Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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December 12, 2019  

Jon Shehan- Head Baseball Coach, Millersville University (PA)

During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Jon Shehan, Head Baseball Coach at Millersville Univ. NCAA D2. Jon discusses the importance of coaches being humble and admitting that they don’t know everything, creating an enjoyable environment to make players love coming to baseball practice, and ways to adapt practice time to player’s needs. 

 

Episode Highlights: 

  • How did Jon Shehan get involved in baseball and as a coach?   
  • What were some of Jon’s first steps when he became a head coach? 
  • What is he doing with the time and staff he has? 
  • Are there things that have worked for team culture building? 
  • How can you go about relationships with players individually?
  • What is he doing to make the lives of his assistant coaches easier? 
  • What are some other rules and standards he has in his baseball program? 
  • What are some different practice plan tips Jon Shehan recommends? 
  • If Jon Shehan could go back to being a first-year head coach, what advice would he have for himself? 
  • What are some training things that Jon is excited about?
  • Are there training activities that his players love to do?
  • What are the three things we would notice if we watched Jon Shehan’s practice?
  • What are some of Jon Shehan’s favorite books and resources? 

 

3 Key Points:

  1. Jon Shehan’s players track their nutrition using apps every single day and turn their numbers in on Friday mornings. 
  2. Jon Shehan has read and recommends the book “Old School vs. New School” by Eugene Bleeker. Jon has read it twice now. 
  3. Try changing practice activities every 5-10 minutes. 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “For the young coaches out there, man, just don’t be afraid to dream.” – Jon Shehan (05:08)
  • “The guys that work for nothing are probably your most valuable resource and you have to find ways to thank them, and keep them involved, and keep challenging them as well. Not overwork them, but challenge them.” – Jon Shehan (07:21)
  • “Being able to take that data, then show it to the players has been crucial for us. Because so many of these guys feel like things are going the right way. But I think what we have done is speed up the development process.” – Jon Shehan (09:47)
  • “At the end of the day, our values aren’t going to change. That is what you are signing up for. Because we may find something better next week that we are going to adapt and put into our program..” – Jon Shehan (16:10)
  • “Making it intentional that we are building relationships with each and every individual on the team, even though it is a competitive environment. And maybe one of the toughest things we have to do.” – Jon Shehan (17:36)
  • “One of the interesting things we do as a team the first week of class every year is going over those core covenants, and first ask, ‘Are there any other values that we need to add?’” – Jon Shehan (26:00)
  • “One of the biggest values, sometimes, it’s a blessing and a course, is...make it better. It’s just simple, make it better.” – Jon Shehan (42:33)
  • “One of my biggest theories is making practice fun. I want our guys to show up and enjoy practice and have it be one of the best parts of their day.” – Jon Shehan (46:07)

Resources Mentioned: 

Book: “Old School vs. New School” by Eugene Bleeker

December 5, 2019  

Jason Bell- MiLB Field Coordinator, Houston Astros

During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interview Jason Bell, MiLB Field Coordinator for the Houston Astros. Jason Bell talks about the art of cultivating team culture, methods to adapting your coaching style to your various players, and his process of adjusting to a diverse group of players. 

Episode Highlights: 

  • How did Jason Bell get involved in baseball and as a coach?   
  • How does Jason Bell go about designing practices? 
  • Jason Bell talks about: how to get on each player’s individual level?
  • What is Jason;s take on positive and negative affirmations?
  • What are the things Jason does to adapt his baseball style? 
  • What does Jason Bell believe team culture is? 
  • What if your players don’t seem to be adjusting to training?
  • What is his process after the practice of self-reflection?
  • What advice does Jason Bell give to be useful to a diverse group of players? 
  • What are some learning things that Jason is excited about?
  • What are things his players get excited about doing?
  • Is there anything that Jason Bell believes that other coaches might disagree with? 
  • Which things that happen during practice typically that we would notice?
  • What are some of Jason Bell’s favorite books and resources? 

 

3 Key Points:

  1. Get on each player’s level. 
  2. Research says that it should be 3-1 positive to negative affirmations.
  3. Pay attention and listen to your players. 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Teaching life through a game. I know what the game has done for me and how much better of a person I’ve become through the game of baseball.” – Jason Bell (00:37)
  • “We just believe that the body will self-organize itself, and you know, maybe sometimes it does. But maybe it doesn’t do it in the most powerful way.” – Jason Bell (08:10)
  • “I think the art of coaching and why we are most important is that it is our job to relate to each and every player that we have.” – Jason Bell (16:13)
  • “If there are 25 players on a team, it is more important for us to be 25 different types of people rather than 25 different people changed to our system as a coach.” – Jason Bell (16:22)
  • “You need to use feedback on the player’s body language. How he is taking the coaching that you’re giving him and kind of wonder like, ‘Man, it doesn’t look like he has bought in. Maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable disagreeing.” – Jason Bell (27:06)
  • “If this player feels like he needs more work in this area and we aren’t getting it to him, I’m so glad that he feels comfortable in saying that.” – Jason Bell (35:49)
  • “Showing where you can add value and creativity is great. But, use the creativity to like actually develop somebody’s skills and not being creative for the sake of being creative.” – Jason Bell (38:23)
  • “Communication is key. And being able to communicate with players of all sorts of backgrounds.” – Jason Bell (38:41)

Resources Mentioned: 

December 1, 2019  

Pete Caliendo- Former USA Baseball National Team Coach and Skills Development Coach.

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During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Peter Caliendo, Host Of Baseball Outside The Box which is an educational podcast, Former Coach for the 1999 Intercontinental Cup for USA Baseball, President of Caliendo Sports International, Vice President/Board Member of International Sports Group, Member Baseball Tournament Committee for WBSC World Baseball Softball Confederation, and Technical Committee for Confederation of Pan American Baseball. Peter Caliendo pulls from his 37 years of baseball experience, providing tips, advice, and training styles that he has learned from many other countries and cultures, such as Cuba, Japan, and the Dutch. 

 

Episode Highlights: 

  • How did Peter Caliendo start his podcast Baseball Outside The Box?
  • How did Peter get involved in baseball and as a coach?   
  • What are different countries doing in baseball training? 
  • What are some great baseball strategies in Japan?
  • What are Peter’s thoughts on Dutch training? 
  • How are other countries coaching coaches? 
  • What makes Cuba different for baseball? 
  • What are some training things that Peter is excited about? 
  • What are some things Peter may believe about baseball that other coaches may disagree with? 
  • Peter is big in having parents involved in baseball training. 
  • What are the things we would notice if we watched Peter Caliendo’s practices? 
  • What are some of Peter Caliendo’s favorite books and resources? 

3 Key Points:

  1. Peter worked with Baseball Schools USA, setting up over 60 schools in the Chicago area. 
  2. Attention to detail is key in baseball training. 
  3. Peter Caliendo was the only US coach ever to be giving courses in Cuba prior to the revolution and after. 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Why are we teaching things that we have been teaching in the past? It could be ok but there’s maybe better things out there.” – Peter Caliendo (00:50)
  • “As coaches, we need to have an open mind. We need to be open about what we are teaching. We need to always question what we are teaching, and always ask ‘why’?.” – Peter Caliendo (01:10)
  • “Volunteers are great people. If we didn’t have volunteers, we wouldn’t have the sport.” – Peter Caliendo (19:53)
  • “Baseball can be boring. And I have been in it for 37 years. And especially for kids because if things aren’t moving fast and things are getting better...they are going to find something else to do.” – Peter Caliendo (20:11)
  • “I would say a good 80% of coaches around the world are volunteers. There are not many getting paid and if they are, they aren’t getting paid very much. They are doing it because they love it.” – Peter Caliendo (21:03)
  • “We need to get back to free play and we need to incorporate it within our practices.” – Peter Caliendo (28:20)
  • “I’m excited about trying to keep up with the technology aspect because I really believe that what we are doing is we are utilizing the technology to tell us our we doing it correctly.” – Peter Caliendo (30:42)
  • “Don’t always do what other coaches taught you, even 10 minutes ago. If there is something you came up with, be creative yourself.” – Peter Caliendo (34:02)

Resources Mentioned: 

November 27, 2019  

Monte Lee- Head Baseball Coach, Clemson University (SC)

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During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Monte Lee, Head Coach of Baseball at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. Coach Lee shares his passion for wanting to become a coach from a young age, the methods he uses to communicate with his team players and staff, how he goes about designing practices, and the importance of players being intentional with their pitching and hitting. 

 

Episode Highlights: 

  • What are the main reasons that Monte Lee became a baseball coach? 
  • What does Monte do to instill his teach culture? 
  • What does his fall training session look like? 
  • How does his mind work with practice design? 
  • Does he use technology with his practices?   
  • How does he intentionally develop his staff? 
  • What are some of the rules that Monte Lee has?  
  • What does a typical practice plan look like? 
  • What are they doing in the batting cages?
  • Does Monte Lee have a system for communicating within the team setting with players that don’t play regularly?   
  • What advice would he give to first-year coaches?
  • What is something that he digs into that works for learning and improving?  
  • What is something that his players love to do in practice? 
  • What is something he may do that other coaches may not do? 
  • Which resources have been helpful to Monte?

 

3 Key Points:

  1. He tries to eliminate the fear of failure. It is more about the process, not the result.   
  2. You can learn so much from just sitting back and listening.  
  3. When you do say something to a player, make sure that it matters. 

 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Got into coaching, really to be honest with you, I never thought about doing anything else. I just knew from a very young age.” – Monte Lee (00:47)
  • “I can remember being 15-years-old and my high school baseball coach asking me what  I wanted to do when I grew up, and I told him I want to come back and be the head baseball coach.” – Monte Lee (00:54)
  • “The first thing I tried to instill in our guys is that everything that we do on a baseball field...we are on offense.” – Monte Lee (03:28)
  • “We want our pitchers to throw every pitch with conviction and intent. We want our infielders when they are throwing the ball across the field to throw the ball with intent. We swing the bat with the intent to do damage.” – Monte Lee (04:23)
  • “I would hope that if you were to ask anybody who ever worked for me, I always wanted to make sure that everybody on my staff feels appreciated and that their voice is heard. We have staff meetings at least once a week.” – Monte Lee (21:22)
  • “We go over our team rules and our expectations and I have them sign it. It is pretty detailed. But it is pretty simple too. In a nutshell, it is just, be a good citizen.” – Monte Lee (25:29)
  • “We have two square cages and two long cages at Clemson and we have one cage that we kind of call our data cage.” – Monte Lee (037:16)
  • “You care about them and sometimes you probably don’t communicate with them as much as you would like to just because you feel bad for them. You feel bad that they are not getting the opportunity.” – Monte Lee (43:05)

 

Resources Mentioned: 

November 21, 2019  

Chase Lambin- MiLB Hitting Coach, Texas Rangers

During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Chase Lambin, Hitting Coach  in the Texas Rangers organization. Coach Lambin shares information about hitting, pushing players to be their own coaches, learning from everybody, creating a proper teaching environment, and how to deliver data to players without overwhelming them. 

 

Episode Highlights: 

  • How did Chase Lambin get involved in baseball and as a coach?   
  • What are some learned lessons Chase has acquired? 
  • What does the off-season look like for Chase Lambin  
  • Where does he start in the process of coaching? 
  • How does Chase relate to and get to know his players better? 
  • What does Chase Lambin say to players to access their confidence? 
  • How does he help players make better decisions? 
  • What are some different competitions that he uses with players? 
  • How does he balance individual training needs within the team setting while trying to win games? 
  • How can we filter data to players to be the most beneficial to them? 
  • Is there anything that Chase Lambin believes that other coaches might disagree with? 
  • What are some things that he works on with players on a regular basis?  
  • What are some of his favorite books and resources? 
  • Play baseball with joy. It is what we do, not who we are.  

 

3 Key Points:

  1. As a coach, be a “mentern” - a combination of a mentor and an intern.
  2. Every swing is like a snowflake. Each one is different for the situation and the moment. 
  3. Chase Lambin wants his players to be their own best coaches. 

 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “I have a list of goals for the off-season, and all of it involves learning and growing. First off, I have to make up for lost time with my wife and kids because I think pro ball can be a bit of a grind and it puts a strain on a family.” – Chase Lambin (03:57)
  • “Everybody has something to offer. Whether it be a first-year pro player, a college kid, a 10-year big league veteran, or a coach that has coached for 40 years.” – Chase Lambin (04:47)
  • “There is no right and wrong. There is what does and does not work. I really don’t subscribe to absolutes.” – Chase Lambin (07:55)
  • “We are more psychologists than we are mechanic. I usually start with a lot of questions that have nothing to do with baseball. I try to ask about their siblings, their parents, or do they have a girlfriend.” – Chase Lambin (11:28)
  • “I think sometimes all a hitter needs to hear sometimes is that they are not alone.” – Chase Lambin (22:10)
  • “You’ve got to create the environment to teach. You’ve got to train it.” – Chase Lambin (26:14)
  • “When you make the preparation and the training as competitive as the game. It’s like getting a running start into the actual competition.” – Chase Lambin (33:10)
  • “The last thing I want to do is muddy the waters. My main job is to distill information and give it to them in digestible chunks.” – Chase Lambin (41:45)

Resources Mentioned: 

November 14, 2019  

Darren Fenster- MiLB Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator, Boston Red Sox

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During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Darren Fenster, Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Darren discusses how his coach at Rutgers University got him interested in being a baseball coach. He also shares the elements that make base-running and being an outfielder very important, and what it takes to get better as a baseball player and a coach.  

Episode Highlights: 

  • Darren Fenster introduces his background, including never envisioning himself as being a coach.
  • Darren Fenster went to the minor leagues for the Kansas City Royals. 
  • How did he go from being a stellar infielder to the outfield coordinator? 
  • What are some different things that can make base-running better. 
  • Which drill help players do better with base-running? 
  • How does he structure his time to handle base-running with so many players?   
  • Darren talks about his journey of learning out the outfield. 
  • Coaches haven’t taught until their players learn.
  • You can get better by watching baseball.   
  • How does he go about communication with players from different locations and languages? 
  • What is something that Darren has been working on and looking to get better at? 
  • What is something that his players love to do in practice? 
  • What is something that Darren Fenster believes that other coaches may disagree on? 
  • What would we notice during Darren’s practices that he typically does? 

 

3 Key Points:

  1. Darren Fenster played baseball in New Jersey at Rutgers University, met Coach Fred Hill who got him into coaching, and left Rutgers as the all-time career hits leader. 
  2. Assume that your players know nothing and everything will surprise you. 
  3. Darren breaks down the game of baseball into singular steps to isolate movements and playing moments for his players to rehearse and practice repeatedly to develop skills. 

 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Right now, I am the outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Red Sox on the minor league level.” – Darren Fenster (00:42)
  • “I’m responsible for what we are doing with regards to developing our outfielders and what we are going to do in our approach to base-running. This my 8th year with the Red Sox.” – Darren Fenster (00:51)
  • “For them to see my potential in a role that I really was not an expert in by any means. For them to say, ‘I think you can become one,’ that is as big of a value in leadership as anything else.” – Darren Fenster (12:27)
  • “Base-running, I think, people just look at in the general term of running harder around the bases, and it is so much more than that. The entire skill begins with effort.” – Darren Fenster (13:40)
  • “If we can start every day of spring training with a 10-15-minute block, where the entire camp is doing base-running...a player’s attention span is always going to be at their height at the beginning of your day.” – Darren Fenster (23:43)
  • “I am a huge believer in having groups small enough where guys can get as many reps as they possibly can within the time period that they can.” – Darren Fenster (34:17)
  • “You are actually going to field far more balls on the ground than you ever will on the air because just about every single base hit turns into a ground ball for an outfielder.” – Darren Fenster (29:59)
  • “A lot of people are putting the game in a vacuum, and they are making the ‘always’ and ‘nevers’ to the game. For me, you have to take bits and pieces of everything.” – Darren Fenster (35:24)

Resources Mentioned: 

November 13, 2019  
November 7, 2019  

Doug Wren- Head Baseball Coach, Tyler JC (TX)

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During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Doug Wren, Head Baseball Coach at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. Coach Wren talks about what it was like as a young 25-year old coach, how he prepares his assistant coaches to give their best and learn enough to be head coaches one day, and how he works with players who might be struggling. Learn from this coach who has had multiple All-American players under his coaching tutelage over the years. 

Episode Highlights: 

  • How did Doug Wren get involved in baseball?   
  • What was Doug’s vision when he started as a coach? 
  • What does Doug Wren’s fall training season look like?  
  • What is he charting for offensively? 
  • What type of environment does Coach Wren set up to integrate new players into the team culture? 
  • Are there any specific things that Doug Wren requires his players to do?  
  • How does he develop his assistant coaches? 
  • What does a typical spring training plan look like? 
  • How does he go about communicating to players about what they need to work on?
  • What advice does Doug have for first-year head coaches?  
  • What is the latest thing that he has learned that he is excited about? 
  • What is something that he does in practice that his players love? 

3 Key Points:

  1. Learn from the coaches that you serve under and write those ideas down.
  2. Give your players 100% of yourself as a coach and expect the same from them. 
  3. You are not doing your job if you aren’t teaching your assistants to one day take your job. 

 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “I got a light verse that I coach by and its First Corinthians 11-1 and it’s, ‘Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.’ So for me, that has kind of really pointed me in the direction that I wanted to take my coaching career in.” – Doug Wren (03:00)
  • “I restructured practice a little bit to kind of suit what I was trying to do from an offensive and defensive perspective. From the gear that we wore, kind of putting our spin on that.” – Doug Wren (05:30)
  • “We try to play our outside opponents on accommodation on Wednesdays and Fridays, and so Monday becomes a teaching day. So show up Monday morning. Hopefully, the guys are excited.” – Doug Wren (10:29)
  • “Our guys never miss class for baseball. They are never chasing down professors. They are not behind in their work. They are always in class, and if they miss, it is most likely on them.” – Doug Wren (11:44)
  • “There is nothing worse than having an exit meeting at the end of the fall and you felt like this kid could have done a little bit better and maybe he fell behind. But in his mind, he only remembers the good things.” – Doug Wren (13:30)
  • “Excellence in small things is excellence in all things. How you do anything is how you do everything.” – Doug Wren (18:50)
  • “I‘ve had multiple All-Americans that didn’t start the year out as starters.” – Doug Wren (39:31)
  • “Be where your feet are. Be the best assistant you can be where you are at. Be a sponge. Take notes.” – Doug Wren (42:46)

 

Resources Mentioned: 

November 3, 2019  
October 31, 2019  

Joe DeMarco- Hitting Coach, ELITE Baseball (CA)

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During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interviewed Joe DeMarco, President and Chief Operations Officer at ELITE Baseball, who oversees all the Elite Baseball teams and private instruction. Joe DeMarco’s extensive experience includes: coaching baseball at the University of Kansas and spending two seasons in the San Diego Padres organization as a member of the Peoria Padres and the Idaho Falls Braves. Joe DeMarco discusses how he trains batters for timing, focusing on finding the ‘when,’ and good sequencing and how do you measure it.  

 

Episode Highlights: 

  • How did Joe DeMarco get involved in baseball?   
  • What does Day 1 look like?
  • What is Joe doing to train for timing.   
  • What did his process look like when he began his position? 
  • What is the definition of good sequencing and how do you measure it?
  • What does Joe mean by ‘focusing on finding the ‘when’?  
  • From a timing aspect, what advice does Joe DeMarco have? 
  • What drills did Joe DeMarco share with Rick Eckstein?  
  • What do they assign for their hitter’s homework. 
  • What are you doing in the dark when no one is watching? 

 

3 Key Points:

  1. Joe trains for timing in areas that include the ball flight timing at the point of contact and working on the player’s sequential timing. 
  2. Praise the right process even if the result is not what the player wanted. 
  3. Joe DeMarco encourages players to keep a journal of the drills and hitting areas that they work on. 

 

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Day 1, for me you know, I like to develop a relationship and connect with the player. Any time a new player comes in for an assessment, I try to make sure I’m there.” – Joe DeMarco (05:27)
  • “A lot of the stuff with sequencing and just ball flight, we kind of get them to understand, at least our focus is, how their body is operating, and each guy’s rhythm and pace.” – Joe DeMarco (11:17)
  • “Ultimately, I believe the only decision you make is to stop your swing.” – Joe DeMarco (11:50)
  • “If I was going to break down into kind of body part sequencing, when that lead foot hits, then that heel plant. Then there is stabilization of the head, which I think is really important.” – Joe DeMarco (18:35)
  • “The plan has to match the decision.” – Joe DeMarco (49:40)
  • “Trying to train things with rhythm and timing, adding decision in there through your control drills with any kind of toss or seated overhand I think you’re onto something. You have given them a really good chance.” – Joe DeMarco (50:09)
  • “We have the striped balls too. We do a lot of fast ball change out of the hand.” – Joe DeMarco (53:09)
  • “You always want to maintain a good posture with your head and your chest, and really on your backside. You are never going to shift past your backside.” – Joe DeMarco (1:06:16) 

Resources Mentioned: