Interview mit unserem neuen Baseball Seniors Nationalteam Headcoach Chris Byrnes

Interview mit unserem neuen Baseball Seniors Nationalteam Headcoach Chris Byrnes

SBSF: Was hat dich motiviert diesen Coaching Job zu übernehmen?

Chris Byrnes: Because I believe there is more upside in the future for this program. This team is better than their results have shown over the last ten years. They have talented players and a good mix of veterans and young players coming up from U23.

Secondly, I like challenges and my track record shows that I can make an impact. I know all of these players from my playing and coaching days and I can now finally start helping all of them to make them better ball players which hopefully make for more consistency and quality.

Was sind deine Ziele als Head Coach der Schweizer Nationalmannschaft?

There are many things that I would like to implement starting with the operating model meaning how we prepare for a 6-day winner take all tournament.

I really like how the MLB teams prepare their minor league players. I spoke with the Pittsburg Pirates manager Clint Hurdle recently and he put me in touch with their minor league development people and we talked about how to develop a program. They work more on instructional themes in spring training and in the fall instructional leagues and follow this up with roving coaches that check and see how their players are applying the teaching that they get.

The second thing that we will work on is developing a more present winning culture. Winners act like winners before they are winners. The guys are starting to get that attitude but there is opportunity to strengthen this culture.

The third thing I look to implement is a very high level of instruction, techniques, theory and strategy that help the players. I am lucky enough to have a good network of MLB and College coaches that have taken me under their wing and taught me how the game is played at a high level. I have all this knowledge and I just want to give back to the players to make them better.

Fourthly, construct a roster whereby we have all the skills we need to win, anyone that has a strong skill and has the passion to play this game has value to the team. I have invited some players this year that typically would not be invited but in my view they hold some skills that we will need so they offer value.

Long term I want to get out of the B pool and address those route causes that plague us from moving forward. In addition there is no reason why we can not be a top 10 European team. We sit around 23 and that is not good enough. We are a better team than that.

Was wünschst du dir von den Swiss Baseball Spieler und den Fans?

I really would like the players to take advantage of the little time we have to practice and work on their skills when they practice with their club teams.

The second thing would be mental preparation as a game of baseball has over 250 plays and they have to be sharp and ready for every play and situation. The better prepared we are as a team the more confidence we will play with.

It would be fantastic to have the EM here in Zurich in 2021 as the previous EM in Zurich was very special. The Fans had a great experience.

Du bist seit 10 Jahren im Swiss Baseball aktiv, wie siehst du die Entwicklung in der Schweiz?

I think the quality and competitiveness of the NLA Liga has gradually declined over the last five years. In addition, the home grown coaching pool has not progressed and this is the key to developing the young generation.

However, there seems to be a changing of the guards now with some coaching talent that are now residing full time in Switzerland. Roger Savoldelli and Martin Almstetter are taking up the U15 and U18 coaching responsibilities after having long and successful playing careers. This is very positive and motivating that Swiss Baseball requires. We had a contingent of coaches that went to the USA to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) annual convention which is a top class event.

We also have many talented players in the NLA who are aging and would make great coaches in the future. So I see plenty of opportunities on the horizon.

Die EM2013 in Zürich war eine Swiss Baseball Party. Über 5,000 Zuschauer im Stadion, denkst du wir können eine neuerliche Euphorie in Swiss Baseball starten?

I remember that tournament very well. It was special for the players and the fans. It was a very special event with the night games and tents it was a really fan centric event. The electricity was so present and the Swiss Baseball did an off the charts great job with the event. It had to be one of the more memorable moments for all those players and the fans loved it. I certainly enjoyed it as a fan.

I think the more baseball we can support with these EM tournaments in Zurich will be good for the program. We have to put a good product on the field and win some of these tournaments as it is a different atmosphere to be in the tournament than it is to be the favorite and win the tournament. When you expect to win the word gets out and the support is generally greater.

Du hast vor ein paar Jahren MLB Coaching der Kansas City Royals in die Schweiz gebraucht. Wie stehen deine Kontakte zur MLB?

This is a good story. My brother played for the KC Royals for four years in the minor leagues so I was always a fan of the Royals. When I was finishing my playing career I decided I really want to learn at a high level so I can teach and develop players. I wanted to give back to the sport.

I contacted one of the KC Royals reporters Lee Judge who wrote a daily blog about the Royals. Lee had tremendous reports explaining at a very high level the key plays in the game. He was able to talk to the players and coaches about plays that happened and as a result I tripled my baseball knowledge.

So I decided I needed to make a trip to KC to see Lee. Well that was the start of it as Lee opened the door for me to talk to the coaches and players where I picked their brains on baseball all afternoon and they were all very accommodating. There was one coach I did not meet on that trip, the hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. So I contacted him in the winter and asked if I could come over and if he would be willing to train me to teach hitting. The next day he rang me up on the phone and said how about he and his wife come over to Switzerland and that is how the deal was made. From that point on Kevin and his wife Beth have been great friends. I go back to visit every year and continue the learning. Kevin is now with the Atlanta Braves and so I get the opportunity to meet new coaches every year and come away with new material.

Was für neues Wissen wirst du dabei der Schweizer Mannschaft weitergeben?

I spent the last two years working with a gentleman named Perry Husbands who is the father of effective velocity. This is a very interesting topic as his research is just catching on and many MLB clubs have hired him to implement his knowledge. The Houston Astros with pitching Coach Brent Strom certainly were using his principals.

Essentially, effective velocity explains how different speed and locations of the pitch impact the reaction time of the batter. For example, you might throw an inside fastball at 85mph but in reaction time it requires the batter to react like it is 90 mph, conversely if you have the same 85mph pitch on the outside of the plate it is like a 78 mph pitch as the batter has more time to react. So speed and location for pitchers we will work on. When a batter swings and misses he is either 6 mph early or late on his swing so it is that type of information that if we can get our pitchers to understand and implement we will have a big advantage.

For hitting we were always taught stay off the low strike get something up in the zone and don’t swing upward. This turns out to be bad information as the ball from the mound is on a downward plane and the bat if swung on an upward plane has a better chance of making hard contact. All the longest MLB home runs come on low pitches not high pitches. So I am going to teach the guys how to hunt low pitches and do damage as every European pitcher will be throwing low strikes as that is what they were taught.

Lastly, we will be working on being more consistent field team. Our fielding average the last 10 years has been very inconsistent with a .925 average and we need to be closer to .970 in fielding. We will work on approach and our angles for ground balls.

Wo willst du den Fokus legen im ersten Jahr bis zur EM2019?

I am glad the EM is in 2019 as that gives us plenty of time to implement a MLB model of instruction and practice. I will focus on knowledge and fundamentals to start out. I have sent all the players a 65 question Baseball IQ test to baseline our knowledge as a team. I also have over 400 fundamental teaching points to go over during our practices.

Our practices will focus on specific skills and we will cover the fundamentals. For example, in our next practice we will do nothing but base running skills. How to take leads, delayed steals, getting reads off bats, going on contact, crossing over from 2nd base to 3rd base along with pitchers and catchers practicing their skills to defend the running game. This is critical as 90 feet is so important especially if you are going to win those close games.

To ensure that this model works we will focus on going out to the practices and following up with the players. This also will include scouting their games and giving them feedback. The constant feedback is a must in this model.

Later on in the year the practices will progress into situational scrimmages to start implementing what we have learned. In 2019 we will then look to play some competitive teams and further benchmark our program.

Du hast selber im College Baseball gespielt, wie hast du deine Spielerkarriere erlebt in den USA?

I grew up in Queens New York and played baseball, basketball and football since I was three years old. I was an all New York City player in all three sports in High School playing in one of the best leagues in the States.

I had many offers from Colleges and I had a private workout with the New York Mets after graduation in 1981. I decided to go to New York Tech after graduation to play football and baseball. My college career was a disappointment as I broke my shoulder in football practice and missed the entire football season and then over the winter playing football I tore my kruezband. By the time I was ready I lost valuable time on the baseball diamond.

I transferred and played only baseball at Alma College in Michigan but I could not avoid the injury bug there either. In the first week of indoor practice before going to Florida I broke my thumb receiving a throw on a double play so lost some time there, managed to stay healthy the remainder of the season and hit some bombs. In my senior season about half way through I went to slide into 2nd base in practice and jammed my knee and tore my other kruezband. Remember back in those days no MRI. So I went to the trainer’s room every day and used electro stimulus devices to get the swelling down. It was four days later and I was playing again and finish the season. I would not recommend that approach to anyone. Unfortunately, I never reached my potential but that motivates me to help others to reach theirs.

SBSF: Danke Chris für dieses interessante Interview. Wir wünschen dir und deinem Team viel Erfolg – Hopp Schwizz !

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