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.
Billy Horn – Blog # 1
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……….
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.