07/02/2009 9:40 AM
Article By: July 2009
Cotuit’s Running Game Gives Them a Lead
COTUIT, Mass—When Cotuit gets on base, it’s a good bet you’ll see them run. The team is leading the league in stolen bases so far this season with 49 successful steals, in part because field manager Mike Roberts loves the running game and works towards making the team comfortable with stealing.
“The fun thing to me is, I don’t care how they get to first base,” said Roberts. “I want to steal second and third and then we’ll see how we get them home.”
Roberts, who spent time at the Kansas City Baseball Academy and is in his 6th year with the Cotuit Kettleers, is aware of the fact that smart running in games can be the difference in a good or a bad season.
“I know that there are going to be times during the summer where we are not going to hit, we’re just not going to hit,” said Roberts. “The pitchers are going to dominate us in this league. If we can get there via a walk then we still have a chance to score.”
The pitching on the Cape is notoriously good, with batters facing the top schools’ best starter every night of the week, so teams have to shape their strategies accordingly.
For Roberts, teaching the running game is how he creates an advantage. “I think that everybody on the team, including the pitchers, need to understand the running game,” he said. “Most of the guys that come in here have never practiced base stealing, they don’t understand repetition. They have no game plan for their running.”
So they practice, and everyone on the team does the drills, from the position players to the pitchers. “All of our pitchers slide head first,” Roberts said. “They all do the same thing, they all go through the running drills.”
It’s a technique that’s working for the team. Chris Bisson (Kentucky), who has stolen 13 bases so far this summer—one more than his 12 steals during this spring college season—said “I’ve never stolen third before in my life and Coach Roberts just got me comfortable over there.”
Bisson said Roberts works with the team to understand how to gain a better understanding of when to run, rather than just running. “Understanding the rhythm of the pitchers and your timing” is important, he said, “because sometimes the pitchers get into a rhythm at second base, and kind of learning and understanding that. When I’m not on the bases I’m trying to look at the pitcher and what he’s doing.”
“I want each player to become more aware of baseball,” said Roberts, “and everything that’s going on. I want them to play backyard baseball. I want them to develop their baseball instincts in every area of the game.”
And once they develop those instincts, Roberts gives them a green light to run. For this year’s team, where there’s a lot of speed to begin with, the strategy works. Kevin Patterson (Auburn), who played last year, has noticed that the biggest difference this year is the mentality of the players themselves.
“I think this year we’re just more aggressive and faster and it seems like the guys stealing the bases, like Bisson and Rico Noel (Coastal Carolina) and Zach Cone (Georgia), are pretty quick and really comfortable,” said Patterson. “I think that’s what it comes down to is if you’re comfortable doing it you’ll be more aggressive and experiment and try things.”
By Ashley Crosby, CCBL Intern ([email protected])
Interns: Chris Blake, James Chandley, Ashley Crosby, Phil Garceau, Michael Campbell, Katy Ann Fitzpatrick