By: Sam Piraro - San Jose State Univ., Retired
In the Fall of 1976, my first year as a Division 1 assistant coach, I put together my first Playbook in preparation for the upcoming 1977 season. My then fiancée JoAnn (and future wife) typed the entire text (74 pages) and proceeded to process 60 copies for distribution to our Varsity and Junior Varsity players and staff at San Jose State University.
When we returned in January of 1977 for the start of spring practice, we would meet every day for 30 minutes to review designated portions of the Playbook. We even gave both oral and written quizzes to our players during this training period. This was a practice I would continue for the next five decades of my career.
I fast forward to the year 2020... as the country waded through the Covid 19 sheltering in place and lockdown protocols that we all dealt with. I dedicated 3 full weeks as I organized my upstairs home office. I came across so many things... letters, cards, articles and memorabilia during this well-organized exercise. As I browsed through Playbooks from previous years, I came across the Original Playbook that JoAnn had made for me. It was almost in mint condition! I must admit, tears welled up in my eyes as I browsed through the Playbook. When I came across: TEAM PHILOSOPHIES, I carefully examined the criteria that I had determined to be significant in 1976.
A small grin came across my face. I immediately pulled out my last Playbook as Head Coach at San Jose State from 2012. I carefully turned to the section where I had designated our Baseball Philosophies. It read exactly this way:
Amazing. I still had maintained the same beliefs over that period of time. I actually was very proud of myself at that moment. So many of my former players who had gone into coaching carried those same principles when coaching their respective teams. It was a special moment for me!
COACHING PHILOSOPHY VS BASEBALL PHILOSOPHY
In my opinion it is important to have a COACHING philosophy. This is something that you build your Program's culture and foundation with. It is an "everyday" process. Very simply, this is my Coaching philosophy:
That's it. Those two things. When hiring coaches, I always posed that question to the person I was interviewing. I think every coach needs to have that answer at their disposal.
Now... the purpose of this article. Break down my Baseball Philosophies, which obviously I had been married to for well over 40 years of coaching. Here we go.
Catch the Baseball
Put Ball In Play
Execute Basic Fundamentals
Eliminate Pre-Pitch Mistakes
Keep in mind, our ATTENTION TO DETAIL in these areas was crucial. Teaching our Zone System and learning how to pitch for the double play was practiced daily. We spent 50 percent of our practices on DEFENSE... trying to be sound in all fielding and alignment skills. Our Two Strike hitting approach was one of the best in the country as we always were in the top 5 percent of toughest to strike out. We prided ourselves in being fundamentally sound in all aspects of both offense and defense. We were prepared to handle rundown situations as well as bunt coverages and first and third situations. Our cutoff and relay system was consistently good. Lastly, our baseball IQ was something that we always could rely on. We rarely, if ever, missed any type of sign. We took pride in being in the correct position at all times and we were consistent in being a solid Baserunning Team. Very few mental errors.
DEVELOPING THESE PHILOSOPHIES
I was often asked why our Team rarely beat itself. It was a common theme with all of our outstanding opponents that we played over the years. I didn't hide anything from the coaches (and there were many) who probed me for information. These things were in fact the FOUNDATION and STAPLES of our Program at San Jose State University. Very simply, we did the following:
I sincerely hope that every one of you reading this article can relate to some of the things I discussed. I believe these things are at the very heart of the successes we enjoyed.