25 June 2009
Easy Transition In Hyannis
HYANNIS, Mass – 1,052 miles. That is distance from Hyannis, Massachusetts to Young Harris, Georgia. It seems much closer watching the Hyannis Mets play baseball at McKeon Park, almost as if Young Harris College is just a short walk down Bearses Way.
Chad Gassman is the head coach at NAIA Waldorf College in Iowa and is in his first season as head coach of the Mets. He has Hyannis on a two game winning streak and, despite being in his first year on the job, he has high hopes for the organization.
“We want it to be a family thing,” Gassman said. “We want the fans and organization to be proud of the product we’re putting out there.”
Now where does Young Harris come in? Gassman is a former assistant coach for the Mountain Lions, where Rick Robinson is the head coach. Robinson led Hyannis to a 22-22 record in 2008 and it was an easy decision for him to put coach Gassman on his staff as the team’s pitching coach a year ago.
“He is one of the most knowledgeable coaches in the game today,” Robinson said of Gassman. “He is a man of integrity when dealing with players, parents, fans and the organization. And he is very loyal.”
The integrity and loyalty, along with a strong work ethic, are what Gassman and Robinson both said they look for when recruiting a player, whether it is for Hyannis, Waldorf or Young Harris.
“First question I ask (when recruiting is) ‘Is he a good kid’,” Gassman said. “Does he do what you ask him to do, is he coachable? Have you had problems with him off the field?”
So it comes as no surprise that three other uniformed Mets have Young Harris ties. Catcher Kenny Swab (Virginia) and right-handed pitcher Jay Brown (South Carolina) both played for the Mountain Lions. Swab just completed his second season there and will play at Virginia in 2010 and Brown played there from 2005-2006.
“We’ve had four players from Young Harris the last two years,” general manager Bill Bussiere said. “They all have a good work ethic, they’re determined and they know how to win.”
For Gassman it was very important to keep a family atmosphere within the organization. So he called Robinson who recommended Tim Burgess as a hitting coach. Burgess played at Young Harris in the early part of this decade and went on to play two and a half years of minor league baseball in the Boston Red Sox organization before holding his current position as hitting coach under Robinson.
“I thought coach Burgess would fit in really well with the players on the Cape because he’s so young and right out of pro ball,” said Robinson.
The Hyannis pitching coach this summer is Dan Wellik, an assistant at Loras College in Iowa and former student assistant to Gassman at Waldorf. Gassman said Wellik was the first person he called when he got the Mets job.
Gassman and Robinson sometimes joke that the only reason Robinson took the job in the first place was to help get Gassman to Hyannis.
“I feel like the whole reason that God sent me to Hyannis last year was to bring the Gassmans to Hyannis,” Robinson said. “While there are a lot of times you want things to be about you, I think last year had a lot to do with putting the right person in the right spot with the right organization.”
And Gassman has plans to build something meaningful in Hyannis. His children, Taylor, two and a half, and Easton, seven months, are young enough that Gassman hopes they grow up viewing Cape Cod as their second home.
“Family permitting, job permitting and organization permitting I would like to build a legacy here,” Gassman said. “Be that Cape Cod personality 15 or 20 years from now that coaches send their kids here because they know they’re going to be treated right.”
Gassman knows that to do that he will need time to get his players to practice what he preaches.
“I want to eventually put up a couple championships, but that takes some work. You look at all the teams that win on a consistent basis and they have that setup. (It’s a setup with a) G.M. that’s been there for a while, (a) coach that’s been there for a while, and they get their players to buy into a system.”
That system originated over one thousand miles away. The right coaching staff has brought it to Hyannis.
By Chris Blake, CCBL Intern (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Garner, Jr.
Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Michael Campbell, Katy Ann Fitzpatrick