Baseball From the Nashua Telegraph: 'DWC baseball coach teaches, learns at all levels"
This article is reprinted with permission of the Nashua Telegraph. It ran on March 23, 2012. See the original article on line by clicking here.
By TOM KING Staff Writer
NASHUA – J.P. Pyne was in his comfort zone the other day, talking from Orlando, Fla. The current abnormal warm spell in New England aside, the Sunshine State is where every college baseball coach wants to be in March.
But it's familiar territory for Pyne, anyway. Last August he was in Dunedin, Fla., working as the Toronto Blue Jays Gulf Coast League Class A club pitching coach.
It's just one of the many off-campus endeavors Pyne has taken part in during his five years as the Daniel Webster College head baseball coach. He also has been a coach with the former local independent minor league franchises, the Nashua Pride and American Defenders, and worked as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats as their bullpen coach before the parent club asked him to help out in a pinch at Gulf Coast for the second half of the summer. This summer, he'll step back from the pro game to the friendlier schedule of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and serve as the Nashua Silver Knights pitching coach.
"I think it does a lot of things," Pyne said of his outside work in the game. "One, it exposes me to different levels of the game. And, you learn you can expect some things of a young man, and he should be able to deliver those."
Otherwise, on the pro level, those young men are out of a job. On the collegiate level, they just lose playing time. During Pyne's tenure with the Eagles, they shared the New England Collegiate Conference title once, lost in the semifinals a year ago and this year, like last, were picked by the conference coaches as the preseason favorite. With back-to-back 20-win seasons, the program has definitely come a long way, although this year they're off to a tough 2-8 start (all in Florida), and lost three games to conference rival Becker to start 0-3 in the NECC.
But still, there's a lot of games to go and a lot of experiences Pyne can share with his players. He was NECC Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2010, so he's doing something right.
"Sometimes I've learned the hard a way some of it doesn't translate," Pyne said of his work in the pros. "But I definitely want to be more of a complete coach."
Last summer, Pyne was enjoying his second season as the Fisher Cats bullpen coach (he typically would join the club following the conclusion of the college season in early May) when Blue Jays minor league coordinator Doug Davis called near August and asked if he'd go to Dunedin to finish the season as the Rooke League team's pitching coach on an interim basis.
"I was there a little less than half a season," Pyne said, adding he cleared the move with the college and, of course, his wife. "I had to make sure I could be away (from the school). A week later I was in Dunedin."
There he was working with a pitching staff that included players as young as 17, 18 years old. "At any point in time, I'd have as many as 15 pitchers," he said, "including all the rehab guys from Triple A to Single A.
"After a year-and-a-half with the Blue Jays, I was well-versed in their practices and ways of developing pitchers. … I had a great group."
Pyne also learned from Blue Jays pitching coordinator Dan Johnson and the organization's rehab coordinator, former major league pitcher Rick Langford.
"The biggest thing I learned from Langford was how to communicate with players," he said. "He has a great way of getting his message across. If he had to be a little bit firmer in getting his message across, he did that – but he did it in a good way. One of our top pitchers was just 17 years-old. So you have to focus on the little things."
How has this all translated to Pyne's work with the Eagles, especially the pitchers?
He's tweaked a little of the Blue Jays system. Rather than work with pitchers during simple throwing drills, he'll do it during bullpen sessions off the mound rather than flat ground. And, he'll try not to burn out his arms, even though the compact, doubleheader crazy college schedule almost demands that you do.
"You look at things a little different, you look at the big picture," Pyne said. "It's like with player development (in the minors). You have a sophomore, and you look at him, and try to envision his progress to when he's a senior. Some college coaches will try to get a guy out there and throw the heck out of him just to get a win."
Pyne will also send video tape of his players to minor league coaches he's worked with to see what they think.
"That's a pretty good thing, to have an extra set of eyes I can trust," he said. "I'm able to consult with some pretty knowledgeable people."
Being a coach on a minor league coaching staff has also helped Pyne use his own coaching staff wisely. And he also said that when he first came on board, he had "a tremendous resource" in former DWC athletic department head Phil Rowe.
And now when he goes on the recruiting trail, his sales pitch is altered a bit.
"Early on I was selling myself and my coaching staff," he said. "Now I can sell the success of the program. And some schools will get junior college transfers in as a quick fix. I'm hoping the way we've done it has allowed us to string together good recruiting classes."
He didn't like having the conference favorite role placed on his Eagles, who have a good local core with eight players from Nashua and surrounding communities, led by athletic former Alvirne standout Kory Lelievre, who at last look was hitting .300 and is 2-1 on the mound. Goffstown's Kory Kiro, although he's winless in two starts, sports a 0.73 earned run average.
Pyne, meanwhile, is looking forward to seeing other collegians over the summer with the Silver Knights, the choice of Knights manager and former longtime Nashua High School South coach B.J. Neverett.
"I think that level will be fun," he said. "I weight my options, and I think the schedule will be better. DWC, I've always maintained, is my number one priority."
Whatever seems to be good for J.P. Pyne, is good for the Eagles.