite get through every drill. This will give me something to work on for next week.

4:37 pm - Speed training went well and I really liked some of the new drills that were incorporated into the workout. Former Storm hitting coach Eric Cormell had sent a drill or two and is planning to send us a few more once he gets back from winter intructs with the Baltimore Orioles in the Dominican Republic.

5:20 pm - The photographer was in the lobby which meant it was time for head shots. This was the first opportunity for our freshman to be featured in a Storm uniform, even if it wasn't their own. We went with our green tops, featuring "STORM" across the chest in white with a gray outline, and our white "LE' hats with the black bill and black piping.

SATURDAY
11:08 am - Showed up to Kiwanis to work the second home football game in as many weeks. I had begun "spotting" for our stats man Kyle Akins. My basic job description was to identify the ball carrier, the tackler, and the yard line among other things. Our players were working the parking lots, tickets booths, and serving as ball boys on the field of play as a form of fund raising.

3:58 pm - The football game ended in with a series of bizarre events that mostly surrounded the men in stripes. The fans in attendance are still trying to figure out how an extra point could be blocked, returned the other way for a 2-point conversion, and count as no play, despite being void of any whistles before or after the play. Nevertheless, the Storm football team lost a heartbreaker.

That was the week that was as individuals and off-season workouts began. Stay tuned throughout the fall for updates and stories during the off-season. RAGE ON!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Black Out

Another fall season has come and gone and once the confetti has settled, the Storm Fall League has seen a first. In the fourth year of the SFL, the Black Team can finally call themselves champions after a convincing 7-2 victory. After Black got on the board in the 2nd with a RBI single by Jimmy Powell, Green answered when Brayan Cacique belted his first home run of the fall to dead center for a 2-1 lead. The lead was short-lived when the game's Most Outstanding Player, Shaun Gaydos doubled to right-center to drive in a pair of runs. Gaydos went 3-for-4 and drove in four, with the other two coming in a 3-run sixth inning for Black, which put the game out of reach. Brian Kilway picked up the win with three scoreless innings in relief. Mike Morgan closed the door with a 1-2-3 7th and the Black Team had their first SFL title after falling to the Gray Team in 2010.

In the semi-final game, Jake Gilstorff singled home the only run of the game in the 4th inning while Adam Beach and Doug Fox combined on the shutout. Up next for the team is a week off before individual workouts begin. Thanks to all the fans who showed up to all the SFL games this year...we can't wait to see you in the spring! RAGE ON!

Latest Games
Saturday, October 8
Semi-Finals: Green 1, Gray 0
Championship Game: Black 7, Green 2

SFL Final Standings (Regular Season)
Team W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Black 7 4 1 .636 - 27 33
Green 6 6 0 .500 1.5 31 29
Gray 4 7 1 .363 3.0 28 26

SFL Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Sunday, September 11
Game 5 (from 9/10): Black 8, Green 3
Game 6 (from 9/10): Gray 5, Green 0

Wednesday, September 14
Game 7 (from 9/11): Gray 5, Black 1
Game 8 (from 9/11): Black 4 Green 2

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green 5, Gray 1
Game 10: Black 4, Gray 2

Thursday, September 22
Game 11: Green 4, Black 2
Game 12: Green 3, Gray 0

Tuesday, October 4
Game 13: Gray 2, Green 0
Game 14: Black 1, Gray 0
Game 15: Black 1, Green 0

Thursday, October 6
Game 16: Black 4, Gray 3
Game 17: Green 2, Black, 1
Game 18: Gray 2, Green 0

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Final Push

Instead of canceling the remainder of the SFL regular season and skipping ahead to the playoffs, there was a unanimous decision to keep playing the schedule as is. With the allotted time left to practice this fall (next Tuesday), there were some adjustments to the schedule that needed to be made in order to complete the regular season by championship weekend. With that said, the remainder of the regular season games have been shortened to 4-innings each.

The time-shortened games were all nail-biters and had the feel of postseason baseball. Any mistake, no matter which inning it occurred, could be the deciding factor. With only four innings to work with, offenses had to manufacture runs anytime a runner reached base, if they weren't picked off. The Black Team took advantage of good pitching and clutch hitting to earn a pair of 1-0 wins to all but wrap-up a spot in Saturday's championship game. Either a Black win or a Green Team loss would secure the top seed for the team looking for its first SFL title. If the Black Team was the big winners on Tuesday, then the Green Team would be the big losers with two shutout losses. The Gray Team pulled a game closer to Green, but unfortunately they find themselves even further out of first place.

If the season ended today, Green would play Gray for the right to play Black in the title game. But if this game has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen.

SFL Standings
Team W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Black 6 3 1 .667 - 22 28
Green 5 5 0 .500 1.5 29 27
Gray 3 6 1 .333 3.0 24 21

Latest Games
Tuesday, October 4
Game 13: Gray 2, Green 0
Game 14: Black 1, Gray 0
Game 15: Black 1, Green 0

Remaining Schedule
Thursday, October 6
Game 16: Black v. Gray, 3:30 pm
Game 17: Green v. Black, 4:30 pm
Game 18: Gray v. Green, 5:30 pm

SFL Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Sunday, September 11
Game 5 (from 9/10): Black 8, Green 3
Game 6 (from 9/10): Gray 5, Green 0

Wednesday, September 14
Game 7 (from 9/11): Gray 5, Black 1
Game 8 (from 9/11): Black 4 Green 2

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green 5, Gray 1
Game 10: Black 4, Gray 2

Thursday, September 22
Game 11: Green 4, Black 2
Game 12: Green 3, Gray 0

Tuesday, October 4
Game 13: Gray 2, Green 0
Game 14: Black 1, Gray 0
Game 15: Black 1, Green 0

Follow updates on The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#SFL) for Storm Fall League updates.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Weekend Washout?

After four weeks of (mostly) cooperating weather, SFL games have hit a wall in the next-t0-last weekend of the fall. Today's SFL double header has been postponed and will try to be made-up tomorrow at 4 pm at Kiwanis. The weather, however, doesn't look promising but hopefully the later start time will give the The K-Zone grounds crew time to get the field ready...if it ever stops raining.

SFL Standings
Team W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Green 5 3 0 .625 - 26 27
Black 4 3 1 .571 0.5 22 26
Gray 2 5 1 .286 2.5 23 19

Latest Games
Saturday, October 1
Game 13: Gray v. Black, PPD
Game 14: Black v. Green, PPD

SFL Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Sunday, September 11
Game 5 (from 9/10): Black 8, Green 3
Game 6 (from 9/10): Gray 5, Green 0

Wednesday, September 14
Game 7 (from 9/11): Gray 5, Black 1
Game 8 (from 9/11): Black 4 Green 2

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green 5, Gray 1
Game 10: Black 4, Gray 2

Thursday, September 22
Game 11: Green 4, Black 2
Game 12: Green 3, Gray 0

Remaining Schedule
Sunday, October 2
Game 13: Gray v. Black, 4 pm
Game 14: Black v. Green, 5:30 pm

Monday, October 3 (Tentative)
Game 15: Green v. Gray, 4 pm
Game 16: Black v. Gray, 5:30 pm

Wednesday, October 5
Game 17: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 18: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Follow updates on The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#SFL) for Storm Fall League updates.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SFL: The Lost Games

There were some games that slipped through the cracks last week while I was attending to a personal matter but nonetheless, we had a double-header last Thursday. The Green Team reclaimed their post at top of the SFL standings after a pair of wins while their pitching was great allowing only two runs in two games. After a 4-2 win over the Black Team, Green jumped in front of Black by a half game. Games will continue this weekend.

SFL Standings
Team W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Green 5 3 0 .625 - 26 27
Black 4 3 1 .571 0.5 22 26
Gray 2 5 1 .286 2.5 23 19

Latest Games
Thursday, September 22
Game 11: Green 4, Black 2
Game 12: Green 3, Gray 0

SFL Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Sunday, September 11
Game 5 (from 9/10): Black 8, Green 3
Game 6 (from 9/10): Gray 5, Green 0

Wednesday, September 14
Game 7 (from 9/11): Gray 5, Black 1
Game 8 (from 9/11): Black 4 Green 2

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green 5, Gray 1
Game 10: Black 4, Gray 2

Thursday, September 22
Game 11: Green 4, Black 2
Game 12: Green 3, Gray 0

Remaining Schedule
Saturday, October 1
Game 13: Gray v. Black, 9 am
Game 14: Black v. Green, 11 am

Sunday, October 2
Game 15: Green v. Gray, 9 am
Game 16: Black v. Gray, 11 am

Wednesday, October 5
Game 17: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 18: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Follow updates on The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#SFL) for Storm Fall League updates.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Support Staff

Another Family Day has come and gone and it seems to be getting bigger every year. This being only my second year in the program, it is difficult for me to speak of years past, but this year's turnout seemed to give our regular season attendance a run for its money. The spread which was laid out for players, coaches, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, girlfriends, and everyone else in attendance put to shame every Saturday afternoon tailgate party held at Rec Park.

A special thanks goes out to all the parents who lent a helping hand in yesterday's event. Their efforts helped make the 2011 Family Day the best one yet. But the efforts they put forth every other day of the year and support they provide have helped make the program what it is today. We have not yet reached any of our goals but we are well on our way and it could not be possible without the tireless efforts of the families involved.

As far as the game is concerned, Josh Crout is my hero for driving in the tying, and go-ahead runs with a 2-out, 2-run double in the bottom of the 7th inning which gave the Green Team a 4-3 victory and now gives me bragging rights over Coach Sankovich for the rest of the fall. The Black Team took an early 2-0 lead after a RBI-hits from Jae Leeworthy and Jake Gilstorff. Green answered back when Matt Toth doubled home a pair. After a 2-out hit of their own, Black now led 3-2, but the Green bullpen put up zeros the rest of the way. Glenn Stewart, Brandon Grunda, Doug Fox, and Mike Morgan held the game in check for the final four innings to preserve the 4-3 win.

Finally, a special thanks goes out to former players Zack Justice and Cam Castro for their help yesterday. Zack lent a helping hand behind the plate calling the balls and strikes while Cam donated his dulcet tones for the pre-game introductions. Their efforts are yet another example of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to lend a helping hand and who also believe in the direction this program is going. Thank you and RAGE ON!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Balls in Play

The SFL has reached and passed the halfway point and the action is heating up. Games have been close, with seemingly every game going into the last inning with teams either tied or within a run of each other. Usually what has made the difference in each game has been a single play for one side or another which either swings momentum, or stops it altogether. A common misconception is that big plays always happen in the late innings. While that is true to some degree, in that those are the plays we remember most vividly, big plays happen throughout the entire game.

From an offensive standpoint, one way to increase your chances for a big play is to put the ball in play. As any baseball fan, player, or coach will tell you, striking out accomplishes nothing during an at-bat. But what they may not know is just how big of an impact strikeouts actually have on the course of a game. Through ten games of the SFL, teams are hitting a combined .241 (85-for-352). If strikeouts are removed, the average jumps to .323 (73-for-226), an increase of nearly 100 points when the ball is put in play. When people talk about the little things in baseball which can make a difference between winning and losing, this is one of those things they are talking about.

Special Thanks
A special thanks goes out to players Josh Crout, Shaun Gaydos, Brandon Grunda, Chase Haas, Heath Kelley, Sean Mathews, Brad Raley, Reid Rizzo, Matt Toth, Dylan Yankle, and guest coaches/instructors Cam Castro, Ryan Rua, and Ben Willis for their help at camp...we couldn't have done it without you!

SFL Weekend Recap
The Gray Team dropped a pair of games when SFL action resumed on Sunday after games were put on hold for Saturday's Prospect Camp. The Black and Green Teams took advantage and kept pace with each other atop the SFL standings with wins on Sunday. In the first game, the Green Team erased an early 1-0 deficit and opened the game up with a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth innings en route to a 5-1 victory. In the nightcap, the Black Team led 4-0 into the sixth, but Gray made it interesting after back-to-back home runs by Zach Mosbarger and Garrett Emling, but that would be all the scoring and Black held on for a 4-2 win.

SFL Standings
Team W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Black 4 2 1 .667 - 18 24
Green 3 3 0 .500 1.0 24 20
Gray 2 4 1 .333 2.0 20 19

Latest Games
Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green 5, Gray 1
Game 10: Black 4, Gray 2

SFL Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Sunday, September 11
Game 5 (from 9/10): Black 8, Green 3
Game 6 (from 9/10): Gray 5, Green 0

Wednesday, September 14
Game 7 (from 9/11): Gray 5, Black 1
Game 8 (from 9/11): Black 4 Green 2

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green 5, Gray 1
Game 10: Black 4, Gray 2

Remaining Schedule
Sunday, September 25
Game 11: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 12: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Saturday, October 1
Game 13: Gray v. Black, 9 am
Game 14: Black v. Green, 11 am

Sunday, October 2
Game 15: Green v. Gray, 9 am
Game 16: Black v. Gray, 11 am

Wednesday, October 5
Game 17: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 18: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Follow updates on The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#SFL) for Storm Fall League updates.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Green with Envy

SFL action resumed on Sunday after the weather postponed its first games of the year. The forst-place Green Team took the field looking to extend a slim half-game lead in the standings. But the Black and Gray Teams, respectively, took care of business to hand the front-runners a pair of losses. SFL games will resume on Wednesday after a team workout on Tuesday.

SFL Standings
Team W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Black 2 1 1 .667 - 9 15
Green 2 2 0 .500 0.5 19 13
Gray 1 2 1 .333 1.0 10 10

SFL Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Sunday, September 11
Game 5 (from 9/10): Black 8, Green 3
Game 6 (from 9/10): Gray 5, Green 0

Remaining Schedule
Wednesday, September 14
Game 7 (from 9/11): Gray v. Black, 3 pm
Game 8 (from 9/11): Black v. Green, 5 pm

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green v. Gray, 9 am
Game 10: Black v. Gray, 11 am

Sunday, September 25
Game 11: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 12: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Saturday, October 1
Game 13: Gray v. Black, 9 am
Game 14: Black v. Green, 11 am

Sunday, October 2
Game 15: Green v. Gray, 9 am
Game 16: Black v. Gray, 11 am

Wednesday, October 5
Game 17: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 18: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Follow updates on The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#SFL) for Storm Fall League updates.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

SFL is Underway...and Underwater

The Storm Fall League (SFL) is underway at The K Zone and despite today's (and possibly tomorrow's) games were cancelled due to rain, the start to the 2011 version has been very positive. The two areas from the 2011 regular season that needed improvement, pitching and defense, has shown just that, improvement. Walks are down and with more pitches in the strike zone, more balls are being put in play, giving fielders more chances to make plays, which they have. The offense hasn't been as prolific as in years past, but losing the GLIAC's top two hitters in Brandon James (.421 AVG.) and MLB draftee Ryan Rua (.400) will have that effect. But ask any coach and they'll tell you that the pitching always starts faster than does the hitting. Regardless, the games have been much cleaner and there has been more of a focus on the "smaller" aspects of the game (advancing runners, keeping the double play in order, etc.). Despite the increased quality of play, there is room for improvement, and it's always exciting to think about what we're capable of accomplishing.

Recent Scores
Saturday, September 3
Game 1: Black 3, Gray 1
Game 2: Green 4, Black 3

Sunday, September 4
Game 3: Green 6, Gray 3
Game 4: Gray 1, Black 1 F/6

Saturday, September 10
Game 5: Green v. Black, PPD (weather)
Game 6: Gray v. Green, PPD (weather)

Remaining Schedule
Sunday, September 11
Game 7: Gray v. Black, 9 am
Game 8: Black v. Green, 11 am

Sunday, September 18
Game 9: Green v. Gray, 9 am
Game 10: Black v. Gray, 11 am

Sunday, September 25
Game 11: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 12: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Saturday, October 1
Game 13: Gray v. Black, 9 am
Game 14: Black v. Green, 11 am

Sunday, October 2
Game 15: Green v. Gray, 9 am
Game 16: Black v. Gray, 11 am

Wednesday, October 5
Game 17: Green v. Black, 9 am
Game 18: Gray v. Green, 11 am

Standings W L T .PCT GB RA RS
Green 2 0 0 1.000 - 6 10
Black 1 1 1 .500 0.5 6 7
Gray 0 2 1 .000 2.0 10 5

Follow updates on The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#SFL) for Storm Fall League updates.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Warning Track Power, Part III

Each day in baseball is a clean slate. The closer will inevitably have another opportunity after a blown save. The hitter will have another at bat. And even the umpires will have another bang-bang call to make. The clubhouse itself had a clean slate. When campers arrived on day one, white tops were hanging inside each locker along with solid gray game pants, a navy blue adjustable game hat with the Captains powder blue “C” surrounding a lighthouse on the front, completed with navy blue socks, and a navy belt. The alternate blue tops were on hangers resting on a hook on the outside of each locker with each camper’s name and number facing the clubhouse.

After each game, when the players are long gone, clubhouses bear a resemblance to shelves in the department store aisles on Black Friday. But clubbies meticulously repair and prepare the room for the next day’s action. Tables which previously supported trays of pasta, grilled chicken and salad were being scrubbed of the marinara and barbeque sauce stains so they could be washed and put back in time for the donuts, bagels and coffee in the morning. Laundry bins were empty, ready for the next wave of sweaty polyester, shampoo bottles and soap dispensers were now at their tipping points. The clubhouse appearance at sunrise would be a mirror image of the previous day.

The White Team became the Blue Team when we put on our alternate blue tops, which were hanging on the outside of our designated lockers and hadn’t been worn since Friday morning’s workout. Our white tops were washed, dried and also hanging in our lockers awaiting game two. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the morning game for the coach-pitch game. This was essentially batting practice played live. There was a lot more offense but our team dropped its second straight.

After my morning painting our outfield fence, I arrive on LaTourette Avenue and found a spot in the Classic Park parking lot near the clubhouse entrance. Most of the players were in the tented area in the right field stands finishing their lunches, but there were a few players still in the clubhouse either changing their jersey tops, applying one more layer of Ben-Gay to already oversaturated appendages, or laying on the floor trying to catch their breath.

There were a lot of different paths on each camper’s trip to Classic Park. For many of the campers, it was their first time participating in camp, but for some, they were experienced veterans. Two such men were Kenny Seelie (Valparaiso, IN) and Steve Sutker (Cleveland Heights). The two campers crossed paths in Winter Haven, FL over a decade ago where they attended their first Cleveland Indians Fantasy Camp.

Kenny originally made his way to the weeklong event after visiting a friend’s house in the Akron area. The house wasn’t much on the outside, but the contents on the inside were the driving force behind the 1,200-mile trip. The basement housed memorabilia from his friend’s own trip to the Tribe camp which were arranged in such a way to make visitors feel the need to pay admission to the personal museum. Still playing in an adult baseball league in Chicago, Kenny’s competitive fire still burned and after seeing his longtime friend’s shrine, he knew he had to do it.

Steve’s road was somewhat different but within the differences, laid many similarities. The brother of his ex-wife had worked up the nerve to join a cattle drive, which was enough to wrangle his emulous spirit and embark on his own version of the Chisholm. The two met on the diamonds of Chain O’ Lakes Stadium and became fast friends. The friendship grew on the and off the diamond and the two have reunited for the previous fifteen years to spend another week in the sun together.

The afternoon game was a must win for the White Team. After dropping the first two games, another loss meant not only losing the weekend series, but also kept alive the possibility of being swept. So like the 2011 version of Justin Verlander, we needed a stopper. We needed 30 years of combined experience. Seelie took to the hill in as stressful as a situation that a weekend of fun would allow. To combat game-induced stress, a pitcher needs to find a comfort zone, and who better to provide comfort than the one player who had been behind the plate for the entire weekend. Sutker crouched in his familiar stance and went to work calling each pitch of the 5’9” left-handers complete game effort.

The White Team bats came alive and thanks to a 6-run fourth inning, had a comfortable lead, which was never threatened in a 10-1 win. The battery of Seelie and Sutker had given us exactly what we needed, a chance to get even in the morning.

That nightcap win got us on track and a big win in the morning tied the series at two. But unfortunately, the series would end just so. The fifth game was a game between the campers and the pros. Lenny Barker took the mound, Kevin Rhomberg was at the hot corner, Mike Hargrove anchored the defense at first base, and Joe Charboneau patrolled the outfield. The rest of the pros team was made up of family members, friends of the camp, and interns. Each camp team had two innings of six outs apiece to defeat the pros. But even at this stage in the game, we stood no chance. This was one final chance for campers to enjoy each other’s company on the field, and to bask in the glory of the professionals they revere. There are many reasons for campers to attend a fantasy camp, and there are even more reasons to come back. But the relationships formed and the friendships renewed turn fantasy into reality.

I would like to personally thank Tricia Ambrose and the News-Herald who helped make this experience possible. A very special thank you goes out to Kevin Rhomberg for his hard work and tireless efforts in preparing the event, providing each camper with an experience they'll remember the rest of their lives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Warning Track Power, Part II

Day 1: The Games

The afternoon continued with the first of five intersquad games. The pros (or coaches) excused themselves from lunch to pick teams. I was on Team Hargrove and Team Rhomberg. The Rhomberg in this case was Kevin Rhomberg who played for the Indians from 1982-84. Kevin also organized the entire camp and made sure everything ran smoothly. He of course, did far more behind the scenes than the campers would probably ever know, but it was a lot of work that shouldn’t go unrecognized.

I was penciled in the lineup in the 3-hole and playing shortstop. I was the White Team’s Ryan Rua. Aside from a few swings in the cage during the spring and the morning BP session, I hadn’t played a game of baseball since my last collegiate game in 2003. There were a few Alumni Games at Mount Union but those were less competitive than the games at Classic Park. Trailing the Blue Team 1-0 after a half-inning of play, I was getting ready for my first at bat. All I was looking to do was hit the ball hard and did not care about the result. This is actually the approach we take with our hitters but it is easier said than done. With this in mind, I was looking for the first fastball near the zone. I wasn’t sure how many good pitches I would get so the first one to fit the description I was hacking. Ordinarily with a runner on first and one out, I would look to find a way to get him into scoring position and staying out of a double play. Had I not beaten out the relay throw I would have failed at both goals. But despite the rollover ground ball to short, I felt pretty good about the at bat because I accomplished my original goal of hitting a good pitch, and hitting it hard. I knew if the same pitch was thrown in my next at bat, I would crush it.

I lead off the 4th with the Blue Team still leading 1-0. I had made a few plays at short, one ground ball and one pop up, and I was starting to get a feel back for the game I had played competitively since I was seven years old. I was again looking for the first ball I could hit hard and as the leadoff hitter of the inning; my job was to get on base. There was no bunting allowed so that wasn’t an option. Not that I would in a game like this but it didn’t matter because it was against the rules. So was stealing, pick-off attempts (by pitcher or catcher), and advancing on passed balls or wild pitches. It was pretty much like playing backyard ball as a kid, but without pitcher’s poison or opposite field out.

Walks were enforced but hit-by-pitches were left to the hitter’s discretion. If the bean ball didn’t cause enough pain and the hitter wanted to stay in the box, they were allowed. This sparked a story from skipper Mike Hargrove about the time Albert Belle was hit by a pitch and refused to take his base. He told the umpire we would not take his base and he was taking his at bat. Hargrove was summoned from the dugout and had to basically tell Albert that he had to because “those were the rules.” Each camper had the option to think like Belle if inclined, but most just took their base and kept the game moving.

I took a few pitches and was in a 1-1 count when I got a fastball over the middle of the plate in which I was able to drive to the right-center gap. The players manning the outfield were not as fleet of foot as they once were so what should have been an opposite field single turned into a three-bagger. I was hoping it was only a single so I wouldn’t have to leg out a triple but the ball scooted nicely on the fresh-cut grass and I was on third. A groundout to first later and the game was tied at one.

There wasn’t much offense in the opener. The Blue Team took a 2-1 lead and we brought the infield into the cut of the grass. With an insurance run standing 90 feet away, we did our best to keep it a one-run game. The batter did his best Luis Gonzalez and I turned into Derek Jeter. The ball hung in the air for what felt like an eternity but I needed one more second because the ball fell softly into the outfield grass for a base hit. The 3-1 lead stood tall and we dropped the opener. We would have three more chances to get our revenge but game one belonged to the Blue Team.

In the locker room, we got more of the big league experience. Clubhouse attendants, or clubbies, were on hand to take dirt stained uniforms and throw them in the wash. This was a welcome change for me, as Coach Sankovich and myself split the laundry duties last season. Laundry left in the bins, campers said their goodbyes and went their separate ways, if only for a night.

Up next: Day 2

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Warning Track Power

Day 1: The Morning Workout

Most kids dream of playing Major League Baseball the moment they pick up a bat and ball. But as they get older, what they are really dreaming of is the big league lifestyle. For three days, nearly two dozen men get to experience aspects of that lifestyle. And for the past two days, I have also gotten a taste by participating in the Lake County Captains annual Fantasy Camp.

The weekend started on Friday with a morning workout. The campers were split into three groups who were then sent to different position areas. Naturally, I started in the bullpen with Lenny Barker. At that point, each camper in the group threw a short bullpen, or a “short pen” for short. The short actually referred to the number of pitches thrown and not to the distance from which they threw. Pitchers are known to throw short pens between appearances, which are normally between 20-25 pitches. These are not to be confused with flat ground sessions which are normally thrown from the distance of 55 feet. The main goal in the flat ground sessions is to work on the command of each pitch in the repertoire. My session was much shorter than the 25 pitch norm of a short pen. I threw about ten pitches when I noticed my catcher showing signs of discomfort behind the plate in the catcher’s crouch. After each guy in the group finished his set, we convened in the outfield grass near the warning track where Lenny Barker was demonstrating the grips he used for his pitches.

We were in the bullpen for about 20 minutes before heading to the hitting shell with the 1980 American League Rookie of the Year. Joe Charboneau was sporting a navy blue Indians mock turtleneck with his game pants from that amazing 1980 campaign. It is often said that hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in sports. Teaching the art of hitting can be very difficult as well. But it can also be the easiest thing to do as it can always be broken down into the simple concept of “see ball, hit ball.” It is very difficult to discuss the intricacies of hitting in a 20-minute time span so “Super Joe” took the latter approach. Instead of getting too technical with the swing, the session turned into an open forum for campers to ask question regarding their swing or hitting in general. This was a common theme throughout the camp; the pros were eager and willing to interact with each camper.

The best was saved for last when I arrived at the third and final station was infield defense with Mike Hargrove. “Grover” is probably best known for the time he spent as the manager of the Indians during the 1990’s, but he put together a respectable 12-year career finishing with a .290 career average and also was named Rookie of the Year, six years prior to Charboneau winning the award. I was looking forward this session the most and was hoping to pick up a tidbit to take back to Lake Erie. Unlike the previous two stations, there wasn’t much time for shooting the bull because we got right to work and used every second of the allotted time.

The next part of the morning is usually what all players look forward to…batting practice. We remained in our three groups for BP; I would hit in the second group. This gave me time to talk to different campers who were scattered around the outfield. When it was my turn to hit, I was just looking to knock the rust off so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. There were a few occasions during the 2011 season where I took some hacks in the cage before a practice but those were few and far between and it had been at least four months since that happened so my worries were warranted. It took me a few swings to get my timing back and by the fifth cut I was making solid contact. It doesn’t matter how many days or months or even years are between swings, a hitter always expects a base hit, even in BP. So I was disturbed at the fact I kept rolling over on each pitch, resulting in a cluster of ground balls to the shortstop. Near the end of my round, I started to really connect and I think I short-hopped the wall. It definitely got a rise out of the guys in my group but I wasn’t sure the exact landing point because Barker was pitching and despite the fact he hadn’t played a Major League game since 1987, I had no doubt he would buzz me if I stopped to admire any of my hits.

The camp got a little more authentic during the second round of BP when Hargrove thought the group wasn’t hustling enough and gave us a piece of his mind about one of his biggest pet peeves. I’m not sure the group knew how to take the tongue-lashing but in a weird way, I think we all secretly enjoyed it. Nevertheless, BP resumed with a little more pep.

Lunch was provided in the picnic plaza in the right field stands. This may have been the best time for campers to mingle with the pros. Yes, they were on the field with us, and would be during the game as well, but here their guards were down as campers gathered around each pro like boy scouts around a campfire while the pros told different stories of their playing or coaching careers.

Up next: The Games

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 5 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Monday, August 22...5 Days

6:33 am - Woke up early today, trying to prepare the body for 6:30 workouts which begin in exactly one week. During the final weeks of the summer recruiting calendar, I was routinely waking up in the 5am range, but a few days of getting up after 8 or 9 can quickly disrupt the body clock.

7:31 am - I emailed a few recruits to follow-up some of the phone calls from last night which was followed by a session of Compliance Assistant.

11:37 am - I had some errands to run in the morning so I got to the office a little later but still in plenty of time to prepare for tonight's team meeting. We were pretty prepared as a staff so there wasn't much to do before hand. Print out the fall calendars, run some copies of the player profile sheets and we were set.

2:31 pm - Players were coming in and out of the office all day so our weekly Tuesday recruiting meeting got started a little late. It may as well have been the first day of classes because the to-do list was getting longer by the minute.

4:44 pm - With the recruiting meeting over, we had some time to kill before dinner. It has become a tradition for the coaching staff to go out to eat before the first team meeting of the year.

7:25 pm - Finished dinner at the Lizard and headed back to campus for the team meeting.

8:00 pm - First team meeting of the year!

Up next: 4 Days to Fall Ball
Latest post: 6 Days to Fall Ball

Follow updates on The Cave's Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#eyeofthestorm) and check out the blog recap later in the evening.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 6 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Monday, August 22...6 Days

7:21 am - Woke up today with a little more pep in the step. There was, at the very least, a sense of urgency to get out of bed. Not only was this the first day of classes but we had a big day planned at the field. No, we didn't have any baseball workouts scheduled but this is a big week as far as preparation is concerned.

8:36 am - I got to the Oz Center and was surprised to find little action going on in the bullpen area of the athletic office. But that would quickly change as we would have players shuffling in and out all day. One of those players was Renne Araujo, a transfer student from Riverland Community College. Renne was coming to us from a community college in Minnesota, where he left a high school in Texas, but not before coming to the US from Maracaibo, Venezuela. So he's seen quite a bit of this great country of ours. He seemed to have already made a smooth transition to life at Lake Erie. And while he's dealt with being away from home before, having another player from Venezuela (Brayan Cacique) on the team couldn't hurt.

10:31 am - After the staff finished a meeting to discuss the updated fall calendar, Sank and I started gathering equipment to transport from the gym to the field. It took a lot less time than we expected. All of our equipment fit in Sank's vehicle in only one trip to the field. The list: 1 bat bag, 3 BP buckets, 3 empty buckets, 1 bucket of dimple balls, 3 batting tees, 2 home plates, 2 medicine balls, 1 stretching bag with cones/jump ropes/bands, and 1 pitchers bag.

11:10 am - Before filling the equipment shed with our stuff, we needed to clean it out first. We spent about 15 minutes moving rakes, drag screens, and chalkers around before sweeping out the shed. Once that task was completed, we emptied Sank's trunk and moved on to the next task, bringing over the L-screen, turf protector, pitching platform, and the hitting mat from the barn on the other side of the football field. Anyone that has been to the Kiwanis (otherwise known as the K-Zone), knows this barn is not close to the field, but we put our heads together and made it in one trip. Those Master's degrees are really being put to good use.

12:08 pm - We headed back to campus to meet Coach McGee for lunch after his staff meeting. I would rather have carried the equipment the two miles from campus to the field than attend that staff meeting. We talked some more about the upcoming schedule and what we wanted to do at our first practice before heading down to the field to put the roll cage together.

2:26 pm - After a quick stop at the hardware store for some rope, we got back to the field to put out roll cage together. It didn't take long with the amount of help we had at the field, so we were able to get back to the office much sooner than anticipated.

3:37 pm - Back at the office, I was finally able to get to some emails that had been waiting for me in my inbox. There was also a stack of envelopes on my desk which I could assume were Camp Flyers.

4:45 pm - We had one last impromptu meeting in Coach McGee's office which started around with lifting groups and ended up in assigning the Storm Fall League teams. By the time we were done it was almost 6:00. Never have a to-do list on the first day of classes because you will almost certainly never get to it. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Up next: 5 Days to Fall Ball
Latest post: 9 Days to Fall Ball

Follow updates on The Cave's Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#eyeofthestorm) and check out the blog recap later in the evening.