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JJ SAYS

Give credit to coaches for baseball, softball success

Published: Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 11:39 a.m.

It must be the water. Or maybe it's the coaching. It was Petaluma High baseball coach Paul Cochrun who pointed out that of the eight baseball teams to reach the quarterfinals in the North Coast Section Division 2 baseball playoffs, two were from Petaluma. We're talking the eight best of the best, including teams from the East Bay.

It's quite a tribute to the state of local baseball, but the thread of excellence is even longer. Counting St. Vincent in Division V, Petaluma had every one of its baseball and softball teams in the NCS playoffs — three baseball and three softball teams.

Of the six, five won at least one game; two, the Petaluma and St. Vincent baseball teams; reached the semifinals; two, the St. Vincent and Petaluma softball teams, reached the finals; and one, the St. Vincent softball team, won a NCS championship.

It is an impressive resume for local teams.

It certainly speaks well of the talents of our local athletes, both boys and girls, but my own theory is that much of the credit for the success has to be given to local coaches.

I'm not just talking about the head coaches, although they have a lot to do with the success of their teams. But, each of the coaches will give tons of the credit to his assistants. Much of the teaching is done by assistant coaches, who get little credit, less recognition and even less money.

And, of course, the teaching doesn't start on the varsity level.

Petaluma has, perhaps, the finest youth programs for both baseball and softball in the Redwood Empire and beyond.

Long gone are the days when Little League coaches yelled, screamed and made kids run. Today's coaches are not only compassionate, they know the game, and, more importantly, they know how to teach the game.

The word of the day, even in the most important of games is “fun.” You can't fool the kids. They know when a game, a pitch, an at bat, a fielding play is important, and they do feel the pressure. But most coaches I know emphasize that the real goal is to have fun.

The same is true of girls softball. The competitive Steal Breeze segment of the Petaluma Girls Softball Association is one of the most successful girls programs around.

Most of the girls on the playoff-participating Petaluma, Casa Grande and St. Vincent softball teams started in PGSA and moved up through the ranks to Steal Breeze teams.

There is one other group of coaches that should be mentioned. That is the high school freshmen and junior varsity coaches.

Most of Petaluma's young baseball and softball players enter the ninth grade pretty well versed in the fundamentals of their sport. What they are not ready for is the speed of the high school games and the competition.

Especially in baseball, but also in softball to a certain extent, the game is much quicker in all aspects than they are used to. The pitching is faster, the ball comes off the bat harder and reaction time must be quicker.

A major reason for the increase in speed is that every player who tries to make a freshman or junior varsity high school team is an all-star. There are no sure strikeouts for pitchers. There are no lob-ball pitchers for batters. Shortstops find themselves battling for playing time at second base. Center fielders play part time in right field.

It is the job of the freshmen and junior varsity coaches to not only continue building on the fundamentals, but to deal with the emotions and the realities of the step up to high school competition.

Petaluma's JV and frosh coaches do an excellent job in helping young players make the transition from youth to high school ball, keeping them encouraged and helping them fulfill the potential that will someday put them on a varsity roster.

From youth leagues to freshmen, to junior varsity to varsity, Petaluma has a multitude of excellent coaches and it is never more apparent than in the North Coast Section playoffs.

Six teams, six qualifiers — It doesn't get any better than that.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)

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