Tag Archives: Can-Am

Introducing Coach Billy Horn

As the Atlantic League’s spring training gets underway, we want to introduce you to our newest guest blogger, Billy Horn.  Billy is the pitching coach for the Long Island Ducks. He will be guest blogging about life as a coach in the Atlantic League this season.

Here is his first introductory blog.

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Billy Horn – Blog # 1

Background

   I was born & raised in the Bronx, NY and always wanted to play in warm weather. In HS I played 3B, however never seeing 90+ helped me segway into becoming a pitcher down the road.
   I played at Division II powerhouse Lynn University in the Sunshine State Conference from ’98-’01. My freshman year I couldn’t hit 90+ plus AND I KNEW IT.
   Luckily I had a cannon for an arm so I decided to try pitching. I was only low – mid 80s after college and thought it was over and took “a real job”.
   I was playing in a men’s league and started throwing upper 80s. I had an opportunity to go to Italy and play in 2003. I was there 2003-2004 and played for the San Marino Titans. I was nothing special 88-91, with a plus curve – in my mid 20s and no real experience.
   Missing the Olympics that season due to injury, I came home and pitched in the Golden Baseball League for the Long Beach Armada in 2005. Having suffering a torn rotator cuff – it was all over.
   Working regular jobs and such, I hated it. Then I turned to coaching HS, then was the pitching coach in 2009 for my alma mater, Lynn University, winning the 2009 NCAA D II National Championship.
   Now doing lessons on the regular, I had to throw and long toss with the kids and I found myself 87-89 mph. In 2010, mid life crisis at age 29 kicked in and I went back to Italy to prove to myself I can do anything. Statistically it was a mess, but I showed myself what I needed to see.
   As you can see below, my career statistical totals are nothing special, but never stopped me from trying to coach.
G   GS   W – L   ERA    INN    H       K     BB   WHIP  HBP
47  27   9-12    4.40    184  193   143   64     1.39   15
   That was my last season and then a few seasons later, the Pecos League came calling for a coaching opportunity……….

Why Coaching?

   I got a call in winter of 2011 about a possible coaching opportunity while I was working a “real job”. I hated it and was “flipping boxes” in south Florida. I was selling copiers, business – business and it was the worst – we were lower than used car salesmen with cheesy 80s mustaches, fake leather booths and a real bad afta-shave! Our own clients hated us.
   When the opportunity came to fruition, I decided to say goodbye to being a nobody anymore and start signing autographs again — at least that’s what I thought.
   The Pecos League, 2012…………. Say what you want, but it has been a long standing league that has given many players opportunity in this game – and it saved my life and put me in the position I’m in today.
   I had fun there but knew that wasn’t the top stop for me. With nothing on the horizon of an upward move, I stared with the lessons and HS gig again, and of course, got tired of parents. They are the worst at the HS level – everyone’s son is the next MLB star and the coach is always wrong.
   Around that time, now long time friend, Brooks Carey, manager of the Normal Cornbelters in the Frontier League, knew Hal Lanier was looking for a pitching coach for the 2015 season for the Ottawa Champions in the CanAm League.
   Having been Hal’s pitching coach a few years prior, he knew what kind of guy Hal needed and he called Hal and said this is your guy – hire him. And of course Hal’s reply was “who the hell is Billy Horn?”
   This of course goes back to me never playing with an organization and only 4 short years of independent ball / Italian Baseball League under my belt.
   Of course we met and Hal offered me the job about a month later.
   2015, the inaugural season, despite not making the playoffs, was a personal success. Having a lot of leeway come towards the latter part of the year, Hal was teaching me about managing in independent baseball. Player procurement. Player procurement. Player procurement.

   What I learned most was this —

“When coaches are being seeked-out, a manager needs to know ONLY 3 things :
1) Can he get players
2) Can he throw BP
3) Can I live with this guy for 6 months”
That’s it! Doesn’t matter in independent ball where you played, where you coached, but if you can get players, throw BP and people like you, you’ll get a job!
   2016 was a story book season. Here, we won the CanAm League Championship, Hal was named MOY, I was of course making all the mound visits, BUT I WAS ALSO taking guys out of games, doing the plate meeting before games with the umpires and opposing manager, writing he occasional lineup, doing pregame interviews everyday and sometimes coaching 3B. All managerial duties.
   Hal was very gracious in teaching me and showing me the ropes – it was the best on-the-job training anyone could ask for – by an MLB Manager of the Year Award winner. It was a great 2 years and I’m going to miss Ottawa, the organization and my man Hal.

How Did I Get to Long Island?

   With all that being said, I knew I had hit my ceiling in the CanAm League and one afternoon I decided to “test the waters”.  Being that I was handling part of the procurement duties, I developed relationships with managers, coaches and GMs with every single club in all of Indy ball – from the Pecos / United Shores developmental leagues all the up to the Frontier, AA and The Atlantic League.
   While interviewing for an AA managing job, I thought ‘why keep all my eggs on one basket’?
  A simple text to Long Island Ducks GM changed everything.
  “Hey Mike (Pfaff). Hope all is well. If there become any openings for a pitching coach in the Atlantic League, please keep me in mind. Thank you.”
   A few moments later he replies :
“Send me your resume. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
   I was excited and thought maybe one of the other clubs maaaaaay have an opening. When he called and said Long Island was looking for a pitching coach I knew this was the opportunity for me that I was looking for.
   After a lengthy interview process, I got the call. At the beginning it was mixed emotions – leaving Hal in Ottawa but he gave me his blessing and told me this isn’t something to pass up.
   Now, about a month away from spring training, I’m really looking forward to getting there and getting to work. Long Island is also about an hour away from my hometown. Being able to coach close to home and family is also a major plus.
   I try to explain the path of coaching to young independent players that themselves and myself are in the same boat – were both trying to make it to the big leagues someday – however, if we both make it, you’re going to make a lot more money as a player than I would a coach!
   With that being said, just being in the game of baseball as a profession and not doing the “suit and tie thing” is big league enough for me.

Billy will be guest blogging all summer long about his season in the Atlantic League.

Make sure to subscribe to our email list! You won’t want to miss out on any of our guest blogs this season!

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International Tiebreaker Rule Already in Place Throughout Indy Ball

With the MLB announcing that they plan on experimenting with the international tiebreaker rule in the rookie Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues this season, there has been a lot of talk about how this will impact professional baseball.

“Let’s see what it looks like,” MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre told the website (Yahoo! Sports). “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.

“It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

What’s sometimes known as the international tiebreaker rule has been used in variations in the Australian Baseball League, the World Baseball Classic and the World Baseball Softball Confederation, which governed Olympic competition. A potential format is to have the batter who made the final out in the previous inning be placed at second base to start the next inning.

Each GCL team is scheduled to play 56 or 60 games — depending on its division — and there were 46 extra-inning contests last year. In the AZL, where teams play 56 games, there were 29 contests that went to extra innings.

“What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves,” Torre told Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t know what inning is the right inning — maybe the 11th or 12th inning. But there are a number of reasons.”

In 2014, the Arizona Fall League implemented a pitch clock, a rule that was implemented the following season in across Triple-A and Double-A. The proposed extra innings rule could follow that example if it proves successful in Rookie ball.

(Source: milb.com)

This rule has already been in place throughout independent baseball. The Can-Am League adopted the rule for the 2014 season. In 2015, the American Association (ran by the Can-Am League’s commissioner, Miles Wolff ) and the Frontier League followed.

The Can-Am League believes that the rule has done good things for their game. In a press release sent out today, Wolff comments on how games have gone since the implementation of the rule.

WBC, AFFILIATED LEAGUES TO ADOPT 11TH-INNING RULE

Can-Am League to enter fourth season with tiebreaker format in 2017

Major League Baseball recently announced the implementation of the 11th-inning tiebreaker rule to be used in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, as well as during the 2017 Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Arizona League seasons. The rule states that all innings beyond the tenth begin with a runner on second base.

The rule has been used in the Can-Am League since the 2014 season, and as part of International Baseball Federation competition since the 2008 Olympic Games.

“With the Can-Am League’s increasing international flavor, including regular-season games against teams from Cuba and Japan, the 11th-inning rule has brought our league in line with other international competitions over the past three seasons. We’re looking forward to seeing the rule in place at the WBC, one of the game’s largest showcases, as well as in affiliated minor leagues this year,” league Commissioner Miles Wolff commented.

Specifically, beginning in the 11th inning, the player in the batting order immediately preceding that inning’s leadoff hitter is placed on second base. The inning otherwise proceeds as usual, with each team getting a turn at bat. In the WBC, which begins March 7, an additional runner will also be placed on first base to begin the inning.

Should the player(s) starting the inning on base eventually score, it counts in statistics as a run for the player and an RBI for the batter who drove him in (if applicable), but does not count towards the pitcher’s earned-run average.

In the Can-Am League, the rule has been effective in both limiting wear and tear on pitching staffs and reducing the length of extra-inning games. Since 2014, 87% of the league’s extra-inning games have not extended beyond the 11th inning.

Although the Can-Am League has found success using the rule, the American Association stopped using it after just one season. In addition, the Atlantic League rejected it as a pace of play rule in 2015 stating that they:

Do not recommend due to a) it is unlikely that a similar rule will be adopted by MLB; b) regardless of a (tie-breaker) feature which would not charge a run to the pitcher, it still results in a loss for the pitcher; c) ALPB Clubs have adequate pitching depth on rosters to deal with extra inning games; d) fundamentally changes the game of baseball

(Source: atlanticleague.com)

As someone who has seen this rule play out many times over the last few years, I can honestly say that it doesn’t truly make a difference to me. I love baseball, and I can appreciate a game that takes all night long, as well as appreciate the strategy that goes into moving runners and essentially playing “small ball” in extra innings.

Even though the Can-Am League states that 87% of their extra inning games end after the 11th inning now that the rule is in place, games can still drag on since a runner starting at second just makes it easier to score for both teams. I’ve personally been to a Frontier League game where each team just kept scoring to go further into extra innings.

Will this be the start of big changes throughout the affiliated minors and the MLB? Only time (and the pace of games) will tell…