Showing posts with label Coach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coach. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kal Segrist | Former Texas Tech baseball coach, played for Yankees and Orioles, dies at 84

Kal Segrist, a former infielder with the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles in the 1950s, and the longtime head baseball coach at Texas Tech, passed away in Lubbock, Texas this weekend. He was 84.

Kal Segrist / Author's Collection
Segrist was signed by the Yankees in 1951 after helping to lead Bibb Falk’s Texas Longhorns to back-to-back national championships in 1949 and 1950, with the latter being the first played in Omaha. After earning All-Conference honors as a second baseman in 1949, he volunteered to play first base in 1950 when he saw there was unsteadiness at the position.

“We had six different guys that tried at first base,” Segrist recalled during a 2008 phone interview from his home in Lubbock. “I went to Bibb [Falk] and I said, ‘Coach, I can play first.’ He looked at me in his office and reached in his locker and pulled out this old first base mitt that Abe Lincoln probably played with, threw it up to me, and said, ‘Well, we’ll try.’ We made that move and everything started gelling.”

After his success at the collegiate level, interest quickly grew from professional teams. After he was made an offer by the St. Louis Cardinals at a semi-pro tournament, his father sent notice to all of the major league clubs. Quickly the offers came rolling in. Right away, the Yankees wanted to do business.

“I ended up getting a call from the Yankees,” he said. “I [went] down to Beaumont and they were managed by Rogers Hornsby. That was the Yankee farm team. They were in San Antonio for a playoff. They had me go there and work out. … They made me an offer and I was one of their first bonus ballplayers.” (Segrist was given a $40,000 bonus.)

The only thing in the way of finalizing Segrist’s deal with the Yankees was a physical exam on his knee. As a kid, he has Osgood-Schlatter disease, and as a result of it, one of his legs was bowed. This condition didn’t affect his play, but the Yankees were about to make a substantial investment in the Texan and they couldn’t take any chances.

“With the knee factor, they wanted me to go to Baltimore to see this outstanding doctor and have my knee checked,” he said. “So dad and I flew to Baltimore, and he checked the knee and we got on the train and went on to New York.”

Most players who signed for such substantial bonuses in the 1950s had to be placed immediately on a major league roster, but the bonus rule was rescinded during the time that Segrist signed his contract. This meant the Yankees could send him to the vast depths of their farm system, but with a few strokes of luck, he wound up only one step away from the big show with their Triple-A team in Kansas City for spring training.

“I was probably the youngest guy there,” he recalled. “The only shortstop we had was Roy Nicely and he had stomach ulcers. We had [a few] second baseman and when we scrimmaged, after about five innings they would take him out and move me to short and someone else would play second. They did that through the entire spring. I basically, never actually spent any time playing there.

“It was a rather unusual spring. When we left, we went north. Just out of Florida, they had a place where there were several different teams. After that, we got back on the bus and they cut several people; they just left people there. We had people standing in the bus. So, again, I didn’t know the general manager had scheduled two series with two bases, one an Army base and one a Marine base. … I think Nicely and a guy named Hank Workman both jumped the club either at the Army or the Marine base. We opened the season at Louisville, guess who played short? I played my first 60 games at short in pro ball. That’s basically how I ended up at Kansas City.”

Kal Segrist (l.) with Casey Stengel (c.) and Tom Gorman (r.) in 1952
About halfway through Segrist’s first professional season, he was joined by a rookie outfielder from the big league club, Mickey Mantle. Casey Stengel felt that Mantle needed more seasoning and sent him down to Kansas City rather quickly to fine tune his skills.

“About the time the season started, they sent Mick to Kansas City,” he said. “One of the things he was supposed to learn was to drag bunt. He was to drag bunt once a game. The first three weeks he hit about .200, and the last three weeks he hit the ball like he could hit it and he was up to stay.”

Soon Segrist would have the opportunity to join Mantle on the Yankees the next season. With two of their top infielders, Bobby Brown and Jerry Coleman departing for military service midway through the season, a spot opened up for Segrist. He could have been there even earlier if he kept his mouth shut with the press.

“My second year, I came back and I was in spring training with New York until we broke camp,” he recalled. “This fella who was a nice guy … he wrote an article on me and was asking me questions. One of the things was about playing in Kansas City or New York. My reaction was, ‘I’d rather be in Kansas City playing, than on the bench in New York.’ Casey heard that and he accommodated me. One thing I learned, it was hard to play in New York if you are in Kansas City! If you are sitting on the bench in New York, you have a chance to make a play or make a move.

“I got back sent back to Kansas City and by July 4th, I hit over 20 homers and was hitting well over .300. I got the word from the manager that I was being called up.”

In his first major league game on July 16, 1952, Segrist singled in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians and scored the winning run on a single by Hank Bauer. He stayed with the Yankees for just over two weeks, and in 27 plate appearances, it was his only hit. He found that balls that were dropping in the minor leagues ended up deep in the mitts of speedy outfielders.
“We played Cleveland and I hit two balls that would have been out anywhere else,” he said, “one to right center, and one to left center. They had a center fielder [Larry Doby] that could fly and run. I came back and said, ‘What do you have to do to get a hit in this league.’ We were on the road and had a tough road trip. We were in Detroit and if I would have hit them three feet farther, they would have been out of the park, but they were fly outs.”
After a down year in 1953, Segrist picked it up with an All-Star performance with Kansas City, slugging 15 home runs while manning third base duties for the entire season. Just as things were looking up for the Texan, the Yankees shipped him off to the Baltimore Orioles as part of a 17-player trade that brought Don Larsen and Bob Turley to the Yankees. Moving to one of the lower-tier clubs should have provided more of an opportunity for Segrist to play, but the same bonus rule that saved him from a major league roster when he was signed, was now holding him up from occupying one.

“It was disappointing,” he lamented. “Baltimore signed several players and the rule at that time if you signed someone for so much money, they had to stay on the big league roster and you couldn’t send them down. I got caught in a trap.”

Segrist, ever the consummate team player, accepted a demotion at manager Paul Richards’ behest to Double-A San Antonio so that he could be on 24-hour recall. They paid him an additional $2,000 to accept the offer. He hit 25 home runs and in September 1955, he got to experience another taste of major league life. This time around he fared better, batting .333 in nine at-bats; however, he was hobbled by a leg injury he suffered earlier in the season.

By the time Segrist fully recovered from his injury, the Orioles had another third base prospect emerge, and that was future Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. With their attention focus on Robinson, Segrist languished in the minor leagues until 1961, when he finished up with Mobile Bears of the Southern Association. In 11 minor league seasons, he hit a respectable .280 with 156 home runs.

Segrist signing autographs for Chris Potter / Chris Potter Sports
Segrist returned to school and earned his physical education teaching degree. After teaching junior high for two years, he went to Texas Tech at the urging of his cousin Herman Segrist, who chaired the physical education program. Serving as a teaching assistant and assistant baseball coach, Segrist integrated himself into the Texas Tech baseball program. By 1968, he earned the head coaching position, a far less glamorous title than today’s Division 1 standards.

“I took over totally and was there from ’68-83,” he said. “The thing about Tech, baseball wasn’t their most important sport. We didn’t even have a facility. We had trees in the outfield. I was not only the coach, I was the only groundskeeper. It’s a different deal now. Back then, I never had an assistant coach. … The guy that is there now has about six guys. The only thing I needed was a paid pitching coach, everything else I could handle. It was a challenge.

“I had to learn how to lay out a field, put down the grass, lay down home plate, the pitching rubber, first base, etc. I had to learn these things at Tech. When I got done in 1983, our ballpark that we have now, I got a new park built. We had $100,000. Most of the parks in Texas are in the millions; I designed with that $100,000. I got us a basic class ballpark built. Since then, they added to it, upgraded, and done a good job. It’s unbelievable what they got now than what I had to deal with.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Frank Castillo, 44, former Chicago Cubs pitcher dies in swimming accident

Frank Castillo /
Frank Castillo, a 13-year pitcher in the major leagues, primarily with the Chicago Cubs tragically passed away Sunday July 28, 2013 in a swimming accident. He was 44.

While boating with a friend, Castillo decided to go swimming near his Arizona home. His friend that accompanied him on the boat ride frantically called for police when Castillo did not resurface.

His major league career started with his 1991 debut with the Cubs, for whom he pitched seven seasons before being traded to the Colorado Rockies during the 1997 season. He gained notoriety for while pitching in Chicago for coming one out short of pitching a no-hitter on September, 25, 1995 against the St. Louis Cardinals, when Bernard Gilkey broke up the bid with two outs in the 9th inning on a 2-2 count.

He also pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Florida Marlins, last seeing action in the majors in 2005. He continued to pitch in the minor leagues and independent ball until 2008. After his playing career ended, he was a coach for the Cubs in their minor league system.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fritz Peterson: Who needs a coach?

This week’s guest article is from former All-Star and 20-game winner Fritz Peterson. After the self-coached Bubba Watson won the Masters tournament earlier this month, Peterson reflected on his own experiences with coaching during his major league career.

“I don't need a coach.”-- Bubba Watson 4/8/12

“I didn't either.”-- Fritz Peterson 4/11/12

In golf, you are out there all by yourself. As a pitcher you are the only one out there on the mound. The type of pitch you throw is ultimately up to you even though your catcher can suggest a pitch he thinks you should throw. The ball is in your hand until you let it go at the end of your delivery. Bubba Watson chose his clubs at the Masters last Sunday and even though his caddy may have made suggestions, it was ultimately Watson's decision. On April 8th, 2012 it was Watson that walked off the course after the second hole of the playoff against Louis Oosthuizen with the green jacket.

Fritz Peterson / Baseball Alamanac

Who needs a coach? After Watson's father showed him the basic fundamentals of the swing and the grip, Watson took it from there. After my father showed me the fundamentals of throwing a ball and having an idea of where each pitch should go, I was done, in essence, being coached. Everything I picked up over the years was from experimenting on my own, not from a coach other than my dad until I got into college. By the time I finished my major league career, I had six pitches I could use effectively. Since Thurman Munson only had five fingers he had to start backwards and use his little finger for my 6th pitch. Jim Bouton did teach me his palm ball which angered our pitching coach because Bouton had taught it to me and not him. Bouton was not “old school.”

The odd thing, especially in the major leagues, is that every team has a coach for everything, but in most cases they do more harm to the players than good. The majority of coaches think they have to justify their positions (jobs), so they dabble with their players, sometimes actually causing them to over think, which can negatively affect their performance.

I know! It happened to me in my first year with the Yankees in 1966. I was privileged to be one of the starting pitchers on the New York Yankees where I was surrounded by pitchers like Whitey Ford, Al Downing, Jim Bouton and Mel Stottlemyre. All of them were, or would become 20 game winners and all had been an All-Star at least once. Our pitching coach was Jim Turner, a wonderful hearty man from the “old school,” in his ways. New ideas were taboo. You just did things like they've been done from time immemorial. Turner was a sincere man and truly believed everyone should do everything the same way.

I got to the big leagues with only two pitches, a sinking fastball and a hard sharp breaking curve-ball. My strength was that I could get both of them over the plate where I wanted them to be 95% of the time. Mr. Turner, in an attempt to help me, suggested I throw my curve ball like Whitey Ford threw his. Since Turner was my coach, I tried it. It messed me up. It cost me my real curve-ball for a few weeks, until I got "my" curve-ball back. I wasn't Whitey Ford; I was Fritz Peterson.

The point is, at that level pitchers and hitters know what to do. Coaching (especially over coaching) can do more damage than it can help. Bubba Watson is Bubba Watson and he knows it. Now that he has a green jacket he will be able to be Bubba Watson for a long time if he chooses to be.

My friend, roommate, and author of Ball Four once told me that Johnny Sain was the perfect pitching coach. He said nothing. Instead, Sain befriended his pitchers like children of his own. He didn't mess with their mechanics. If I had been a pitching coach, I would have been just like Sain. By the way, Bouton was the only ex-player who attended Sain's funeral. He truly was Bouton's friend.

The rest of my career (11 years) in the big leagues, I did my own thing out there on the mound. I did it “my way,” like Frank Sinatra, and now Watson. Sure, I listened to my pitching coaches, but without them realizing I was doing it my way just the same. On top of that, I gave them credit in the press because I knew their intentions were good. What harm could that do? The coaches were going to be there anyway, looking good with their little notebooks and clipboards. Besides, we’re all there together trying to win games for our team. Watson is his own team. Leave him alone. He's having fun being Bubba Watson and that's the way it should be. Who needs a coach?