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03
23
2020
Hitting Driveline Baseball

The Hitting Intern Blog | Driveline Week Four

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Entering into week four, it’s hard to believe that I have been here for nearly a full month. I feel as though I have finally gotten myself into a groove, where that overwhelming feeling isn’t happening every second of every day.

Even though there are times at Driveline where you are “thrown to the wolves” and “left alone to figure it out,” there is still a safety net. The trainers are only ever going to let you fail forward.

This is a new feeling for me.

Not only have I experienced more growth, but I have also been able to retain what I have learned at an elite level. Do I remember everything? Absolutely not! But I will say that I feel confident in my progression in this crazy new world of baseball.

Since starting at Driveline, I’ve developed hyperfocus on bettering myself as a coach — so that I can better communicate with the athletes I come in contact with. Although the days are long here, they feel short, and I have many favorite parts of “work.” 

“Siri, Find Surya”

This week I wanted to highlight a very interesting event that took place at Driveline involving one of the trainees, Surya Viswanathan.

Surya was one of the first trainees to introduce himself to me, as well as the first to trust me when talking about his swing. Pretty much everyone at Driveline knows who Surya is.

During the hitting slots, you are most likely to find him going through his lifting program or getting ready to hit. He greets you with a smile from ear to ear and is always the first one to say, “Hi, how are you doing today?” 

Surya is all smiles outside the cage, but in the cage, his expressions are marked by seriousness and concentration. One day, we realized that Surya hadn’t shown up to the gym for three days in a row, and none of his roommates knew where he was. 

When people called his cellphone, they were greeted with an automated voice saying, “This phone is no longer connected to service.” After three days of not hearing back from him, we started to worry. 

It turned out that he was perfectly fine, however. He had gone home to Vancouver to visit family, where his cell plan didn’t carry over.

Why am I telling you what seems like a pointless story?

Well, it goes back to three vital components here at Driveline Baseball: culture, environment, and communication.

Surya is a hitter here, and all the other trainees, hitting coaches, strength coaches, and pitching coaches showed genuine concern for his well-being. When you train or work here, people keep your best interests in mind, period.

It was a great reminder that this is a very unique business; it has the feel of a baseball family. 

This episode also shows that everyone is aware of who you are and what you do in this business, mainly because of the superb communication within the company.

I’m always using baseball analogies when describing situations. In this given situation, imagine yourself standing in the box when you catch a signal from the runner on second. The signal says a fastball is coming, but you get a curveball—the communication is off and things just feel different.

If there is any miscommunication at Driveline Baseball, even just a slight hiccup, things “feel off,” and everyone pitches in to ensure that the hiccup is resolved.

Three on Two Break Away

As Monday rolled around, I anticipated a text from Tanner to let me know that I would be doing an assessment. No text.

I get home around 9 pm, still waiting. Still no text.

I woke up early the next day to look at rental homes, just in case my wife and kids get to move up here. As I am heading to pick up lunch before going to Driveline, I see a text notification reading: “I don’t know if you saw, but there is an assessment…” 

I am not going to lie, I debated missing lunch, but I thought I should at least open up the text to see what the rest of it said. It said that this time the assessment would be done with Andrew Aydt (the other hitting intern) and not just one, but THREE “new” hitters at once.

Game planning for this assessment was going to be unique, to say the least, as Aydt and I hadn’t seen what this format should look like. At Driveline Baseball, critical thinking skills are necessary, and if you are lacking, you develop them quite quickly.  I can’t stress this enough—critical thinking and reliability are common attributes everyone carries here. 

As we set up the cage to get ready for the assessments, Aydt and I strategized what we believed would be the most efficient and effective plan. We planned for everything that could be thrown at us, talking through Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc.

We even talked about curveballs (pun intended) that Tanner might throw at us, as he is the one that orchestrated this living “anxiety attack” for interns. Although the stakes were high, strategizing as a team was more in my comfort zone. It was like game-planning for an opponent or planning an approach before you step into the batter’s box. 

Soon, the set up was done and we were ready to go. The three hitters trickled in at different times, but all within two or three minutes of each other. This might seem minor, but when everything needs to be flawless and time is always a constraint, it can mess up the thought process, routine, and timing of the whole assessment.

Luckily, we had planned for a situation like this and so were “ready.” Like the assessments before, the hitters were constantly asking questions like, “Why do we do this?” and, “What is that for?”.

We answer the questions to the best of our ability, while Tanner starts writing in his notebook. My eyes tend to shift to him writing, not knowing what his thoughts are.

We ran the hitters through mobility, strength and finally, the hitting assessment, using Blast sensors and HitTrax.   

Naturally, the K-Vest didn’t work for us during the assessment, but we made it through. The assessment finished and we got a quick breakdown. Tanner reported what we did well, what he liked, and what to improve on, then sends us the final report. 

Along with the report, I received this (see below)! Although to some people it is just a piece of paper, to me it is essentially the first validation that I am making improvements as a coach. 

*SIDENOTE: For the past ten years, I always had my watch set to seven minutes fast. However, after doing these assessments, my watch is set to be on the hour, mainly because I don’t have time to waste adding and subtracting even simple numbers to finish on time. Time is of the essence here to be effective.

chase glaum roger pidactor

Before Driveline

Before I got here, I used to assess all the baseball players on my teams.

I needed help from the head coaches and student assistants to make sure we could get in all assessments within one week. I assessed what I thought would be important to coaches, gathering quality metrics to identify low hanging fruit for player development.

Although I am not sure if this was the right way to do it, each year I focused on refining my process. After going through the Driveline process over the past three weeks, I think I may have found a solution. 

*If you want to see my previous assessment process click here.

Building a Coaching Staff

The more I think about this process, the more I think it is a perfect opportunity to teach GAs and student assistants how they can effectively produce high-quality coaches.

Most schools have RAs that report to campus a week or two before school starts. As a coach, I think it would be possible to talk with the administration about bringing student assistants in a week or two before school starts.

By doing so, assistants could go through an intensive on-boarding process which would greatly benefit the head, assistant(s) and strength coaches. The student assistants could learn how to assess position players and give strength assessments. This type of onboarding sets the student assistants up for ownership and also builds incredible resumes for these young coaches.

Essentially, a head coach could build a coaching staff with pitching coach assistants and hitting coach assistants. If you’re in a situation/program where you can’t hire extra coaches, you could give a young GA or student assistant the responsibility of being the hitting coach or pitching coach. 

A schedule for a student assistant would look something like this:

Arrive with RAs or 10 days before class starts

Day 1 

10 a.m.: Get checked into the dorm or apartment 

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over the team handbook/coaches handbook

2 to 5 p.m.: Continue to move into the dorm or apartment

Day 2

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over the team handbook/coaches handbook

2 to 4 p.m.: Meet at the field, go over field maintenance and other job responsibilities 

4 to 6 p.m.: Learn the assessment process and meet with strength coaches (if a school has them)

Day 3

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over the team handbook/coaches handbook

2 to 4 p.m.: Practice assessment process

4 to 6 p.m.: Start going over hitting systems

Day 4

10 am: Register for classes

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over the team handbook/coaches handbook

2 to 4 p.m.: Practice assessment process

4 to 6 p.m.: Watch film on returning hitters 

Day 5

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over the team handbook/coaches handbook

2 to 4 p.m.: Practice assessment process

4 to 5 p.m.: Watch film on returning hitters and “diagnose problems”

5 to 6 p.m.: Review diagnosed problems

Day 6

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over recruiting (rules, regulations, team protocols, official visits, non-official visits, etc)

2 to 4 p.m.: Practice assessment process

4 to 5 p.m.: Watch film on returning hitters and “diagnose problems”

5 to 6 p.m.: Review diagnosed problems

Day 7

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over scouting procedures (how to do write-ups, what to look for, tendencies, etc)

2 to 4 p.m.: Practice assessment process

4 to 5 p.m.: Watch film on returning hitters and “diagnose problems”

5 to 6 p.m.: Review diagnosed problems, start learning and implementing drills for problems

Day 8

8 to 11 a.m.: Help all new and returning players move into their dorms/apartments. Help them with the registration process 

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over fundraising events (camps, off-campus gatherings, etc)

2 to 4 p.m.: Introduce them to entire athletic department so every coach knows they aren’t just a student

4 to 6 p.m.: Watch film of the previous game and break down the scouting report

5 to 6 p.m.: Review diagnosed problems, start learning and implementing drills for problems

Day 9 

8 to 11 a.m.: Help all new and returning players move into their dorms/apartments. Help them with the registration process 

Noon: Lunch with coaches, go over road trip scheduling (meals, hotels, travel, etc.)

2 to 4 p.m.: Practice, run through field job responsibilities, practice responsibilities, gameday responsibilities

4 to 6 p.m.: Watch film of the previous game and break down the scouting report

5 to 6 p.m.: Review diagnosed problems, start learning and implementing drills for problems

Day 10

8 to 11 a.m.: Help all new and returning players move into their dorms/apartments. Help them with the registration process

Day 11 (First day of class)

Maybe you can’t do all of this, or you can’t get your student assistants on-campus that early.

You also might have less time to get everything accomplished, but it all comes down to preparation and giving your student assistants autonomy within the program. They can make decisions and coach up the players without another coach having to be there. 

Conclusion

Here are a couple of questions I want to leave you with: Are you confident enough in yourself to teach a student assistant how to take ownership of hitting?

Can you find a way to show an assistant your system, process, and structure, and give them the flexibility and ownership to execute it? 

At Driveline Baseball, I report to Tanner Stokey, Collin Hetzler, and Max Dutto. They have to be able to trust their coaching methods so they can rely on me and the other hitting interns in the future.

They don’t have the time nor do they want to supervise my every action for three months. 

Expectations are set extremely high here. We are expected to comprehend a lot of information quickly. That said, if you can’t, they are also the first to help you until you get it down. I can’t praise these guys enough.

No rock has been left unturned during my onboarding, and they are constantly looking out for and collaborating with me to make this process more efficient, beneficial, and precise. They have to know that if I were in a foxhole with them, I’d have their back without any uncertainty.

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