Every summer, college baseball players throughout the country travel to summer leagues to hone their skills during what would otherwise be the offseason. Most of these leagues use wooden bats, so it's a good chance for those with aspirations of playing professionally to get experience with the lighter-hitting bats.
This summer, numerous Baylor players are heading to leagues throughout the country, but many are staying in Waco to work out with speed and strength coach Robbie Little. Staying in Waco doesn't mean you're not a pro prospect, or that you don't want to improve your game. There are a variety of reasons to stay, ranging from summer school to a pitcher resting his arm to just wanting to focus on getting physically stronger. Trent Blank stayed in Waco last summer and went on to go 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA and earn All-America honors as a senior in 2012.
With that said, many of the summer leagues have started publishing stats online. If you want to follow Baylor players throughout the summer, here's a list of where each player is playing and where you can find his stats:
Brad Kuntz - Wareham Gatemen - Cape Cod League
Dillon Newman - Victoria Generals - Texas League
Trae Davis - Victoria Generals - Texas League
Crayton Bare - North Shore Navigators - Futures League of New England
Miles Landry - North Shore Navigators - Futures League of New England
Josh Michalec - North Shore Navigators - Futures League of New England
Grayson Porter - Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide - Futures League of New England
Adam Toth - Haysville Heat - Jayhawk League
Logan Brown - Oneonta Outlaws - Perfect Game League
Nate Goodwin - Park City Rangers - Walter Johnson League (not yet listed on roster)
Doug Ashby - Walla Walla Sweets - West Coast League
Joe Kirkland - Luray Wranglers - Valley League
For updates throughout the offseason, follow the Baylor Baseball Twitter feed (@BaylorBaseball).
Thanks, Baylor Nation. Once again, you stepped up in a big way. Thanks to your support, Baylor baseball set its all-time record for total (126,947) and average (3,255) home attendance in 2012.
If you walked through the gates at Baylor Ballpark to watch the Bears play in 2012, there's an 85% chance you saw a Baylor win, as the Bears went a ridiculous 34-6 at home, including a school-record 22-game home winning streak. Baylor had never won more than 28 games in a single season at Baylor Ballpark, and the Bears more than doubled their total number of home wins from last season (16).
Here are some Baylor Ballpark attendance notes from 2012:
It was an incredible year. Obviously, we all wanted one more win, but 49-16, a likely top-10 final ranking and the third Big 12 Championship in program history are great accomplishments.
Here's Baylor Ballpark's updated attendance page from the media almanac, and some photos from some of the best crowds in program history:
Josh Ludy rounds the bases in front of a packed berm for the Sunday game against Texas A&M. Ludy homered on the 14th pitch of his at-bat in the first inning after fouling off 10 straight pitches.
The largest crowd in Baylor Ballpark history watched the Bears beat Texas A&M 1-0 on April 21 behind 8.0 shutout innings from Trent Blank. The win clinched the series win in the final Battle of the Brazos, and the Bears went on to complete the series sweep the following day.
Despite temperatures approaching 100 degrees, Baylor fans packed the berm to watch the Bears play Arkansas with a spot in Omaha on the line.
Another sellout crowd watched the Bears win game one of the Waco Super Regional, 8-1, on June 9.
For updates throughout the offseason, follow the Baylor Baseball Twitter feed (@BaylorBaseball).
NOTE: This story was written by Jerry Hill and published in the Baylor Bear Insider Report.
Dan Evatt took home Most Outstanding Player honors from last weekend's NCAA Waco Regional. And Baylor's senior leftfielder deserved it, hitting .473 (9-for-19) with a home run, two triples and four RBI and making a highlight-reel catch to rob a home run from DBU's Boomer Collins.
But if the All-Tournament ballot had included a Most Outstanding Coach, I might have gone with Baylor assistant Trevor Mote for his handling of a pitching staff that was lights-out all weekend, but particularly in the four straight elimination games.
At a time when Baylor's "big two" of Josh Turley and Trent Blank weren't at their best, the Bears (48-15) got heroic pitching efforts from Tyler Bremer, Austin Stone and Dillon Newman to survive the regional and advance to this weekend's Super Regional against Arkansas (42-19).
"In hindsight, I was obviously very excited, because I think you had three guys in Tyler Bremer, Austin Stone and Dillon Newman who pitched clearly their best games of the year," said Mote, who took over duties as the pitching coach from head coach Steve Smith after working with the outfielders and hitters the previous three seasons. "We had talked as a pitching staff that in order for us to do the things we wanted to do in postseason play that there was going to be a guy step up who it wasn't going to be expected out of. And I really thought that was more Austin Stone than anyone. . . . But for those three guys to do it, basically in elimination games for an extended period of time, it was huge."
The shift in responsibility actually began toward the end of last season, when Mote made a suggestion in a bullpen session for then-junior right-hander Trent Blank to lower his arm slot and go to more of a side-arm delivery.
Before the change, Blank was 6-4 with a 6.15 ERA. But since making that one adjustment, Blank has increased the velocity on his fastball, won 12 of 13 decisions and cut his ERA by more than half.
"Smitty just wanted another set of eyes and maybe a different kind of sounding board," Mote said. "So I went down there and just kind of fooled around with it." When Smith adjusted his staff and made Mote a full-time assistant this spring, coaching pitchers became far more than just something that the former infielder "just kind of fooled around with." Even with a staff that was unsettled at best to start the season, the Bears are ranked 20th in the country with a 3.14 ERA. "It's what I hoped and thought it could be," Smith said. "(Mote's) got `it.' And he's got an extra `it' sitting next to him in (volunteer assistant coach and former Baylor catcher Zach Dillon)."
Although Smith was a pitcher at the college and pro levels, he "never liked calling pitches." But Mote, who "thinks like a hitter," thrives in that role. "I know the things that give me challenges as a hitter," Mote said. "I know what type of hitter I was. And I know how to kind of get a feeling for other guys and what kind of hitters they are. So we just try to counter that and we're aggressive in the zone."
You can bet that every Texas Rangers pitcher listens to any suggestions that come from club president and former Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. But what about Baylor pitchers getting advice from a former infielder who never pitched on the college or pro ranks?
"You know what, I've never had that problem," he said. "Yeah, I played infield, I was a hitter. But coaching was going to happen from the get-go. When I was in pro ball, I always lived with pitchers. And the reason why is I tried to pick their minds to help me out with my career. And Zach is the same way. He's a baseball guy. You look for things that maybe other people might not look for, or see it from a different point of view."
On a staff full of them, Blank is probably the biggest success story. After struggling for most of three seasons, he turned his game completely around, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors with a 10-1 record and 2.32 ERA and getting drafted in the 30th round by the Colorado Rockies.
While he didn't even start the season in the weekend rotation, Blank will be the starter for Saturday's opening game in the Super Regional against Arkansas and will be opposed by the Razorbacks' D.J. Baxendale (7-4, 2.83).
"I told him at the beginning of the year that his value was to be the first guy out of the bullpen," Mote said of Blank, "knowing that the outs at the end of the game are a lot harder than the ones at the beginning of the game."
But by the middle of the year, Blank became the Saturday starter and was battling with junior left-hander Josh Turley for the role of staff ace. He didn't have his best stuff in Saturday's 11-6 win over UTA, lasting just 3.2 innings, but came back the very next day to throw two shutout innings in a 9-2 win over Dallas Baptist.
"This weekend was neat, because you got to see him as a starter and get hit around a little, but still compete," Mote said. "And then to see him come back as a reliever, and his stuff was really good. Once you saw him throw that first pitch, it was over. They had no shot." The real story that day, though, was a little-known freshman named Austin Stone no-hitting DBU through the first five innings and picking up his third win of the year.
"He hadn't really done it when it mattered, but I knew it was in there," Mote said. "I've seen the kid throw the ball in sessions, whether it was bullpens or intra-squads or just moments, glimpses. . . . What he really did from pitch one was he attacked them. We watched Dallas Baptist just beat the tar out of those first two guys. So we knew we had to take it to them, and that's what he did. I think if you just watch the hitters and how uncomfortable they were, that tells you a lot more about what he was doing. Because those first two games, they were just crushing the ball."
Another one that's benefitted from Mote's tutelage is Turley, a first-team All-Big 12 pick and second-team All-American who is 9-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 103.0 innings. After being knocked around in a 4-2 loss to Oral Roberts on Friday, Turley came back on two days' rest to throw four innings and 65 pitches in Monday's 8-2 clincher.
"You talk about a pitching coach, a baseball guy, whatever. He's a ball player," Mote said of Turley, who also has two hits and a pair of walks in eight plate appearances this season as a pinch-hitter. "If you need him to hit, he's going to hit. You need him to play outfield, he'll play outfield; he'll play first base. So he brings those types of intangibles and knowledge of the game to the mound every time out. And the year he's had has been unbelievable. Those two guys (Blank and Turley), because of what they've been able to do this year, speaks volumes of our success."