Get a group together to talk about baseball players or coaches, and you’ll hear about a guy’s work ethic. It’s something that can separate you from the pack that doesn’t require talent. You can always outwork the guy next to you.
My days usually start out by making an agenda – 5 or so things that I want to accomplish throughout the day. Accomplishments feel good, especially when they help our team get better and win. I know some people take a look at my desk and think I’m crazy. Numbers, Excel spreadsheets, Fangraphs articles, diamond charts…”dude. Overkill.”
I hope they say that. Perhaps I get excessive with my sabermetric/scouting reports habits, but even if it’s a bit crazy, if I’m helping our team to get better and improving myself personally, it’s worth it.
At this point, our infielders have daily plans mapped out for them. They’re expected to follow them the best they can while on break. I trust them to work their butts off, because they all know that there’s no time to play catchup. We’ve built that mutual trust – the players know that the coaches are working as hard as we can to be the best team we can, and we know that the players are expected to do the same. A lack of work stands out.
In order to be a great team, we have to take every advantage we can. If that means staring at the same set of numbers trying to make something of it then so be it. I have confidence in my preparation. If I’m doubting that, I won’t be putting in the right amount of effort. When I stop believing in the work I am putting in, that will be a red flag moment and maybe it’ll be time to start pulling orders at Viele & Sons.
The most important lesson I’ve learned about work ethic is that working hard isn’t as important as working smart. I don’t go in and sit at my desk just so other coaches see me there. I want to be doing something, always. If I don’t have anything to do, I’m reading inspiring articles or I’m leaving.
My coaching position in my first year wasn’t a very important position. My directions were mostly “keep tabs on the pitchers we see.” For example, “Jack Pitcher…Tall right hander, 90-92, slight ASR, hard slider and a below average change up. He is easy to run on, rarely picks.” I’ve learned that guys don’t really care that much about velocity. In some cases, it may just psych them out and mess with their timing. I’ve noticed that guys generally have more success when they just know the pitches a guy has or what he likes to get ahead with. They could care less if it is 92 or 96.
That led me to start digging in deeper. I started looking at more advanced numbers of opposing pitchers, looking for patterns, looking at counts he liked to pick, what his out pitch was, etc. This started to become a lot more fun for me; I loved it. I went a little further and started to look at spray charts of the hitters, not just from the current season, but as long as they had been in pro ball. Started to position the defense the whole game. This was so exciting for me because I felt like I was almost as involved as I was when I was playing. I truly felt like I was contributing. I’d go up to a guy maybe and say “This righty has a heavy sinker and does not command the outside corner at all, scoot off the plate and look to elevate it to your pull side.” Then, when that guy got a base hit, I felt like I had done something to help him.
When you’re creative about how you put the time in, you feel confident. I truly believe that in order to win baseball games, you must be overly prepared. Only then can you exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and take every advantage possible in order to win. Sometimes it will work, and sometimes it won’t. Losing won’t stop me from believing in what I am doing, it will only help me to find new ways to put together new strategies in order to be better. Like always, struggle is progress.