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Author: Jon Shehan

The Stretch Run

Week Seven and Eight Blog
CB Lineup

Millersville University

So, here we are… the stretch run. We have two conference series left: one against West Chester and one against East Stroudsburg. Our conference, different than most in NCAA Division II, plays four games series on Fridays and Saturdays. Each team gets to host a double header on one of the days. Currently, we are a game out of playoff contention with a 7-9 conference record and 19-16 overall record. After losing 6 straight conference games, we have won 5 of 6 and seem to be finally turning the corner. The meat of our lineup is starting to swing the bat well, while redshirt freshmen Tyler McDonald and Kurt Seiders have done an excellent job breaking into the lineup and winning jobs at third base and left field.

Besides finally figuring out a lineup that has worked consistently well over the last 10 games, I fully credit our team loosening up and having fun again for our current success. As of late, I have been studying the career and philosophies of Auggie Garrido. If you are reading this, you probably know that Coach Garrido is the current coach at the University of Texas and former coach at Cal State Fullerton. His record speaks for itself. While studying Coach Garrido, I came across one his philosophies that fit our club perfectly. Coach Garrido said that players need to trust themselves and play the game instead of trying to win the game. We focus daily in practice and in our off the field lives to focus on the process but we, as a team have focused so much on the process of winning, we lost trust in ourselves to play the game. After all, baseball is a game and games are meant to be played. This may seem very simple, but when we simplify things, the game begins to slow down, enabling players to excel.

Our players have had fun the past six conference games. Spectators have told me that our club is finally competing. Maybe so, but our player’s raised level of competition is because they are playing the game and having fun doing it. Going from a pre-season number five national ranking to an unranked 19-16 team is not what we had planned this year, but we still have a shot at making the post-season and making a run. Whatever happens the next 15 games will determine our fate. But, no matter what the result is when we reach the 50 game finale, my hope for our club is that they play the game with every thing they have on every pitch. When the last pitch is thrown this season, I want our guys to walk away without regrets, knowing that the left it all on the field.

Thanks for reading,

Jon Shehan
Millersville University

Week 5 & 6

Week Five and Six Blog
CB Lineup

Millersville University

If you have been following our season, we are midway through our Shippensburg series, which is the second of 6 conference series that we play in the PSAC. Currently, we are 12-10 (2-4 PSAC) and have been on a little bit of a skid as of late. Its been an interesting year and even with the fact that we are not playing up to everyone else’s expectations, we have two things going for us right now: we are healthy and we still have a very good team. No, we have not played up to our potential. Confidence is down right now and things have not gone our way in many situations. We have not exactly put ourselves in situations to win, either. But heck, that is baseball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. Being a fifth year head coach, I am continuing to learn. And, like the last four seasons, I look at this season, so far, as another checkpoint or evaluation point that provides data on where we need to get better. Tonight, I am not giving up; I am looking for ways to build confidence and improve our program—we are going to get over this hurdle, just like we have gotten over hurdles that have been much higher over the past five years.

The toughest part of coaching a group that is under achieving is to let go. My goal and our staff’s goal, is to build confidence in any way, shape of form that we can, day in and day out.. Letting go of control is one of the hardest things we, as head coaches, have to do. We want to do it for them and we know we cannot. So when they screw up, which they always will do, eventually, we over coach and say things like, “catch the ball” and, “you shoulda hit that pitch” and, “throw strikes.” At which point, our players say in their heads, “Thanks coach; I was trying to drop it, swing and miss or walk that guy.” We want to tell them what they did wrong, making the sting of their failure, even worse. There is a difference between the dialogue above and teaching. Teaching provides helpful information. There is a difference between the above and, “here is how to improve.” We tell teammates to pick up their teammates, but we forget to do it as coaches. We dwell on failure, just as we harp on our kids not to. At this point, I committing myself to teaching—when we fail, I am going to be the first to say “So what.” Then I am going to teach.

We revisited our goals tonight and they have not changed. They are just as high as they were at the beginning of the season, just as high as they were when the last pitch of last season was thrown and most importantly, I still have confidence in our kids to get the job done. I believe in our kids, our staff and our process. Again, the pieces of the puzzle are healthy—the only question is if and when we stop under achieving and begin playing the Marauder way.

Here are a few positives from today’s double-header. Dan Johnson, a guy who deals with physical adversity day in and day out in his life, hit a HR and a triple that with a throwing error, turned into a little league homerun. He finished the double header with 3 more knocks, which should push his average over .340. His Quality Plate Appearance Percentage (the only offensive stat that I really actually care about) is through the roof right now, telling me that he could be hitting a lot better than .340. The kid has been flat our productive. The triple he hit today was definitely the most memorable play of the season thus far. I am a sucker for guys who play hard day in and day out. This kids does. Dan Johnson has established himself as a hard-nosed kid who isn’t flashy but gets it done daily and he does it with grit. He’s a guy our team should feed off of. Brooks Rothschild, coming into today’s game, was 5-0. He lost today, but has been lights out week after week. He is now 17-3 in the past two seasons. No flash, no 90 mph fastballs or filthy breaking balls, just grit.

Just like every other challenge that our program has faced over the past four years, we will figure out how to overcome our slow start this season, which has now bled into mid-season. Everyone knows the old cliché: its not how you start, its how you finish. I will add to that: who cares how you start or how you finish? The only thing we control is tomorrow’s first pitch and then when that is over, we need to focus on winning the following one. We have about 5600 more pitches to go. The downhill race to the post season has now begun.

Thanks for reading,

Jon Shehan
Millersville University

Week 4

Week Four Blog
CB Lineup

Millersville University

A lot has happened since I have last wrote…

Saturday, March 3rd took us to California University of Pennsylvania to take on a traditionally very solid PSAC West opponent. Coach Conte always has his team ready to compete! Brooks Rothschild turned in another very good performance on the bump, throwing a complete game and giving up one earned. Offensively, we woke up, throwing a 9 on the board.

Game 2 was a different story. Mike McMonagle had a tough outing, not getting out of the first inning before 6 runs had crossed the plate. Kyle Petty turned in a great performance on the bump for Cal, tossing a complete game shutout. Looking back at the day, I was pleased with our performance across the board, for 13 out of 14 innings. Our arms put zeros on the board for 12 of 14 innings. Game two, we got beat… it happens sometimes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 took us to Philadelphia University for a single game. Philadelphia beat us 7-6 in a close game. The loss marked the 2nd time in two years that our program has lost two consecutive games (N. Georgia in our opening series in ’11). Our consistency has been a product of good pitching, great defense and a phenomenal mental approach by our club. It’s the same old equation that wins over and over at every level. When it comes to our current club—it’s the same thing that we need to get rolling in the present. The last thing that we need to do is begin searching for answers.

In my first entry, I wrote a lot about adversity. I am again looking forward to assessing how our club reacts to the current adversity. Since September, we have talked about what our approach is going to be when it finally does go bad for a couple games. Well, here we are—our first losing streak in a year. I am looking forward to the first pitch on Friday—after all, that is the only thing that our club can control. When we are able to focus a pitch at a time, we will be right where we want to be.

Thanks for reading,

Jon Shehan
Millersville University

Week 3: Riverside Spring Classic

This past weekend, our club traveled to a small town called Williamston, NC to play in the Riverside Spring Classic. The event is named after Riverside High School, the host of the tournament. Again, the weather was wild this weekend as 30+ MPH winds and rain pummeled the area all day Friday (wind blowing out). Saturday’s temperatures were windy and cold (wind blowing in) and, finally, Sunday was brisk, but absolutely beautiful.

Even though it did rain on Friday, we were one of the few facilities that were able to sustain play in Eastern North Carolina, completing two of the three scheduled games in the tournament. Seton Hill played a wild one with LeMoyne in game one as both teams combined for an NCAA Division II second best 13 homeruns in one game. Seton Hill eventually won the game 17-16.

On Saturday, four gamers were played. Seton Hill beat Davis and Elkins 11-6, LeMoyne dropped Glennville 19-2, we topped Fairmont State 4-1 and also beat Glenville State 8-1 in the night cap. The first pitch of the day was thrown at 12 PM and the last pitch at 1:45 AM. (Due to the downpours on Friday night, the field was unplayable until noon.)

On Sunday, all was back on schedule with LeMoyne beating D&E 4-0 in the early game at 10 AM and Seton Hill beating us 9-2 during the 2 PM game. Glenville State and Fairmont State were playing the nightcap as I typed this.

Overall, this weekend was very enjoyable. We might not have come away with three wins like we had hoped for—and its not that we don’t care about winning. However, winning is not always the end all when it comes to the success of a weekend. I was again impressed with how the community of Williamston and most of all, Hank Tise, the Head Baseball Coach at Riverside, took care of each and everyone of the teams and individuals that traveled to their quaint town on the Coastal Plain. Coach Tise’s staff, his team parents and their families did an outstanding job preparing the field and food for all the teams. Through all of the poor weather and schedule changes, Coach Tise’s crew was fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Williamston and can’t wait to come back in 2013!
As far as our club goes… humility is a beautiful thing. This weekend and last taught us a lot about who we are and what we need to do to get better. Again, it is interesting to see how we respond to the “bulls eye effect.” We, as a coaching staff and a team face challenges that we have not had to deal with before. Other clubs show up and play with intensity and energy every game. Because others say we should be good, other teams turn up the energy level when they play us. It is exactly where we want to be as a program for the long haul. If we continue to play well for year’s to come, then this will become the norm. For us now, it’s a slightly different feeling. It’s early and I am still very confident in our pitching, defense and offense. But, there is no doubt that our club’s ability to react to days like today will eventually lead to success or demise. One thing that we continue to work on with our club is that only the present and the process matters. I can’t wait until Tuesday afternoon to get back on the field for practice. Coach K always says that games are checkpoints in progress and I have to agree. Today’s checkpoint was exactly what our club needed. How will we respond? Stay tuned…

Thanks for reading,

Jon Shehan
Head Baseball Coach
Millersville University

Week 2: The relationship between pitchers and catchers

Week Two Blog
CB Lineup
During our early bye week, I have been playing particular attention to our pitchers and catchers.
Pitchers, as many of us know, are stereotyped as odd, quirky, different and “non-athletic.” Whether or not these stereotypes are true for your staff, we can agree that each pitcher has different stuff, a different routine and a distinctly different personality. Position players often look out at the bullpen like it is another planet. Throw “stuff” out the window for a minute and think about the individuals on your pitching staff. Each guy on your staff has a certain amount of potential. Reaching that potential does not only depend on his throwing program, his arm care work, or what he does in the gym or between outings for his conditioning. All of that is crucial—and there are many philosophies in that department. However, figuring out what makes each guy on your staff “tick” is just as important as all of the physical aspects that go along with preparing to pitch. No one can help a coaching staff prepare your arms between the ears like your corps of catchers can.
Catchers act as a bridge between position players and pitchers. They are the position players who have to travel to that “other planet” and get to know the other life form living there. The dynamic between catcher and pitcher is fascinating. Catching, at the Big League level has recently affected the free-agent market. A few pitchers have actually turned down millions with one team in order to pitch for a another lesser paying team that has the catcher that they trust. What about the pitching coach? What about the long toss program? What about the money? Throw them out the window. Catchers can make the difference in one’s career on the mound.
College teams average somewhere between 16 and 18 arms on a pitching staff. That is 16-18 different personalities that a catcher must know in order to help his staff become they best that they can be. A catcher must not only know what pitches to call when—it is important, don’t get me wrong. But, what tends to get overlooked the most is that a catcher must become a chameleon that blends into a pitcher’s routine during their mid-week bullpen session, during their pre-game routine and during the game in which they are pitching. At the same time, a catcher must be able to effectively communicate, which includes both critiquing and complimenting. The effective communicator will pick his spots, knowing when to criticize, when to compliment and when to keep his mouth shut—all while keeping a guy from getting out of the comfort of his routine.
Pitcher’s routines are fragile. How many times have you seen a pitcher get out of sync with their routine, only to have a miserable outing as a result? One pitch in the bullpen or during his warm-up session is all it takes with some guys to get out of whack. Good catchers see it or feel the instant it goes wrong and can get inside the guy on the bump’s head at that moment. Bad catchers further disrupt the pitcher’s routine, only making the situation worse. The best behind the plate figure out a way to prevent the routine from going bad before the others at the park even realize it could have gone bad.
As a catcher, handling a staff is far more important than receiving, blocking or throwing out runners. The 16-18 guys on any given staff are individuals and need to be treated that way. Catchers who figure this out are the guys that the majority of arms on a pitching staff start asking to throw to and that is the best compliment that a catcher can receive (no pun intended).

Jon Shehan
Head Baseball Coach
Millersville University

Week 1 never goes exactly how you think it will…

College baseball’s length of season is one of the most interesting dynamics in college sports in regards to the adversity that can result from partaking in the “marathon.” This weekend, our club went through a lot of adversity. For starters, the weather in Pennsylvania this off-season has been absolutely outstanding (as it has been in most of the country). The warm trends on the East Coast have allowed for more outdoor baseball in January than most coaches and players can remember. That being said, one would expect the warm weather trend to continue into opening weekend—especially when a ballclub travels eight hours south. If there is one overall lesson I have learned in my short tenure as a college baseball coach, it has been never create or partake in expectations. The temperatures in Winston-Salem never got out of the 30’s during any of our four games. In fact, the first pitch of game 2 of Saturday’s double-header, the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees with sustained winds of 15-20 mph (wind chill in the single digits and teens). Adverse conditions? Absolutely.

The second bit of adversity that we ran into this weekend was one bad hop that hit our second baseman in the chest during game two. One would think that one bad hop isn’t all that adverse, but in our wonderful game—one that is mostly played between the ears—a bad bounce can and will create a lack of confidence and trust. In short, our middle infielders lost trust in the playing surface and themselves. Again, after leading the NCAA Division II in defense in 2011, one would not expect our middle guys to struggle opening weekend on the defensive side of the ball. When things go unexpectedly, they are adverse.
Without going into detail, officiating played a part in the series this weekend, from the standpoint of adversity; in any four game series it will. Because of NCAA rules, I will not discuss the play or even place any blame on umpiring. The bottom line is that every season for every team, during the marathon of college baseball, calls on the field made by umpires will either be in your favor or not in your favor. This past weekend, some calls went our way, while others did not. However, I have very seldom seen umpires who do not give their best effort while officiating a ball game. The beauty of trusting another human to officiate a game (and not a camera) is what continues to make our game pure. Its imperfections and adversity are what teach our young men playing the game about the realities of life.

Adversity, in this day and age, has become a cliché to those of us in our business. Many talk about it openly, throwing around quotes of those who have learned to use it to their advantage. Many do their best informing their team about it, defining it, and explaining what will result from it if one allows it to affect them negatively. But, few actually master reacting to it. The great Mark Twain once wrote, “By trying, we can easily endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.” In my humble opinion, at the NCAA Division II level of baseball, there is VERY little difference between the best and the mediocre, between winning a conference title and finishing 5th, between winning a regional and missing the regional completely. However, a ball club’s reaction to adversity is absolutely, 100% the piece of the development puzzle that can either vault a club into greatness or create cancerous mediocrity, ruining a year’s worth blood, sweat and tears. Simply, those who master their reaction to adversity are successful over the long haul, while others who cannot handle it will undoubtedly fall short of their goals.