Tag Archives: Pecos League

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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Getting to Know Jackson Metcalf

Yesterday, we posted that guest bloggers will be taking over the site during the season to bring you a little more insight into the life of a professional baseball player, coach, or owner.

For an introduction, each guest blogger will be writing a post giving the reader some background information and getting everyone up to speed on where they’ll be spending the summer.

Our first writer is Jackson Metcalf, a 23 year old pitcher, who is planning on playing his first professional season in the Pecos League this summer.

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This summer I will be leaving the beautiful white sandy beaches of Wilmington, NC for the desert of New Mexico to throw a little white ball for next to nothing. You are probably wondering why, so I’ll give a little background.

My name is Jackson Metcalf, 23, and I just finished my collegiate career this past May. I played at Division 2 Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. My baseball story is an interesting one. I went the Junior College route as so many D2 players do. My career at Francis Marion was pretty uneventful if you were to look up my stats, but my two years there were actually very eventful.

My first year at Francis Marion I led the team in ERA, because I only threw one inning – a scoreless one where I hit the first batter, walked the next two then weaseled my way out of damage. I threw okay, around 84-87, but my problem was that I was just out of shape; standing at 6’1 but weighing in around 226 lb.

We had a group of guys at school who were all 215 lb and above. We called ourselves the ‘Beef Crew.’ Although happy to be a member, it wasn’t the best for me baseball wise. Towards the end of the year, I developed a certain interest in a blonde volleyball player at the school. As much fun as being the fat funny guy at parties is, it was time to get my ass in shape. Not only to impress the girl but to be better at baseball. Right before we all departed for the summer, I had my end of the year meetings with my coach, which did not go very well: “Too fat. Don’t throw hard enough to play here. Have you ever considered throwing side-armed?” Needless to say I went into the summer optimistic and full of hope…

Much to my surprise, I was assigned that summer to go play for the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League where I met coach Parker Bangs (now the pitching coach for Presbyterian College in South Carolina). Coach Bangs is that rare type of coach that allows his players to cut up and have fun while getting them better at the same time. He saw something in me and pushed me to get better, so instead of sleeping in till 1 p.m. and heading to the ballpark, we were getting morning lifts in and getting to the field early.

I went from 226 to 195 in a matter of weeks. My velocity went from 84-87 to 88-90. I was amazed, and one day at the gym I told him “Lifting and working out actually makes a huge difference.” He laughed and said “Holy shit, crazy how that works right?” So for the rest of the summer I put up good numbers in one of the best summer leagues in the nation and went into the school year with confidence for the first time in my life.

It all clicked that fall at school. Scout day came along and I garnered interest from the Yankees and Giants. It felt good to check your email and see scouts telling you that you’re a prospect. Life was good. I was throwing well in intersquads, my velocity was up, and I even got the girl. Then I got all too complacent and just starting enjoying my senior year a little too much. Working out less and less and living for Thirsty Thursday instead of getting my work in. The season came around and my arm and body weren’t ready let alone my mindset. I got roughed up pretty good and my appearances came few and far between.

I even lost the lady, so I decided to live up my senior year instead of pushing harder to get better. You often hear someone say they majored in beer and girls when they were in school. I tried to live like that my last few months in college. I realized that the chances of a D2 kid getting picked up with as little of innings as I had was almost impossible. So I gave up on the dream and tricked myself into thinking I was okay with that.

We played our last series at Flagler down in Florida. I knew it was going to be my last three games, but I was ready for it to be over. When the last out was recorded and I was walking to get my stuff (I actually forgot my glove, that’s how focused I was) my buddy who was walking beside me said, “Well Jack, it’s been a pleasure man. I’m going to miss you next year.” That really hit me, but I kept it together. Leaning over the fence with my head down, one of my fellow seniors put his arm around me and told me he loved me. I lost it. I cried and cried and cried. I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I took it for granted. I had disrespected the game.

After that I moved back to Wilmington and got a job with a moving company and as a coach for a 15U travel team. It was good to be back into the game. I noticed my arm still felt great throwing with the kids and carrying people’s stuff up to third floor beach mansions. It all really made me miss the game. I texted Coach Bangs asking if he knew of any Independent ball opportunities and whether he thought I could even make it onto a team. He told me to try and keep playing until you physically have to stop. So, I found an open tryout for the Pecos League. I started getting ready for it with the kids I was coaching. As an added bonus, working with the moving company had actually made me a little stronger.

The day of the tryout, I squeezed into the only baseball pants I owned, which were from high school, and headed to the tryout. At a field in the middle of nowhere North Carolina I threw a bullpen in front of about five coaches; 15 pitches without a word said. The tryout ended, and on the way to my car I was stopped. They liked what they saw and signed me. I had been given a beautiful second chance with my first love, the game of baseball.

So there you have it… The reason I’m leaving the good surf, beautiful women in bikinis, and the beach for the dry arid desert of New Mexico – to go play in a no name league with a paycheck that barely covers my cell phone bill. Money isn’t why we play the game. All the long road trips, the brotherhood, and the bullpen antics, it all gets to come back. I know this league isn’t luxurious. There will be no ESPN coverage of the games. The conditions will be less than ideal, even playing in some ballparks that look like the grandstand will fall over on a windy day. It will be a test of my love for the game.

I gave up on the game when I had everything being handed to me. Now is my chance to give back to the game that gave me so much. In this league your love and desire will be tested because you are given almost nothing. So come this May, I will happily drive across the country to throw that little white ball.

Jackson will be guest blogging all summer long about his experiences in the Pecos League.

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