THURSDAY, January 26, 2017

Under longtime coach, Sailors find formula for baseball success

Source: published by Ryan Kohn


I’m still fairly new to Sarasota. I’m just now getting to know the history of individual programs and teams. I had heard good things about the Sarasota High baseball program, but it was not until the program announced its tryout dates that I took a gander at its history.


I was astounded by what I found.


Not only do the Sailors have 19 players currently playing in college (and have six seniors committed to colleges for next year), but they also currently have 10 alumni playing in either the MLB or its minor-league system. They include names you have heard of if you are a fan of the game: Ian Desmond, a 2003 graduate, signed a five year, $70 million deal with the Colorado Rockies on Dec. 12. 2009 graduate Scooter Gennett has been the starting second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers for three seasons. Casey Kelly, most recently of the Atlanta Braves, was drafted in the first round, 30th overall, by the Boston Red Sox straight out of high school in 2008.


Overall, including both current and retired players, Sarasota has sent 84 players to play professional baseball, according to its website. Baseball Reference says Sarasota has produced more major and minor leaguers than any other high school in the country, though this is a very hard thing to track when going decades and decades back. Either way, what the school has accomplished in terms of guiding its athletes to success is nothing short of masterful.


The man responsible for a large number of Sarasota’s draftees is Clyde Metcalf, who has been the Sailors’ skipper for 35 years. He was named the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year in 2015. Metcalf said he takes immense pride in the fact that so many young men have found success after leaving his program.


“Coaches have egos, and coaches want to be successful, OK?” Metcalf said. “So wins and losses are important, but I honestly don't even remember what our final record was last year. What I can tell you is where all our guys are playing baseball this year that graduated. It's nice to be able to follow them, it's nice to have them come back and talk to our kids, be an example for our kids, talk to our kids about what they need to do to improve. Things that they should or maybe should not do. That means a lot to the program.”


It’s a cyclical thing at Sarasota. The more successful graduates they have, the more helping hands they can have at minicamps, teaching best practices to the next generation so it can follow in alumni footsteps.


That’s not the only advantage kids at Sarasota have. Metcalf also credits his staff’s training philosophy with keeping his players ready at all times.


“I think the biggest thing is, we've had continuity over the years,” Metcalf said. “I think we kind of came up with a formula that works for us and prepares the kids. We demand a lot of them to get to that point. We start lifting weights in August. We continue through the fall season, they get a couple weeks off and then they start lifting again.


“I think it helps them be physically and mentally ready for the grind that they are going to face when they reach collegiate ball, because the demand is going to be much more than it is at the high school level. I think it’s systematic. It teaches them a good work ethic and it gets them to a level of dedication where they not only get to the next level but also succeed there.”


Metcalf also said he advises each of his players to join a successful travel league team because it can help generate exposure. Metcalf will also reach out to colleges he knows his players are interested in and make sure they at least get a look.


It’s easier to pull those kinds of strings with Metcalf’s reputation and history of success. In fact, at this point in his career, Metcalf said his job isn’t that challenging, mostly because he has lucked out with getting raw talent.


“We have always seem to have been blessed with pretty good kids with good work ethics,” Metcalf said. “Our kids here have a history of doing things right, in the classroom and out of the classroom.


“I really do now have the best job on Earth. I get to go in at 2 p.m. each afternoon and be in the weight room with good young men that want to be there, that want to work hard. Go to the baseball field to be with those same guys. The interaction with players every year is what keeps me going.”


As long as Metcalf is at the helm — and he said he has not even thought about hanging it up — don’t anticipate Sarasota falling from the ranks of the high school baseball elite.