Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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July 18, 2019  

Drew Saylor- MiLB Manager and Hitting Coordinator, Pittsburgh Pirates

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and Axebats.

Go to axebat.com and use our code AOTC at checkout to save 10% on your purchase of Axe Bat training products including all of the Axe Bat Speed Trainers and wood bats! 





During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interview Drew Saylor, Player Development and Assistant Hitting Coordinator with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Drew provides listeners with an inside look into recruiting and communication strategies, how he is able to maneuver between both of his job roles, how to train players to get their mind and body in sync to respond in game situations, and what it takes to improve timing and rhythm as a hitter.


Episode Highlights:

  • How did Drew Saylor get involved in baseball and coaching?

  • Drew Saylor discusses his dynamic relationship with his wife.

  • What were some of the first things he did when he got hired?

  • How are some of the recruiting conversations like when you are a new hire?

  • What are the unique tasks of having two different roles within the Pittsburgh Pirates organization?

  • How can you maximize communication for development from a macro and micro level?

  • What are ways Drew addresses hitting issues?

  • How is the communication successfully executed with players?

  • How can players be trained to develop timing and rhythm?

  • What are ways to help players learn to adjust to various situations in the moment?

  • What are ways to get players excited about training and implementing competition into their training?

  • Which books have had a strong impact on Drew Saylor?

  • What are things that are done in training that his players love?

  • Which additional resources have benefitted Drew Saylor?

3 Key Points:

  1. Being transparent and vulnerable add to being a trusted leader.

  2. Coordinators aren’t just problem fixers. They are also a higher-level form of overall support and feedback.  

  3. It’s not about trying to speed up your swing. It’s about trying to give yourself more time for your A-swing to get the contact.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “A lot of what we’ve done is create the culture, create the relationships, and then now we are trying to build out how we view and how we evaluate our people.” – Drew Saylor (10:00)

  • “A lot of what I’ve done as a leader is be able to go, ‘Hey I’ve failed this way. I have messed up this way. I have fallen short of the mark this way,’ and have those transparent moments.” – Drew Saylor (12:15)

  • “For me, what I’ve tried to accomplish as a coordinator is to not lose that feel of that day-to-day.” – Drew Saylor (14:08)

  • “One of my big goals is spending time with the hitting coaches and with the managers, and say, ‘Hey, how is the chemistry of the club? What are some of the hot spots? How can I support you?’” – Drew Saylor (17:19)

  • “I like to think about failure as moving forward.” – Drew Saylor (19:42)

  • “It really starts with their ability to, swing at something they can hit hard.” – Drew Saylor (22:14)

  • (Timing) “I think that when players are not necessarily on time, or they don’t have the ability to get on time, one of the first questions that we try to ask them is, ‘When are you starting?” – Drew Saylor (33:13)

  • “When the idea comes from within, there is more investment. But you’re also helping the player indirectly think through a batting process of their swing.”– Drew Saylor (36:25)


Resources Mentioned:


July 14, 2019  

NIACC Head Coach Travis Hergert on a culture of development and competition





Go to axebat.com and use our code AOTC at checkout to save 10% on your purchase of Axe Bat training products including all of the Axe Bat Speed Trainers and wood bats!

Full Episode Here


July 11, 2019  

Justin Willard- MiLB Pitching Coach, Minnesota Twins

Video Link

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and Axebats.

Go to axebat.com and use our code AOTC at checkout to save 10% on your purchase of Axe Bat training products including all of the Axe Bat Speed Trainers and wood bats! 





Episode Highlights:

  • Why did Justin Willard get involved in baseball coaching?

  • In what ways have the Minnesota Twins changed in recent years?

  • How can you maximize individuals in a team setting?

  • How does Justin Willard access his players?

  • In what ways can a player’s skill faults be fixed?  

  • As far as proprioception, does it have to be sport specific?  

  • What is Justin looking for in a pitcher?

  • What does communication look like with his players?

  • Are their common problems that Justin sees?

  • How can coaches get players to implement individual corrections?  

  • How is the communication system within coaches established?

  • How do we develop command to help pitchers compete in the strike zone?

  • What is Justin’s advice to teach a lefty pick move?

  • What would a week look like for training a pitcher?

  • How can you prepare the pitcher’s body to throw?

  • How does rest and recovery work after a pitcher has been throwing?

  • How can you simplify data to make it accessible to players?

  • The ultimate goal is hit and miss.

  • What is the fine line between having too many pitches and focusing on go-to pitches?

  • What resources have Justin really excited right now?

  • What training routines keep Justin’s players motivated?  

  • Are there any books that Justin loves?

  • Baseball is an organism with many moving parts.


3 Key Points:

  1. Justin Willard accesses players by rating their proprioception, mobility, stability, and mental capabilities.

  2. 70% of our brain is optical power.

  3. The training goal is to ‘feed the flaw,’ which is to help players feel what their flaw is and overcorrect it.  

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “The people aspect is something that we as coaches often overlook. Helping people grow is a huge, huge aspect of coaching.” – Justin Willard (01:38)

  • “I’m going to put you in the best position to see the ball. That’s what we as humans do. We want to see.” – Justin Willard (09:07)

  • “If you can’t throw a change-up, it’s probably because you can’t get a proper extension of your arm. So, let’s work on the things that will help you get there.” – Justin Willard (20:55)

  • “You need to have all your information and your ability to communicate in one kind of central location.” – Justin Willard (22:09)

  • “I’m very big on restraint-based training, understanding and manipulating the organism, the task, and the environment.“ – Justin Willard (25:59)

  • “Throwing should be the easy part. Getting our body warm and ready and sweating, that happens before throwing.” – Justin Willard (36:41)

  • “I would rather have a guy with an 80-grade pitch and no command than a guy with a 40-50 grade pitch with phenomenal command.” – Justin Willard (40:07)

  • “If you boil down this whole player development process, you can’t just look at one sphere.”– Justin Willard (51:1)

Resources Mentioned:

July 7, 2019  

Oxford HS Head Coach Wes Brooks on Competition, BP and Practice Planning





Go to axebat.com and use our code AOTC at checkout to save 10% on your purchase of Axe Bat training products including all of the Axe Bat Speed Trainers and wood bats!

Full Episode Here


July 4, 2019  

Donegal Fergus- Associate Head Coach and Hitting Coach, UC Santa Barbara (CA)

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This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.





During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interview Donegal Fergus, Associate Head Coach at University of California at Santa Barbara. Coach Fergus describes his deep and eventful journey toward getting into baseball coaching. Learn from Donegal Fergus’ experience with gaining trust in his team players, training them to think on their feet for themselves, and how to train properly for having great timing as a hitter.  

Episode Highlights:

  • Why did Donegal Fergus decide to get into baseball coaching?

  • What are the typical fall training routines for Coach Fergus’ team?

  • What is the process of getting to work with training after establishing trust with the team?

  • What were the main goals for Coach Fergus to make his team successful?

  • What are habits that good players do on a typical basis?

  • How does Donegal Fergus go about training for timing?

  • What does the phrase ‘bat or barrel’ mean to Coach Fergus?

  • How does Coach Fergus handle batting practice?  

  • What is the latest think Donegal Fergus has learned that has gotten him excited?

  • Are there things during practice that his players can’t get enough of?

  • What are some of his favorite resources?


3 Key Points:

  1. Kids have a strong sense when adults aren’t authentic and are pretending to be something they aren’t.  

  2. Hitters should learn how to ‘dance with the pitcher’,’ meaning sync up and feel the rhythm of the pitcher’s throws and movements.

  3. A hitting exercise of having players miss a hit on purpose is a way to train their bat path and timing.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “I tell our guys almost every day, ‘Hitting is really hard.” We are going to have days, no matter how good you are, that you aren’t very good.” – Donegal Fergus (07:55)

  • “One of the biggest things with building relationships is that it has to start from a baseline of safely, with a safe environment, where you aren’t afraid to share, and you aren’t afraid to collaborate.” – Jonathan Gelnar (10:30)

  • “I don’t want to get boxed into what my guys need.” – Donegal Fergus (19:33)

  • “We went into it with sort of the blank slate of getting with our guys and letting them lead us where we need to go.” – Donegal Fergus (22:59)

  • “The less that I have to be involved from a hand-holding standpoint the better. The more I can take myself out of the equation the better, creating curious learners that ask questions, versus asking for the answers.”– Donegal Fergus (23:30)

  • “We need to figure out what we’re seeing and what our body does in reaction to that, and rewire it sometimes.“ – Donegal Fergus (28:26)

  • “Don’t swing at his pitch, swing at your pitch…if it’s not your pitch then it is a ball in our mind.” – Donegal Fergus (39:52)

  • “Why certain CEOs or politicians are so successful is because they stopped worrying about external expectations or external social ques. It doesn’t affect them.” – Donegal Fergus (51:04)

Resources Mentioned:

June 30, 2019  
June 27, 2019  

Adrian Dinkel- Head Baseball Coach, Southeastern University (FL)

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.

During this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I interview Adrian Dinkel, Head Coach at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Coach Dinkel shares his wealth of experience in developing his team culture of accountability and not being afraid of opening up to players and setting firm expectations. Adrian also explains how he keeps his modes of baseball training competitive, builds up his player’s levels of responsibility, and establishes a respect for hard work.

Episode Highlights:

  • Why did Adrian Dinkel decide to get into coaching?

  • How does a typical week come across in Adrian’s system?

  • What are some ways that Adrian Dinkel gets training elements done faster?

  • Does Coach Dinkel rely on older guys helping the younger guys?

  • What are some things that players are doing when everyone is present in training?

  • How do they keep training competitive?

  • What are the different standards Coach Dinkel implements for the team culture?

  • How is Coach Dinkel developing his players and his assistant coaches?

  • What is Adrian looking for in staff during the interview process?

  • What are the rules that people need to do to be successful on the team?

  • How does Coach Dinkel prioritize individual development within players?

  • Are there ways to get the players to regulate themselves?

  • What does a typical week look like during the season for a starting player?

  • How does batting practice operate?

  • What are the routines for the weight room?

  • What does a post-season meeting look like with a player that is returning?

  • How can you communicate difficult feedback?

  • What advice does Coach Dinkel have for first-year head coaches?

  • What is the latest thing that Coach Dinkel is excited about using?  

  • How has Adrian gotten creative with his resources?

  • Which resources does Adrian Dinkel find the most useful?

3 Key Points:

  1. Coach Dinkel gives players more live randomized training instead of block training with instructions yelled out.  

  2. Coach Dinkel gets to know his players personally by sharing his personal life and having an open-door policy with them.

  3. There has to be an expectation to be great every day.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “We assume that everybody knows nothing every single day. And so, we are constantly on them and sooner or later it becomes a routine and they start to hold each other accountable for it and they turn it into a game.” – Adrian Dinkel (05:07)

  • “We are trying to just teach them to be competitive and to support one another through selfless acts, whether it is picking trash or whatever we do.” – Adrian Dinkel (10:30)

  • “Your culture is set by your coaching staff and your players that are returning from the year before, sure. But it’s going to change with the 20 new transfers you have in the door.” – Adrian Dinkel (11:31)

  • “Number 1 is I want people that want to work, that aren’t afraid of work. I don’t want a guy that wants to be in the office at 9 and be out by 5.” – Adrian Dinkel (15:13)

  • “When you get into college baseball there are three things. You got your social, you got your academics, and you got you athletics. One of those has to disappear. Which one you think it’s going to be?” – Adrian Dinkel (20:47)

  • “We also make sure that we are communicating with them daily on, how do you feel? How does the body feel? How much work can we get in?” – Adrian Dinkel (29:36)

  •  “Don’t be afraid of discipline. Don’t be afraid to hurt someone’s feelings.” – Adrian Dinkel (34:47)
  • “I think the number resource still to this day is pick up the phone and call other coaches.” – Adrian Dinkel (40:04)

Resources Mentioned:

Website and Social Media sites for the show 
June 24, 2019  
June 20, 2019  

Lance Spigner- Head Baseball Coach, UA Rich Mountain and Former Head Coach at Horatio HS (AR)

This episode is brought to you by baseballcloud and OnBaseU.


In this episode of Ahead of the Curve, I have a really useful discussion with Lance Spigner, the Baseball Coach at Horatio High School in Horatio, Arkansas. Coach Spigner walks us through his 28 years of coaching experience, shares how he goes about training his players for success, and what types of competitive efforts and events keep his players embracing a winning attitude and having fun on the field.

Show Notes:

  • Lance Spigner introduces himself and shares his background

  • What new challenge is Lance going to take on in his retirement

  • What does Coach Spigner’s fall training program look like

  • What is involved in the competition that Lance calls the “Dirt Bag Olympics’

  • How does their bat speed training methods work

  • What are some different competitions that Lance’s players engage in

  • How does the strategy of stickers for hit by pitches work

  • What are some different fundraising efforts that Lance’s team has used

  • What are rules and standards that Lance’s team implements for players

  • How many players are in Lance’s program

  • What does his BP set-up look like and how are they are grouped together

  • How does he get his team ready to peak at the right time

  • What advice would Coach Spigner give his younger self

  • What has Lance learned lately that has gotten him excited

  • Which resources have been beneficial to Coach Spigner

  • What training efforts are kids enthusiastic about

  • Set up your training program systematically and measure the results

3 Key Points:

  1. Coach Spigner’s team is known for winning with underdogs, player development, and trying to get the most out of everybody.

  2. Coach Spigner’s team embraced the identity of ‘dirt bags’ to help their country and rural area kids utilize a tough mindset.

  3. Enjoy the journey because suddenly you will blink, and it will be time to retire.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Everything we do, if we can, we turn into some kind of competition, because competition is fun, and that’s what you want out of your players.” – Lance Spigner (8:20)

  • “We’re going to be ‘dirt bags.’ And one of the things that is involved with that for us is we try to think that we’re tougher than you are.” – Lance Spigner (15:00)

  • “Our community has been spectacular and our administration too as far as supporting our program.” – Lance Spigner (16:59)

  • “We’ve found the easiest thing to do a lot of times with our fundraising is to go with some of the online fundraisers.” – Lance Spigner (19:06)

  • “The more written rules you have, the more rope sometimes you leave people to hang yourself.” – Lance Spigner (21:54)

  • “We throw all of our bullpens at the start of practice. We’ve done that now for I guess three or four years, and it has worked out really well for us.” – Lance Spigner (26:26)

  • “Make the ‘big time’ where you are.” – Lance Spigner (39:42)

  • “We love base running. The StealBases.com website and information that they have put out is tremendous.” – Lance Spigner (43:48)

Resources Mentioned:

Website and Social Media sites for the show 
June 17, 2019