Throughout my experience in professional baseball, I have had some amazing experiences while managing in the Australian Baseball League for the Canberra Cavalry along with a season spent in Collegiate Ball with the Carolina Copperheads. Currently, I spend time managing the Powerballers Baseball travel team here in Easton, Pennsylvania, along with working with pitchers across the country on an individualized basis. This, along with my 16 year stint as a pitching coach within the Philadelphia Phillies organization has enabled me to grasp some key points that can help to push you to be the best manager or coach you can be.
The difference between a good baseball manager and a great baseball manager lies in whether he or she can bring the team together, as well as produce and guide players and coaches to be an amazing team. A good baseball manager oversees and makes final decisions on all aspects of the on-field team strategy, lineup selection, training, and instruction. A great manager takes it one step further and is able to be an enthusiastic leader who injects energy into the team while motivating and directing your coaching staff and team to facilitate long-term improvement and success. For a manager, communication is key to being able to “bring it all together and help execute” as a successful team.
Unify Your Coaching Staff
Unity within your coaching staff isn’t about giving in or agreeing with everyone if it’s not what you believe. It’s about having open communication that facilitates a coming together of baseball minds. As a manager, you should be listening, but more importantly understanding your fellow coaches’ perspectives by actively listening, analyzing, and then responding.
Unity within your coaching staff requires you to choose empathy before correction or advice. A manager should encourage fellow coaches to find ways to increase the level of communication between the coaching staff and the team. This may be challenging because every team is different. It is definitely worth it to put in the time and effort to find avenues and strategies of communication that work best for the team as a whole.
Unity among a coaching staff creates a positive and productive environment for both the coaches and the players. Coaches will be on the same page, which will leave more room for positive coaching. Positive coaching is centered around the idea of constructive criticism. The idea is to build your team up and encourage players and coaches to push themselves to serve the team to the best of their abilities.
After your team has formed and the season approaches, coaches should begin putting together a practice plan for each practice. Managers should set goals for their team and create practice plans according to those goals. The goals you set should help create practice plans that serve as a developmental program for your players.
When developing your practice plan includes fundamentals. Managers should dedicate time to coach their players in proper hitting, fielding, and base running techniques, among others. To facilitate productive practices for both players and coaches, you should work to create a clear drill routine that is communicated to all in order to facilitate an effective and efficient practice.
Time management and staying on task is important to the development of a successful practice plan. A manager should be clear and direct with your practice plans, as well as try and structure your practice with little downtime to avoid losing the players’ attention.
Managers and coaches should discuss procedures, drill, expectations, and any other outlying topics at the start of practice when the team is all together. This means players will have this information fresh in their minds throughout the practice. Most importantly, don’t forget to add some fun to every practice!
During Game Day Ballpark Prep, the manager should arrive early to locate the dugout. Then, you should stand where the players can see you clearly. This expedites the process of players finding the field, so they have more time to prepare for the game.
As a manager, you should be following a plan with your eyes. This will allow the manager to see everyone on the field, as well as maintain organization. A manager should be mindful of your players’ capabilities. A manager or coach should never expect or ask more than a player is capable. It is easy to get lost in the game and a drive to win, but you have to remember these players are just kids. As kids, they are learning and they are going to make mistakes and that is okay!
The Game Itself
During a baseball game, the manager’s primary focus is on strategy and managing the flow of the game. To do so, the manager must take into account each position’s role in the game. In the following sections, I have outlined some basics that managers should consider by position. Pitching Coach PRO has included a poster at the end that you can use as a guide in the future.
Start with left field and check all three outfield positions for:
- Position Placement
- Gap Coverage
Start at 3rd base and check for:
- Corner Depth → Where the 3rd baseman stands?
- Is the hitter a bunter?
- Should he guard the line?
- What is the count?
Move to Middle Infielders and look for:
- Play according to situation and hitter:
- Is a hitter a pull hitter?
- Is the infielder too deep for a fast runner?
- Double Play Depth
- Who will cover a hit and run?
- Evaluate the Pitcher and help him to stay in the game!
- Allow your pitcher to pitch out of difficult situations.
- Development is good for the pitcher and the team.
- When a pitcher is able to work out of a jam, he can rely on that experience and
build from it.
- When they fail, they can learn where improvements can be made.
- Knowing when to remove a pitcher from the game is sometimes difficult.
- Rule of Thumb: Pitch count determines when a pitcher is finished.
- Some days a pitcher will get in a jam early.
- If a pitcher has to pitch out of trouble 2 different times, this is a red flag.
- When a pitcher has more than 2 stressful innings, that’s when I start to consider
- The reaction of the hitters can also help determine how well a pitcher is performing.
- When hitters are “seeing him”
- Evaluate the jump, reaction time, range of players
- Sometimes it’s not the pitcher’s day even if he is a solid pitcher.
- Learn where they need improvement and move on.
- Calling pitches when needed
- Relaying signs
- Giving signs to the catcher for bunt plays
- Defending running game
- Pick off and steals
- Catcher is your eyes and ears on the field!
- Keeping communication with him is vital!
Runners on base:
- Understand the runner’s speed and hitting style
- Evaluate the game situation
- The catcher anticipating sign
- Know when to hold the runner early or late
Knowing when to direct, delegate, or develop is critical to managerial effectiveness. Managers should determine which style is appropriate based on the task at hand rather than the individual. A great manager moves the team, brings out the best in them, and never leads by intimidation. It is more important that you earn the trust, respect, and consideration of your team so that they are encouraged to put in exceptional effort that will lead to an exceptional performance. Players and coaches will do what they have to do for a good manager, but they will offer their very best for a great one.