Univerity of Whitewater - Warhawks

Dear fellow coaches,

Let me introduce myself.

I'm Ignace Peeters, coaching the Junior team at Brasschaat Braves. I'm coaching since 2006, small teams, children between 6 to 14 years old.

There are various reasons why I entered this program:

By attending various clinics, EBCA, ECC, local clinics, following the winter program and actively participating into the VBSLs summer program, I realised that there is more to baseball then meets the eye. Becoming a good coach is only possible if you listen and learn from other great coaches, attending clinics – in short: by educating yourself – even if you have played the game yourself.

In recent years, we Europeans are trying to overcome our deficiency with respect to the US, e.g. we may have different views on pitching (Steven Janssens pitching program in The Netherlands (being used in Belgium as well) differs from the classical US programs), and we are maybe more into the motor learning (e.g. Frans Bosch).

Anyhow the sport is still evolving and thus it is necessary to exchange information. It's not about right or wrong, it is about player development.

So how will me two week program look like?

First couple of days, I'll be at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater located in Whitewater, Wisconsin. There I will meet John Vodenlich's team. Later that week we'll all leave for Spring Training in Florida – 11 games in 8 days. Upon our return, I hope to see the team's first double header in Wisconsin, and then I'll be heading home.

You're welcome to join me on the next days. I'll try to keep you posted when interesting things happen.

Arrival – day 1

OK, I've survived the flight from Brussels to Chicago, past through customs (apparently not an easy job) and I'm picked up by assistant coach Justin Bach. This is my first time in the US, so eyes wide open.
We drive directly to Milwaukee Miller Stadium, where we grab a bite to eat and drink a Stella (Belgian beer :-) ). It's here where I later meet John Vodenlich and some other assistant coaches (and there wives). The welcome is warm and spontaneous – I feel at home.

Day 2 – practice

Practice start in the afternoon, around 3pm. The player are already warmed up when we arrive, had their swings into the batting cage. The – Miller stadium – is a well organised facility. Providing everything players and coaches need.
The infield is Astro Turf, the outfield grass.
The team has a scrimmage, they are preparing themselves for the Florida trip.

Day 3 – baseball camp

Today there is a baseball camp. The camp is organised in 3 sessions: throwing session, hitting session and fielding session. At its peak, a merely 120 children will be attending. Wow.

What strikes me:
  • the organisation, flawless – every college player is assigned a station – knows what to do, how to explain it and fixed things. The stations take about 8 minutes
  • the children – no fooling around, working to become a better baseball player. These guys they want it.

The camp provides us also the opportunity to get to know the players – great guys, all of them. This is a great team, disciplined, focused. I'm convinced that this team can achieve a lot.

Throwing and hitting is indoor, the fielding drill are performed on the football field (closer to the gymnasium than the baseball field). It's good to be outside – the weather is nice.

Day 4 – practice

Coach John drops me off at the baseball field where I meet Justin. Justin is in charge of the field maintenance. We fix a couple of things around the field – just having a good time.
At 3:45 pm, practice starts, today we do defence, outfield, infield, bunting, etc. We are ready for Florida.
Tomorrow, is a day off for the team.

Day 5 – a day off

OK, there are still things to do – e.g. getting ready for Florida – so we pack our things and go to bed early – we'll be leaving around 3:00 am.

Day 6 – Florida trip travel day

Getting up early, This day we'll travel to the sunshine state. It will mostly be planes trains and auto-mobiles today.
In the evening – starting 18h00 we have our latest practice. Tomorrow we go live.

Day 7 – First game

Today we play one gaim against Framingam State
We take an early lead by two runs. But then, I don not know what happened, defence starts to struggle, no more hits, we get down 10 to 2. However the team fights back and we win the game with 12 to 11 in an impressive 8 and 9th inning.

Day 8 – Warm...

Two games today. We play Patterson and Rowan; expectations are high.

The game against William Paterson is a totally different game as the game on March 19th.. Everything works – maybe not as smooth as we want, but we win the game in 7 innings by 22 to 1. The next game will shed more light on how strong this team is.

In the afternoon we play Rowan. This is a tough game. We get behind on the score as the umpire makes multiple 'bad' call. This shines of on the players and we start to fight our self. We can never get a grip on the game – we lose 9 to 3. Work to be done – hopefully a good nights rest will bring new energy to these guys.

Day 9 – Even warmer

Rise and shine at 6h30, we have a double header, one against Rowan, the other against Rutgers-Camden.
Although early on the field – game starts at 10h00, the Floridian sun burns. We play at the old Cleveland Indians main filed. The stadium is nostalgic. We start the game against Rowan with high hopes. We lead early with two runs. Around inning 5, Camden evens at the runs, 4-4. We put on a fight and maintain a lead, though close. We enter the ninth inning 9 to 8 – having the lead, but we are visiting team, so this may get exciting. Nompleggi closes the game – you can see the relieve on the player's faces.

The second game against Rutgers-Camden is played on field 4 of the Chain Lake baseball complex at 15h00. Rutgers-Camden starting pitcher, struggles in the first two innings, but then find his pace. He knows the throw a nice curve-ball which gets some outs on our side. We fight and are able to build steadily a lead. This game also ends as an 7-innings game – 8 to 7.

Day 10 – Lake Myrtle

This is an impressive complex, with a number of sport field. I counted at least 4 quality baseball fields. The dug-outs are spacious, bull pen and batting cages are very nice.
One single game today. The opponent is North Central (Ill).

Again the starting pitcher gives us a hard time. They score in the first inning and have a small lead, 1 to 0. We score in the second and the game remains close until the 7th inning. Adding two runs provides us the lead of 3-1. Then all hell brakes loose in the 8th and 9th inning, North Central ties the game. In the 10th extra inning we build a lead of two runs on a deep left field hit from Kuhmann.

Day 11 – A day off

So no game today. So I take the opportunity to go and see NY Yankees @ Washington Nationals in Space Coast Stadium. The weather is rainy but anyhow, it's a great day to play.
The game is on at 1:05 pm.

Although 3 home runs from the Yankees, the Nationals win. Yankees 7, Nationals 8.

Day 12 – Cloudy and cool

We play only one game today against Elmhurst,Ill at Lake Myrtle. Solid pitching and 6 runs in the second inning give us the confidence that this game is our game. Elmhurst fights back but can not score the runs they hope for. Warhawks win with 7 to 3.

Day 13 – Interesting day

This should be an interesting day as the Warhawks play one of their biggest opponents St Thomas, Minn. in a double header.
The first innings the battle is equal, until St Thomas changes pitchers. Warhawks score 5 runs in the 5th inning and an other amazing 11 runs in the 6th inning. They 7 inning game ends with another win for the Warhawks, Warhawks 16, St Thomas 5.

Day 14 – Last day in Floriday

This is our last day in Florida. One more game and we fly back to Wisconsin. Temperature is up again to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. A unknown team to the Warhawks, Keuka N.Y. faces us in this last game. First inning is already defining and and puts Keuka under pressure, 6 runs. Then the game slows down as other pitchers from Keuka try to hold Warhawks of the bases. Warhawks score another 3 runs in the 4th inning and a couple more runs later in the game. Warhawks 11, Keuka 3.

Spring training recap

I've seen this team grow in a couple of days from a good team to a better team. They are well prepared for the upcoming season. Spring training proves that playing a lot of games really helps you improve in a short time.

Day 15 – Field preparation

The team is put at work to make the final preparations for the start of the season. Small things around the field are cleaned up.

Day 16 – Game day @ Ripon

Due to low temperatures 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees C) the game is cancelled. A pity as I would have like to see their first expected win of the official season.

Day 17 – Signing off.

Flying home, signing off. This was a great experience. I got to meet great baseball teams, players, coaches, umpires, and others people. This experience will remain with me for the remainder of my life.

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