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.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Playing the Greatest Generation

I know I said no blog posts this weekend but this one has nothing to do with baseball. Every year in my hometown of Conneaut, Ohio, the Chamber of Commerce transforms the shores of Lake Erie into the shores of Normandy, France by hosting a D-Day reenactment. The event celebrates those veterans who served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Thousands of people gather each year and travel from all over to honor parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors, and everyone else who protected our freedom.

While I don't go every year, this is something I recommend attending at least once. There are events all weekend but the reenactment takes place today. Below are a few pics from the 2009 reenactment I attended. God Bless America!

Full View of Photos

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 9 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Friday, August 19...9 Days

8:19 am - It felt like 10:00 when I woke up but it was only a few minutes after eight. I was a little sore after the first day at the golf course so I was figuring I would sleep until ten. Nothing too big on the schedule today. It was going to primarily focus on the strength and conditioning programs I was in charge of. This was something I had been in charge of while at Mount, partly at North Central and of course, last year at Lake Erie. This year's "Swoll Sessions" would be primarily the same but have a few minor changes.

9:59 am - After I spent about an hour on YouTube looking at different speed, strength and agility exercises, I began to email some of the high school coaches of my top recruits. High school (and travel) coaches become invaluable resources for college coaches in getting more of an insight into the recruits history, work habits, and overall personality, which can sometimes be the difference between Player A and Player B.

12:18 pm - $5 Footlongs.

1:01 pm - I was took a break from the computer to catch up on a few shows I had missed. Mainly Rescue Me and Wilfred on FX. Unfortunately, last night's storm caused interruption in the taping of the latter so I'd have to catch a rerun or just watch it on Hulu.

5:46 pm - I got back from a local ball field where I tested out the new warm-up routine. Most of the time we just call it stretching but it's more of an active warm-up with little standing around. I finished the workout in 9:46 which will probably extrapolate into a 10-12 minute routine with the team. It is pretty much the same as last year's but I added two exercises, took out two exercises and added a component to another exercise. But the main goal of working up a sweat and getting the heart rate moving will remain in tact.

[Ed. Note: There will not be any blog posts this weekend. I am, for the most part, taking a break from baseball tasks this weekend so there won't be much to write about. I will be back on Monday, August 22 with the next post but I will still provide tweets during the weekend. Be sure to register for our Fall Prospect Camp being held on Saturday, September 17 at Painesville's Kiwanis Rec Park.]

Up next: 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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 10 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Thursday, August 18...10 Days

8:57 am - Today was going to be a light day baseball wise but my schedule was full. I was starting a part-time job at Stonewater Golf Course. I'd mostly be working two days a week on our off days. This is the ugly side of coaching, where many assistant coaches need to find part-time jobs to supplement their income. This job will only last through the golf season but I could get some free rounds out of the deal as well...so I got that going for me, which is nice.

10:33 am - I arrived at the office with a few things to do before heading to the course. I started at 2pm so I had to be efficient with my time. I checked the mail to see if any camp (Saturday, September 17) flyers had come in, which a few had, so I entered those names into the registration list right away. We were getting a lot of calls about the camp but only a few flyers were returned. However, we are expecting a very good response.

11:34 am - With fall ball less than two weeks away, this was a good time for me to review last year's strength and conditioning program. I spent a lot of time last year looking at exercises which had the right mix of strength, speed and explosiveness. I also spent a lot of time talking with strength coaches at other schools and even minor league strength coordinators to stay current on any cutting edge training methods. Baseball training has changed so much even in the last five years, you always have to be looking for a better way to do things.

1:52 pm - I had a good start to the weight program and just needed to talk to Sank to make sure we were on the same page with what the pitchers would be doing. The bench press is something that will not be on the list. In fact, I am very much against the exercise for position players as well. Loading a bunch of plates on a barbell doesn't really do much to translate to the baseball field. Baseball training is all about the core muscles and explosive exercises. Baseball is a dynamic sport with constant starts and stops and our weight program needs to reflect that.

Up next: 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 11 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Wednesday, August 17...11 Days

6:50 am - Today felt like the first actual day of the year. I actually set my alarm this morning because the past few days have been get up whenever. The coaching staff had planned to meet at Dickenson Hall to help move freshman into their dorms.

8:31 am - I arrived at a somewhat deserted office. Coach McGee had been there for what I can guess an hour or so getting ready for our staff meeting later in the day. I had a few house cleaning duties at my desk before we walked across campus to the dorms. The first few items were sending out a few more camp (Saturday, September 17) emails and following up last night's phone calls with emails to each recruit. Camp was starting to shape up, which was promising for this time of the year. T-Shirts have been ordered, a trainer was lined up and hundreds of flyers were sent. The next phase of the camp prep was waiting for the registration forms to arrive. That, and more promoting (Saturday, September 17).

10:26 am - Sank finally arrived at the office which meant we could finally walk across campus for move-in as a staff. We immediately ran into the first crop of freshman. All seven of our on campus kids were in the same dorm.

2:05 pm - We sat down in Coach McGee's office for our weekly recruiting meeting. This was a relatively short meeting as far as recruiting talks are concerned. But there wasn't a lot of news to report. We made a lot calls and left a lot of voice mails. But we did make head waves with a few recruits so we left on a high note.

5:36 pm - The day had finally come to an end after six of our freshman left the office to head back to their dorms. Naturally, they were going to change, grab their gear and come back to the gym to get take some swings, and play some catch. The first day of anything is always optimistic and today was no different. Of course, there is still the first day of fall ball, the first day of individuals, the first day of spring training, and opening day to feel optimistic about, but I'll look forward to experiencing each one on its own.

Up next: 10 Days to Fall Ball

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 12 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Tuesday, August 16...12 Days

9:04 am - Yesterday was a long day in many respects. I spent almost five hours on the road to and from Pittsburgh. It was a family affair so I won't go into much detail, but it was a day I'd rather forget (and coincidentally, it has nothing to do with Pittsburgh). Nonetheless, I got home rather late and needed a few extra ZZZ's. As far as I'm concerned, my work week starts tomorrow when we welcome the freshman to campus.

9:06 am - Before I get started with any baseball work, I needed to mow the lawn. It needed it Saturday but I went to the Indians game that night and took off for downtown around 2pm. The subsequent rain both Sunday and Monday nullified any chances of that happening. Dating back to my days at Mount Union, where I was the Athletic Grounds Supervisor for baseball, softball and soccer, cutting grass has always been a stress reliever. The mower I used had four rollers which enabled me to make various designs in the outfield grass. That was without question the funnest part of that job.

10:11 am - After the lawn, cereal, and a shower, I got down to business. I had a pretty hefty to-do list so I had to stay focused. The majority of the list featured between 15-20 recruiting calls. Each coach is responsible for a certain number of recruits, with the head coach ultimately being responsible for all of them, but each coach takes pride in the recruits he actually brings on campus. A moment of such pride was in 2010 while still at North Central, when TJ Hecimovich, a left-hander from northwest Indiana, threw eight scoreless innings allowing seven only hits (all singles) to earn the victory in the final game of the regular season which clinched the conference title. TJ was my first recruit to commit during the 2009 season and set the stage for a memorable 2010. Every coach is recruiting to experience moments like this.

11:34 am - The cable guy showed up, I think unscheduled, to fix the recent problems with the HD channels. Despite not being aware of the appointment, his arrival designated as good a time as any to take a break from database work. The past hour and a half was mostly answering emails, adding names to the camp (Saturday, September 17) database, and planning which kids needed calling.

1:05 pm - Back from lunch, I got started on my recruiting calls. I was having moderate success in my first few days of making calls and was hoping today would see a few more pick-ups and a few less voicemails.

3:04 pm - I was having much better success today than I had in my previous two attempts at making recruiting calls. I was still leaving quite a few voicemails but my call volume had increased as well. I was hoping to have an idea of where most of these recruits stood so I could have something concrete to bring to tomorrow's recruiting meeting. But I'd say I had a good start through the first week of calls.

4:36 pm - I was done making calls and the next step was to enter the names into Compliance Assistant. This wasn't necessarily something that needed done everyday but Tuesday was going to be one of my days to take care of this and I hate letting these things build up into seemingly insurmountable piles of work, so I decided to just get it done.

5:03 pm - I started eating dinner while watching All Bets are Off on STO. I don't get into talk radio that much but I do like this show and once of my favorite writers, Jonah Keri was making a guest appearance. I am reading his book "The Extra 2%" which centers around the Tampa Bay Rays and their rise from worst to first. It's a good read thus far but I haven't made enough time for myself to sit down and finish it.

5:27 pm - I finished dinner and took a peak at my depleted to-do list. Like with any profession, the list will never be fully completed, but I accomplished a lot today. I feel good about tomorrow's meeting. I was in a good place which will allow me to feel excited instead of anxious about the start of fall ball.

6:01 pm - The last thing on the to-do list was to finish crunching the defensive numbers from the past three seasons. This was a task which could be left until later when I would sit down and watch the Tribe game tonight.

Up next: 11 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 15, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 13 Days to Fall Ball

There will be no blog post tonight. I'll be back tomorrow. Class resumes in a week and we're less than two weeks to Fall Ball.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 14 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Sunday, August 14...14 Days

8:07 am - I woke up early for a Sunday with nothing on the schedule. I was planning to mow the lawn at some point but it was still raining when I walked downstairs. It must have been quite a storm last night because I vaguely remember waking up at some point in the wee hours of the morning.

10:38 am - It took awhile to get going this morning. I laid on the couch watching third round highlights of the PGA Championship for about an hour. I still haven't showered but did make my way to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal.

12:12 pm - I stepped outside for some fresh air and to pick up a few fallen branches from the maple tree near the street. The branches appear to be the extent of the damage from last night's thunderstorm and fortunately they fell nowhere close to any power lines in the neighborhood.

12:46 pm - I received a text message from Coach McGee reminding us of our recruiting meeting on Wednesday. That is also the day where our freshman will move in to their dorms. We will be on site to provide a helping hand to our guys as well as others in need.

1:05 pm - The first pitch of the Indians game was thrown in the background on TV. While the Tribe went for the sweep, I began checking emails and started organizing my upcoming week. There was still a lot to be done for our fall prospect camp (Saturday, September 17) which was dominating my to-do list. In addition to the workload from setting up a camp, I still have some recruiting calls to make before Wednesday's meeting. I made a good portion of calls the past few days but there were still a few kids who needed called.

2:07 pm - I started looking over some stats from the 2011 season to accompany my practice plan for the first day of Fall Ball. We have good kids in the program but it helps strengthen your argument if you have concrete numbers to back you up. A good way into this endeavor I realized the numbers were a series of outliers. We only posted a .500 record (4-4) when we didn't commit an error last year. Ordinarily, teams are well-above the .500 mark when they play errorless baseball. However, I would bet that if we played more than eight games without an error, our record would have been much better. We just didn't have a big enough sample size.

4:15 pm - The Indians game had been postponed and the PGA Championship was getting good but I was still stuck on these numbers. I was working my way through each game of 2011 and had decided that I needed to look at 2010 as well. In fact, over the next few hours (or days if I don't get through it tonight) I would take into account every game since Lake Erie transitioned to the Division II level in 2009.

6:42 pm - I just ordered a Stromboli as I sit here at the computer staring at my excel spreadsheets in no mood to make dinner. I'm looking at some interesting numbers but right now I'm sure exactly what they mean. In the majority of our games, we would allow between three and eight runs a game where we would only score between two and seven. So the lesson here is if we hold our opponent to three runs or less, we win nearly 63 percent (10-6) of our games. And if we score two or less, we win a dreadful 7 percent (1-12) of our games. This puts a premium on offensive execution and keeping our errors to a minimum. But I didn't need to spend all day sifting through stats to figure that out.

7:31 pm - Looking at the differences between runs scored and runs allowed in 2011, I am having flashbacks to high school chemistry class where we took data and produced daily box plots. Those flashbacks quickly turned to nightmares because I quickly realized my high school chemistry teacher was also a high school umpire who had, on occasion, rung me up due to a very pitcher-friendly strike zone.

7:41 pm - The Stromboli's still wasn't here. I think the driver is lost.

7:49 pm - Food finally arrived. I took a break from the stats. Actually, I called it a night. Realistically, I had about a week to get the numbers in order before I started laying out my plan for infield practice during the first few weeks of fall ball.

Up next: 13 Days to Fall Ball

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 15 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Saturday, August 13...15 Days

8:25 am - Woke up today with even less on the schedule than yesterday, and if you read my post about yesterday, you would know there wasn't much going on then either. But it took me awhile to get out of bed. The recent nights have boasted absolutely perfect sleeping conditions and the mornings have been starting slow.

9:25 am - Sat down to my computer with my bowl of Cheerios and started surfing. It took me about 20 minutes before I even thought about checking my email. I don't remember what I was looking at but I know it had nothing to do with recruiting.

9:50 am - After finally getting to my emails, I followed-up to some calls from Thursday and Friday. After the last email was sent, I knew I had to perform a task which I was not looking forward to. For every student-athlete we begin a recruiting relationship with, by NCAA rules, we have to enter their name and info into something called Compliance Assistant. This is basically a program on the NCAA website that allows coaches and administrators to track the recruiting process as it relates to phone calls, official and unofficial visits, national letters of intent, among other things. There are a lot of rules in the NCAA manual and to avoid being the next Calvin Sampson, this is a tedious, but necessary step.

12:25 pm - After my compliance duties were complete, I went back to emailing a few emails about camp (Saturday, September 17) before calling it a day. I will be heading to downtown Cleveland with the folks to grab an early dinner and take in the Tribe game. So I'm calling it a day relatively early today.

Up next: 14 Days to Fall Ball

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 16 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Friday, August 12...16 Days

8:32 am - Woke up later this morning by design. There wasn't much on the schedule for today. We finished the mailing yesterday which was the big task for the week. Hopefully, the flyers would be sent out this afternoon. But whether they were or weren't, it was out of my control.

8:34 am - After putting on my glasses, I sat down at the computer to check my email. I would be doing any of my work from the home office today. But as I said, there wasn't much on the to-do list. I sent a few emails after the mailing before leaving the office last night and I had received some quick responses. We are trying to coordinate some possible overnight visits the weekend of the prospect camp (Saturday, September 17) which dominated most of the conversations.

9:37 am - I finished my morning emails and decided to run some errands during the morning so I could meet my dad for lunch. I received a few tweets saying my account had been sending out spam. I quickly changed my password and notified tech support but who knows. I have a feeling I will have to change my password every two days.

2:16 pm - I got back to the house and picked up where I left off earlier in the day. I have been getting strong response thus far from potential campers so I spent the next few hours answering camp questions. The more the merrier. I will answer camp questions all day long so long as it helps our attendance.

3:51 pm - Emails were sent and I was taking a break. I went over to a high school friend's house to see how he was adjusting to his new principal job. But he had started this week and wasn't home. Unfazed at Jim's absence, I went upstairs to partake in a game of old-fashioned hide and seek with my Goddaughter Addison. I also wanted to get her autograph on a photo that had appeared in the local paper.

4:55 pm - Sent my last email of the day...most likely. Tonight is going to be an early night as far as work is concerned. A big series for the Tribe starts tonight and the PGA final rounds are this weekend so there will be plenty to do while not doing anything.

Up next: 15 Days to Fall Ball

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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 17 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Thursday, August 11...17 Days

7:50 am - We had a daunting task ahead of us today, having to finish the prospect camp mailing. So it was worth getting up a little earlier today. Despite the fact I got home late last night after an incredible Indians game, I forced myself to get out of bed. I'm not going to tell you that it was a Rocky Balboa "eye of the tiger" moment or anything, but I had no idea how long this would take today so I wanted to get an earlier start.

8:24 am - I left the house after downloading a few podcasts for the drive into the office. I'm listening to a series of podcasts by Jim Meier called Championship Thinking. They aren't nearly as entertaining as the BS Report, but it definitely has more value for me.

10:04 am - I got to the office and was very focused. The printer was back online so before I did anything else, I printed out the address labels for our recipients. Once that was completed, I could start labeling all 1,000-plus envelopes. We had an advantage today because there was a student-worker manning the front desk in the Osborne Center lobby who could lend a helping hand. It was a HUGE help! Sank and I debated yesterday about running to Staples to utilize their tri-fold machine. The one in the mail room was temporarily out of service. We seriously considered forking over the $.02 per sheet to save ourselves the agony of folding each and every flyer. We decided against it which saved us about $20 but it was in my head the entire time.

11:15 am - I took a break from folding and labeling to email a few recruits about the camp. But these were players we had already developed a relationship with throughout the summer. I could feel my wrist becoming constricted by about a year's worth of carpal tunnel syndrome happening in an instant. But emailing recruits wasn't exactly the best remedy, but it needed done.

1:35 pm - Sank and I, along with one of our compliance assistants Kevin, made our way downtown for lunch at the best pizza place (and my favorite) in town, Bada-Bing Pizza. One of the unknown tidbits at Bada-Bing is that if you yell "Bada-Bing" as you enter the restaurant, you receive $1 off your order. Of course it doesn't apply on the lunch specials that we usually order (2 slices and a beverage for $4), but it's worth knowing if you order a full pie or a sub.

2:18 pm - We got back from little Italy and got back to the labels. Sank and I actually split up the job duties. He kept folding while I finished the labels and we both would handle the stuffing. Coach McGee jumped in at the bottom of the hour. It was a good opportunity to talk shop in an informal setting while a few of our returning players took some swings in the background. Classes begin the 22nd but a lot of upperclassmen come back early to move in to their off-campus living arrangements.

4:29 pm - We finally finished the mailing! This accomplishment was slightly delayed after we realized we were short about 200 flyers. At this point, we were all working in the lobby so I went back in the main athletic office to run the 200 or so copies. This added an extra 20 minutes or so to the task.

4:35 pm - We dropped off the 1,000-plus envelopes to Randy Jackson in the mail room. But there was a little problem in the way the envelopes were delivered. The flaps weren't overlapping and in order for them to be run through the sealer, they needed to be. This was a 10-minute job at the window, but at this point, we were on the other side of the tunnel. As we returned back to the athletic offices, insult was added to injury. While walking back to the baseball workspace, we noticed a stack of papers on the desk next to ours. That area had been deserted by Kevin, as he had left for the day. In the area behind where his laptop sat for the majority of the day, was the stack of 200 folded camp flyers that were the previously thought to be missing, or just not printed. It was bittersweet for me because I felt redemption in my math skills but as Steven Coogler once said, "In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes." So despite the renewed self-esteem, we wasted nearly 30 minutes in this ordeal. However, the bottom line is that the mailing was done, and in the end it was a victory.

4:57 pm - After finishing the mailing, there a few emails waiting for me in my inbox. The Indians game was going to feature a potentially great pitching matchup between Fausto Carmona and Justin Verlander so I wanted to reply to as many emails as I could because I wasn't going to spend much time on the computer later in the evening. I also planned to make a few recruiting calls tonight between innings.

6:15 pm - I finally left the office and should make it home in time for the first pitch of the Tribe game. The flyers would be sent out on Friday so there isn't much on the docket the rest of the week. It feels good to be done.

Up next: 16 Days to Fall Ball

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

Eye of the Storm: 18 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Wednesday, August 10...18 Days

8:01 am - It was another not so early morning. I figure I'd better take advantage of these while I still had the opportunity. Once the fall season begins we will have 6am weight training workouts twice a week, which means 5am wake-up calls. That, along with early morning weekend practices and you're looking at a lot of dewey wake-ups.

11:44 am - I finished a mail merge creating four separate lists of labels for both seniors and juniors ready to print except the football staff was borrowing the office printer/copier so the labels had to be put on hold. Kyle Akins, our sports info GA, had finished editing our camp flyer this morning which was now ready to be sent out. I emailed a copy to Randy Jackson in the who helped us out by running the copies in the mail room. Since we had some time before the copies were made, the three of us (myself, Sank and McGee) went to lunch at the cafe.

12:06 pm - You can tell we are getting closer to the start of the new school year because every day, there is more food offered at the cafe. Over the summer, campus can be a desolate place and the need for large quantities of food is nonexistent. But the cooks or chefs (I'm not sure which they prefer to be called) are trying to knock the rust of their games, the two weeks leading up to the start of classes is their spring training. Today, diced chicken was an option in the salad bar. I hadn't seen that in quite some time. Today's conversations were very similar to the previous day's which revolved mostly around recruiting and the 2012 schedule.

12:46 pm - lunch was a little shorter today because we had to get going on this camp mailing. This meant a stop back at the mail room to pick up our flyers. There were also two presents sitting for the baseball team which we could take back to the office. The main one was a new bat from Akadema in which the players could try out for the fall to see if we want to buy a few for the spring. We currently use Easton and I happen to like that brand (it happens to be the brand I used in college) but with the new BBCOR bats I don't think it matters too much which brand we use.

2:39 pm - We had a quick ten-minute meeting about which recruits each coach would begin calling. Actually, we have had contact with a number of players since the June 15th startup date. But Sank and I were assigned which recruits we would be responsible for calling and trying to set up visits with. After leaving Coach McGee's office, we went back to our area to continue folding flyers, getting them ready for the envelopes. We still couldn't print labels because the printer/copier was offline as a result of being unplugged for football report day. I guess we'd have to wait until tomorrow.

4:19 pm - We were still folding flyers. We need a GA!

5:37 pm - I finally left the office, on my way to meet my cousin. We had tickets to see the Tribe-Tigers matchup at The Jake (yes, I still call it that). I was excited to see Ubaldo make his home debut. It would be a good end to a day full of the not-so-exciting work that accompanies working in college athletics.

Up next: 17 Days to Fall Ball

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 19 Days to Fall Ball

20 Days to Fall Ball...
Tuesday, August 9...19 Days

8:04 am - Woke up a little later today than I did yesterday. I think the lack of sleep over the past few days and weeks finally caught up with me. But once I was out of bed, I decided to begin easing my way back into a workout routine. Team weight training sessions will begin once fall ball begins so I want to get the soreness out now so I still have the ability to throw batting practice when the need should arise.

8:58 am - Finished my morning workout and grabbed a quick bite to eat while checking my email. After seeing a message from both Coach McGee and Coach Sankovich, I realized I had to make a slight adjustment to my recruiting list from yesterday. Our meeting is in four hours so I will have plenty of time to update my list.

9:41 am - I finished editing my list and should be ready for the meeting, at least as paperwork was concerned. I had a few notes to print out once I got to the office, but the work was done. One thing I've learned over the past year is that Coach McGee is very organized and meetings run more smoothly when everyone else on staff is as well. This is definitely one of my strong points as far as office work is concerned.

11:19 am - I got to the office a little later than I wanted but I had a few errands to run. One of the benefits of coaching, especially in the summer, is there aren't necessarily set office hours so there can be a lot of freedom to take care of little things here and there. When I got to the office, Coach Sank was standing in Coach McGee's office. They were talking about a lot of the topics we would be discussing later but I still added to the brief discussion. A discussion that started around our top recruits and how they potentially fit into our program and quickly transitioned into our current personnel.

1:00 pm - We returned back to the office from lunch in the cafe. Most of the conversation centered around pretty much the same things we were just talking about in Coach McGee's office. The thing about baseball coaches, and I'm guessing coaches in general, is that we love talking about our sport, and we love talking about our players and how fun it is to watch them grow into the players we think they can be. There were a few housecleaning items in our email inboxes that we needed to attend to before our closed door meeting officially took place. This gave me a chance to get my notes together.

1:59 pm - After much anticipation, the recruiting meeting finally started.

3:49 pm - The recruiting meeting ended in a shade under two hours. We went through our entire database, narrowing down prospective student-athletes to a list that will allow us to target players who not only are talented and will be accepted into the school, but who also have an interest in our program. So with that said, two hours isn't too bad. We also had some discussion regarding our spring trip, but I won't say too much until the details are finalized.

5:38 pm - We finished up some details regarding our fall prospect camp (Saturday, September 17) while Kyle, our sports information GA, worked on the camp brochure. And after I finished a few small tasks at my desk, it was time to call it a day. Of course I did have some more work to do at the home office, but I finally was able to get in my car and head home.

Up next: 18 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 8, 2011

Eye of the Storm: 20 Days to Fall Ball

We are officially two weeks away from the start of the 2011-12 school year and less than three weeks away from the start of fall ball. As a staff, we couldn't be more excited. The 2011 season, while featured a disappointing finish, provided the foundation for an opportunistic 2012, which begins two weeks from Sunday. Over the next two weeks, the coaching staff at Lake Erie has a lot on their collective plate. The fall schedule needs to be set, fall prospect camp (September 17 - stay tuned for more info) details need finalized, workout gear needs to be ordered, recruiting notes need to be shared and compared. Some of these are ongoing duties which will continue throughout the year, but all of them will require our attention between now and the start of practice.

So, I am going to provide as much info over the next three weeks as I possibly can to enlighten fans on some of the day-to-day aspects that accompany being a college baseball coach. Some of it you may find exciting, a lot of it you may find tedious. But all of it we find essential, and we love every second of it. Besides, as Confucius once said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." If that is true, I will be spending the rest of my life on Easy Street.

[Ed. Note: I will also be posting on my Twitter feed @thecoachscave (#eyeofthestorm) as the events happen and will then recap with a new blog post.]