From time to time here at Bronx Banter, we talk about what kind of impact coaches have on a team, particularly the pitching and hitting coaches. I got to thinking about what a pitching coach brings to a team after running across a nice, long quote from the legendary pitching coach Johnny Sain in a 1973 Sports Illustrated article by Pat Jordan ("A Jouster with Windmills"):
"To become a pitching coach you have to start all over again. You have to get outside of yourself. You might have done things a certain way when you pitched but that doesn't mean it will be natural to someone else. For example, I threw a lot of sliders and off-speed pitches because I wasn't very fast. But that's me. I could also pitch with only two days' rest (he once pitched nine complete games in 29 days) whereas most pitchers need three and four, although I think they shouldn't. And I never believed much in running pitchers to keep them in shape. I've always felt a lot of pitching coaches made a living out of running pitchers so they wouldn't have to spend that same time teaching them how to pitch, something they were unsure of. It would be better to have those pitchers throw on the sidelines every day, than run. Things like this I learned on my own. I picked up everything by observation, which is the best teacher. Nothing came easy to me. I had to think things over and over more than guys with natural ability did. Maybe this has made it easier for me to get my ideas across to pitchers. It isn't that I'm so smart, because I know I'm not very smart at all. I don't know any answers. I don't give pitchers answers. I try to stimulate their thinking, to present alternatives and let them choose. I remind them every day of things they already know but tend to forget. I repeat things a lot, partly for them but also for my own thinking, to make sure what I'm saying makes senes...I don't make anyone like Johnny Sain. I want them to do what's natural for them. I adjust to their style, both as pitchers and people. I find some common ground outside of baseball that'll make it easier for us to communicate in general. I used to talk flying with Denny McClain all the time. Once you can communicate with a pitcher it's easier to make him listen to you about pitching. You know him better, too. You know when to lay off him, when to minimize his tensions, and also when to inspire him. That's why you've got to know him. Pitching coaches don't change pitchers, we just stimulate their thinking. We teach their subconscious mind so that when they get on the mound and a situation arises it triggers an automatic physcial reaction that they might even be aware of."
"Pitching coaches don't change pitchers, we just stimuate their thinking." I'd be curious to know how Ron Guidry feels about his first year as the Yankees' pitching coach, and how his pitchers feel about him.