Monday, September 9, 2013

Cotuit Kettleers use Valle Baseball Mini-Gloves in ALL infield practice sessions in the summer of 2013

        I met John Valle, Valle Baseball (, from Rochester, NY. 2 years ago when he visited the Cotuit Kettleers practicing at Lowell Park on Cape Cod. John brought along a great variety of “Mini-Gloves” for our infielders and catchers to use in practice. My son, Brian Roberts, second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, had used mini gloves as he grew up. He did so mainly because he was influenced by Walt Weiss, who played for me at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went on to become American League Rookie of the Year in 1989, who used mini gloves at UNC while a student-athlete and Walt had beautiful hands when fielding ground balls. Walt had actually picked this up from the Doyle brother (Denny, Blake, and Brian) at the Doyle Baseball Academy in Florida which Walt attended several times.
        ALL of our infielders for the Kettleers in 2012, and we continued with the gloves everyday in 2013, used the “Eagle 975” which is such a well made (durable) glove for 2nd, 3rd, and SS’s to use in practice. Our first basemen, right and left-handed, also use a mini glove by Valle Baseball (Valle Eagle 11 White) as well. In 2012 the Kettleers had a terrific season with a record of 30-14 which was the first team to win 30 games in the regular season in the Cape Cod Collegiate summer league since 2007.  That number of wins in not accomplished very often. I am convinced one of the reasons the team was so fundamentally sound in their infield play was the use of Valle Baseball mini-gloves each day in practice by Tony Kemp (Vanderbilt), James Roberts (Southern Cal), Mike Ford (Princeton) Adam Nelbolwich (Washington State) and others. Each of the afore mentioned young men signed a professional contract in the summer of 2013 so the scouts must have seen something in their defensive play they really liked as well.
       In 2013, our infielders for the first half of the season certainly struggled with all varieties of ground balls. The Kettleers had an excellent pitching staff but early on a porous infield defense. The coaching staff made improving the defense a priority the last half of the season. We designated more time to spend working to improve the infielders feet, then their hands, working with the mini-gloves.
      To do this, the team cut the time they took for pre-game batting practice and used the final 20 minutes of this designated hitting time before each game to work on live defense with the mini-gloves. The infielders took live ground balls off the bats of the catchers and outfielders who were working on their hit and run swings. The team accomplished a very important goal that helped the Kettleers win the 2013 Cape Cod League Championship for the 2nd time in last 4 years. The only way the Kettleers will win it all is to “Win With Defense!” I expressed to our entire team the first day of the play-offs, in an extra morning gathering, that if the Kettleers played excellent defense the team had a good chance of becoming Cape League Champions.
      The infielders used the Valle Baseball mini-gloves to make all the plays in these live pre-game infield sessions. The players treated this time as if it was a game. The infielders were diving at times which was fun to watch. Their confidence certainly improved and the infielders felt they could make any play in the game. And, that is exactly what transpired. The team made so many excellent defensive plays in the play-offs, especially in the final series vs. Orleans, that had been a problem for the team during much of the regular season. The winning ingredients were working with the Valle Baseball mini-gloves, lots of hard work, a great deal of focus, polishing the foot work and playing offensive defense with the mini-gloves in practice and regular gloves in the game.
      Hats off to John Valle and staff in Rochester, NY for having the vision to make the best mini-glove on the market and bringing those gloves to Cotuit so the Kettleers could use them to help the team, and certainly individual athletes, improve and win another Arnold Mycock Trophy as Champions of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2013.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Value of Assistant Coaches

I was blessed for the 10th consecutive season to be the head coach of the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod Collegiate Baseball Summer League. In the months prior to each season I spend a great deal of time trying to hire four of the best assistant coaches available. They are not required to have baseball coaching experience or even much baseball knowledge. But, each must be passionate about working with young people, college players and campers, and 100% committed to carrying out there responsibilities and our team philosophy on and off the field. I sometimes think how can this assistant coach tradition continue to be so strong each summer for the Kettleers? Then I mumble to myself how can this head coach be so fortunate to have been associated with so many outstanding gentlemen, who love baseball as much as I do, who come to teach/work with the Kettleers players & campers, and become an integral part of the Cotuit community. The four Assistant coaches who drive into Cotuit around June 1st each summer have usually talked on the phone but rarely have ever met in person. They always seem to make the adjustment quickly to living together in a house on Main St. And are excited to begin their work. Some days it is definitely work, instead of just fun, like the first day is usually replacing sod at Lowell Park, edging the entire infield, and just getting the field in immaculate shape before the players arrive. We all work most of the daylight hours every day each summer, and I ask the assistants to pretty much be on call at all hours the entire summer, and yet each coach comes to the park and camp venues with great attitudes and smiles. Every summer I am amazed how these men work, teach, and commit themselves to help college athletes and young campers get a little closer to their personal, academic, and athletic goals. I learned once again in 2013 that a head coach is only as good as his or her assistants. Because of the detailed teaching work done each day in practice, defensive positioning done in the game, experienced coaches on the bench to help the head coach think ahead, this incredible staff led the Kettleers to another Cape league championship in '13. However, I want to make sure to honor each of my assistant coaches in my 10 seasons in Cotuit by saying "Thank You" for being so terrific and building such a classy tradition that I know will be carried on for years beyond my stay as the head coach. Sincerely, Coach Mike Roberts