June 2, 2020

Touring The Bases With…Doug White

September 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Doug White, the Pitching Coach of the Johnson City Cardinals talked with Alfonso Tusa about his pitching philosophy, great satisfaction in the 2010 season, how baseball has enhanced his life and his everyday work with the pitching staff.

Alfonso Tusa: The JC Cards hadn’t won the Appalachian League Championship since 1976. Were you aware of that?  Did the coaches talk to the players about ending that long skid?

Doug White:  I actually was not aware that it had been so long since we won a championship in the Appalachian League until very close to the end of the regular season.  And even though I knew it had been a long time I was unaware of how long.  We had no discussion with the players about how long it had been or that we wanted to end the long skid.

AT: Why did you decide to become a pitching coach?

DW:  I really didn’t think much about becoming a pitching coach until the triple A manager at the time, with the Colorado Rockies, came up to me one day and said he put my name in for the rookie league job with the organization.  I was 25 at the time and struggling to stay in baseball as a pitcher in the independent leagues.  I was the coach of a travel ball team in Phoenix, AZ and his son was one of the players on the team.  He commended me on the job I was doing with the young athletes and told me he put my name in for the job.  At that time I really started thinking that could be in my future.

But I decided later on to do it because I always wanted to be part of a major league organization and thought coaching was my best shot at it.

AT: What was your biggest satisfaction with the Johnson City Cardinals in the 2010 season?

DW:  I am guessing you are asking me what was the biggest moment of satisfaction for me this season…there were many moments, but the biggest was being able to enjoy the celebration with my pitching staff when everything was all said and done.  They worked their butts off all year long and I really loved the group of guys I had.  So it was nice to see them reach their goal of winning a championship in their very young careers.

AT: What’s your pitching philosophy?

DW:  That is a tough question although to the reader it would probably seem that that shouldn’t be so….even though I do have an overlying mechanical philosophy that I usually pick from as I work with individual pitchers, it is my job to have a philosophy that works for every pitcher I come into contact with.  So really, my philosophy is whatever philosophy works at the time for that individual pitcher.  It is my job to assist them in getting better, not for me to make them follow my philosophy.  This is definitely a process with pitchers and earning their trust is a big part of all this.

AT: Which of the JC Cardinals will reach MLB the soonest?

DW; There are a few guys on the staff that have a legitimate shot at getting to the big leagues.  In what order?  Well that is not up to me so I will just give you a couple names to look out for down the road…

Trevor Rosenthal, big time arm, great kid

Hector Corpas, nasty split, big time arm, also a great kid

AT: What do you think is the most important factor to keep the team performing at its best?

DW: I think keeping a teams focus is the most important thing to keeping them up on their performance.  There are a lot of games in a season and it causes a lot of wear and tear, but if the guys can individually stay focused, then as a team we can all succeed.  It is a huge balancing act by the manager and his staff to keep all the guys fresh and loose and feeling like they are having fun, but at the same time, working and competing and being professionals on and off the field.

AT: At this level, how often does a pitching coach talk to every pitcher on the staff?

DW: There is constant contact with each pitcher throughout the year.  The trick is what type of communication are you giving to each individual and how much or how often.  You can loose the ear of some of the guys if you do too much and some guys you need to stay on all the time because that is how they like to be treated.  It is all about knowing your subject and how to communicate with each one.  But we are all talking with each other on a daily basis mostly.

AT: Do you think four days of rest is okay for a starting pitcher or is it better with 3 days like in the past?

DW: For me specifically, because I am currently coaching in the minor leagues, four days or even five days rest in between starts is best.  Two major reasons for this one…first is that these kids are just that, kids, and they have a lot to learn and to get better with.  By having four or even five days between starts, it gives them more time to get work in, in between starts.  If you allow only three days between starts they wouldn’t even feel comfortable getting a full side in and they would only have the games to work on stuff.  The second reason is for health.  The four day or five day rest period for guys getting drafted right out of high school or college is huge because they are not throwing as often as we have them when they get to us.  These pitchers have been on schedules where they may not even throw for two or three days during the week in between a high school or college start.  Not in the pro’s…they throw everyday and it is a big shock for some of the guys.  Also, some of the pitchers coming in have had a full season of innings and then we add in an extra couple months, that is a lot to ask for their arms.  So again, four days for sure with the younger minor leaguers, but I would not hesitate to use the extra day and make it five.

AT: How do you talk and work with a pitcher after he’s been pounded the night before?

DW: The best thing I can do for a pitcher after they had a tough outing is to get them focused on what improvements they want to gain out of that outing and then once they are aware of what they want, make sure that is where their focus stays.  The worse thing that can happen when a pitcher has a tough outing is if it sticks with them too long and they start to let their confidence dip or their expectations change when they get out on the mound.  Pitchers have to have tough skin and quick memory loss when they are not pitching like they want to be or getting the results they want.  Having tough skin and holding your belief in your abilities high, even though the results may not be there at the specific time is part of what it takes to become a successful pitcher.

AT: Pitching duel or slugfest? Why?

DW: Pitching duel….I can’t stand to see my pitchers getting their butts kicked…I would like to think there is not one pitching coach in the history of coaches who would want to see a slugfest with their staff…lol!

AT: In the minors, how is the process of calling the game? Does the catcher call some pitches? Or are all of them ordered from the dugout?

DW: The catchers and pitchers are calling the pitches.  They must learn how to call their own game and communicate with each other.  The only way to do that is let them go out there and figure it out.  Now for me, because I am a bit of a control freak, I like to have a game plan for the guys prior to each game.  We will discuss things in the dugout during the period of the game and we will both offer our points of view of what we are seeing based on the hitters and the situations that come up in the course of a game.  But there are very few times in a game, if at all, that I would actually say to throw a certain pitch, they must be comfortable with what they are doing up on the mound, it is their career, not mine.

AT: What would you tell a seven-year-old boy who wants to be a pitcher?

DW: I would tell a 7-year-old to have fun and chuck it as hard as they can.  First off, seven is way too young to decide if you are a pitcher or not…lol…and if they want to pitch they have to first learn to throw.  So for that reason I would tell them to learn how to throw the ball as hard as they can and pitching will come down the line, later in life…lol.

AT: Has baseball improved your life? In which way?

DW: The word I would choose to use here would be enhance.  Baseball has enhanced my life because of all the things it teaches you.  Baseball is such an emotional sport and there are so many things going on, on and off the field that you can learn so much about yourself that it can truly enhance your life.  I learn who I am and what I want in life almost every game that is played.  I learn from the relationships I have with the players, the other staff members, the coordinators that come into town and of course, the higher-ups.  There is so much to learn about life in the game of baseball that it has enhanced my life ten-fold and I will always remember that!

Alfonso is a writer whose work has been featured in Venezuela’s daily newspaper, El Nacional and in the magazine Gente en Ambiente, and he’s collaborated on several articles for newspapers, including the daily paper Tal Cual. He’s also written three books and biographies for SABR’s BioProject.

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