1) Derek Jeter Hires Gary Denbo as director of player development & scouting
2) Testimonial from Blue Jay's Coordinator of Instruction Mike Mordecai
3) Derek Jeter's Tribute to Gary Denbo "The Swing Doctor"
4) Missouri State's Keith Guttin
5) Ray Birmingham of University of New Mexico
6) Kirk Bock of Bryant HS, Bryant, AR
Jeter lands Denbo from Yanks as 1st major hire
He will be director of player development and scouting
By Joe Frisaro and Mark Feinsand / MLB.com | @JoeFrisaro | October 9th, 2017
MIAMI -- It took only a week for Derek Jeter to add some pinstriped flavor to his new front office in Miami.
According to a source, Gary Denbo has agreed to leave the Yankees to join Jeter's Marlins, the first major hiring by Miami's new ownership group. Neither team has confirmed the move.
Denbo has been the Yankees' vice president of player development since 2014, but he'll join the Marlins as director of player development and scouting. Denbo, 56, had been rumored to be a candidate for the Marlins' general manager job.
Bringing in Denbo comes a week after the Marlins were sold by Jeffrey Loria to a group led by Bruce Sherman and Jeter. The official closing on that $1.2 billion transaction came on Oct. 2. The next day, Sherman was introduced as Miami's chairman and principle owner and Jeter was named chief executive officer.
"We're rebuilding it," Jeter said during a news conference on Oct. 3. "We're putting the right people in place. Everything is strategic, and we have a plan for what we're doing. But at the same time, we have to have patience."
Miami has endured eight straight losing seasons and comes off a 77-85 campaign, finishing 20 games behind the Nationals in the National League East and 10 games off the pace for the second NL Wild Card spot.
The Marlins have not asked the Yankees for permission to speak with any of their other front-office members, a source said.
Jeter and Denbo have a long history together. Denbo has spent more than two decades with the Yankees in a variety of positions, managing Jeter in the Minor Leagues and serving as the Yankees' hitting coach in 2001.
The Marlins are seeking to upgrade their organization at all levels. Their farm system has been thinned through the years, and Denbo was instrumental in stockpiling the Yankees' system to become one of the bests in the Majors.
All of the Yankees' affiliates, with the exception of one Rookie league club, reached the playoffs in 2017. Their three highest level clubs -- Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Double-A Trenton and Class A Advanced Tampa combined for a 263-153 (.632) record.
Like Jeter, Denbo makes Tampa home.
When Jeter was struggling at the plate in 2011, he spent time with Denbo in Tampa during a June stint on the disabled list and worked on his swing, hitting .331 for the remainder of the season after returning on July 4.
The Marlins don't currently have a general manager. President of baseball operations Michael Hill has been working closely with Jeter during the ownership transition.
Jim Hendry, a special assistant to GM Brian Cashman, has been rumored to be a candidate to join the Marlins, possibly as GM, but a source said there has been no contract between the two parties.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
"During my baseball career two people had a profound effect on my hitting: my dad and Jay Ward. Coach Ward helped me reach my full potential as a professional hitter. I went from carving hits to right field to driving balls over the right fielder's head. The ProStride Hitting technique helped me enjoy a ten year big league career and 2 World Series titles. I have been teaching ProStride for over 10 years as a coach at both the professional and amateur levels. If you're not teaching or learning ProStride Hitting you're missing out!"
Mike Mordecai, Toronto Blue Jays, Coordinator of Instruction
Derek Jeter, in his book "Jeter Unfiltered" refers to Gary Denbo as "The Swing Doctor"
I don't want to keep repeating myself, but the truth is baseball is about practice, discipline, and repetition. I'm habitual in what I do. I had a coach by the name of Gary Denbo, who was my first manager in the minor leagues. I was with him throughout the minors and when he was a hitting coach in New York in 2001. He is based in Tampa, and I have worked with him in the off-season ever since. In fact, Gary is responsible for helping me perfect my inside-out swing; some of it is just how I hit, but over the years my swing has improved tremendously, thanks to all of my work with Gary. - from Derek Jeter in his book "Jeter Unfiltered".
Hear what Gary Denbo says about his use of ProStride Hitting: Click Here
Missouri State University's Coach Guttin develops hitters with ProStride Hitting
Keith Guttin - Head Coach
Missouri State University, NCAA DI
One of the most successful baseball coaches in Missouri Valley Conference history, Keith Guttin began his MSU head coaching career in 1983, and has spent the past 31 seasons building the Bears into one of the top programs in the country. Under Guttin, the Bears have won 61% of their games, averaging over 34 victories a year and racking up eight 40 win seasons. He is currently among the top 15 Division I head coaches in career victories.
During Guttin's tenure, 110 Bears have signed professional contracts, including four first-round draft picks and 13 players who advanced to the Major Leagues. Ryan Howard being one of the most recognized MSU hitters currently playing in the MLB.
In 2013 Coach Guttin adopted ProStride Hitting into their coaching philosophy. Guttin explains, "ProStride Hitting allows us to demonstrate to our players and coaches that we are instructing with the latest hitting process that is being used at the MLB level."
Question to Coach Guttin: When and how did you learn about ProStride Hitting and canyou tell us why you started coaching it at MSU?
Answer: A few years ago an assistant coach and good friend, Jamie Sheetz, introduced me to Jay Ward who was here in Springfield, MO, visiting his family and giving some instruction to some of our ex players who had moved on to the professional ranks. Once we saw the simplicity of the drills and positive results that he was getting with those level of players, we realized that we might benefit from knowing more about ProStride Hitting. Coach Ward then spent some time with our coaching staff demonstrating and explaining how the ProStride drills are designed to help give the hitter the proper feel and mechanics. Those same drills are used to keep them on track throughout the season. This really helped us decide to move forward with teaching his process.
We didn’t see ProStride Hitting as some sort of magical method that was going to change all of our hitters immediately. Instead it allowed us to work with all of our hitters with some common principles and build their individual strengths. Also, with the use of the instructional videos we are able to get all of our coaches consistently educated and teaching the same things. Before ProStride we would take bits and pieces from various hitting theories and each coach would add some of his own methods of teaching.
At the same time, we want to provide our players with the best opportunity possible to compete and succeed while playing for our university and hopefully beyond. ProStride Hitting allows us to demonstrate to our players and coaches that we are instructing with the latest hitting process that is being used at the MLB level. Besides just winning here, we enjoy seeing our players move on as great players, coaches or highly educated professionals who know they have received the best coaching and experience available.
Question to Coach Guttin: What are you looking for from high school or junior college hitters you are recruiting?
Answer: One short answer would be ProStride type hitters but I will try to be a little more specific. Hitters/position players come in all shapes and sizes. Sure we want kids who can really run and have the body type and size to further develop during their time here at MSU. With the change of the bats a couple of years ago we know we must have strong kids who can learn to drive the ball. We don’t want to be just a team that has to count on small ball to score runs so we are going to recruit young men who can hit the ball hard to all fields with good timing and
balance. Hopefully we can add a few to the roster who can drive it deep. Furthermore we are looking for smart kids with great character who are committed to their team, the class room and are willing to work hard and adapt as necessary.
Question to Coach Guttin: You have some outstanding hitting camps where we see your coaches teaching the drills and methods of ProStride Hitting to younger kids. Would you recommend that High School coaches adopt this same approach to coaching for their level of players? Why?
Answer: Absolutely I would recommend it. For the same reasons we follow this process the High School and even youth coaches can simplify their coaching methods and adopt a proven MLB level hitting method that works. Too many kids are taught methods of hitting that only work with very light weight bats and do not develop the rhythm or the use of their legs necessary to hit well at our level. ProStride Hitting will give them the answers that can help their coaching with easy to follow drills that keep the players headed in the right direction. Sometimes simple is best and when it comes to hitting a baseball there just isn’t much time for complexity. As I see it, the earlier a player can get started the better.
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The 2013 NCAA D1 National Batting Title was won by the University of New Mexico.
Lobos Head Coach Ray Birmingham remembers Jay Ward as a great teacher of
hitting who provided him valuable insight.
"I had the opportunity to work with Jay Ward and gain an
understanding of his ProStride Hitting Process . Coach Ward was a great teacher
of hitting who gave me good information and ideas on how to coach hitters. His
insight, along with the help and knowledge gained from many other fine people
over my 36 year coaching career, has assisted me greatly."
Ray Birmingham, Head Coach
University of New Mexico, 2013 NCAA DI Playoffs & National
In 2013 UNM led the nation in five offensive categories: batting (.334), runs per game (8.3), slugging percentage (.504), on base percentage (.422) and doubles per game (2.53). The team finished second in both doubles (149) and hits (724) and third in runs (487), triples (31) and triples per game (.53). UNM also won a National batting title in 2009 with a .365 batting average.
Prior to UNM, Coach Birmingham led his team to win the NJCAA national championship in 2005 and were runners up in 2007 at New Mexico Junior College. There they won the national batting title several times, setting the all time team batting average record of .438 in 2001.
December 20, 2013
We received an email from UNM Head Coach Ray Birmingham the other day who remembered Jay Ward as a great teacher of hitting. We asked if he would share some insight with our coaches and players concerning the hitting success he has had over the years.
Interview with Coach Ray Birmingham, Head Coach of the University of New Mexico Lobos
Question: What do you feel is one of the most important things you remember from Jay Ward that has helped you with your hitting program at UNM?
Coach Birmingham: There were so many things that it is hard to pick out just one, but Coach Ward used to always stress to me the idea that you had to get loaded early in order to see the ball and execute your swing on time. It sounds so simple but you would not believe how many players just don't understand it or know how to do it properly. Besides that, he had some great drills that really emphasized getting loaded and creating the rhythm to
Question: How does Coach Ward's or the ProStride method of hitting differ from what you
see around the high school and college game?
I have been around this game a long time and there isn't much I haven't seen. I see coaches teaching the no stride concept that can take away a batter's rhythm and power potential. Many players are taught to look for certain pitches
based on the pitch count which has them guessing on every pitch. The game of baseball and hitting is very difficult, especially the higher you go in this game. As players move into college they must have the ability to react to changes in speed while maintaining their balance and swing mechanics. Coach Ward's drills and approach are designed to create the proper feel to succeed at our level and beyond.
Question: Do you feel Jay Ward's ProStride Hitting style should be coached at all levels?
Coach Birmingham:Coach Ward had a lot of success teaching players of all ages. His teaching is based on simple principles and natural athletic movements. He teaches to start early and be on time with the pitch with the mechanics and swing path designed to drive the ball with power to any field depending on the location of the pitch. He has the proven drills that will help create the timing feel for the proper swing also. I don't think a coach or player can go wrong. What they
do with the information and how they work and prepare is then up to them.
Question: Why are your teams having so much success hitting?
Coach Birmingham: We look for good hitters who have the potential to grow and develop with our program. We know we
have proven methods of teaching but we have to first convince the young players to have confidence in our system. That is getting easier as they can see success from the players ahead of them. Not every player has the same swing and skills so we have to develop them with the abilities they have. Once we identify the type of hitter they need to be we work hard, develop their skill and build the confidence they need to have success at the plate.
Question: Any final thoughts?
Coach Birmingham: Jay Ward is a great teacher of hitting who impressed me with his insight on hitting. He had a real passion and knowledge for hitting that excited the players and any of us coaches that would sit and listen. I was very fortunate to have known him and would highly recommend any coach or player to take advantage of his material. I am sad to hear that Jay is no longer with us but am sure excited he has left us with his material that can continue to help us all.
Ray Birmingham, Head Coach
University of New Mexico
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500 Win High School Coach of Bryant, Arkansas shares his thoughts on ProStride Hitting
Kirk Bock, Head Coach
Byant High School, Bryant, AR
ABCA Executive Committee – High School Chair 2015
For the past 10 years I have used the methods and teaching concepts of Jay Ward’s ProStride Hitting in my high school program. I was fortunate to meet Coach Ward at a baseball camp in Missouri where he introduced his hitting and teaching philosophy to me. Despite the long list of great MLB hitters he had coached and helped develop during his coaching career I was amazed at the simplicity of his system.
Unlike many other coaches, who at times seem to complicate the hitting process by using hard to understand words and scientific lingo, Coach Ward in his ProStride Hitting offers a unique teaching process that is easy to understand and explain for any level of coach or player. I fully understand why ProStride has continued to be the most followed hitting philosophy in professional baseball and why the coaches and players who follow it are rising to the top. It just makes sense! What I really like are the ProStride drills that allow the players to learn and make their own adjustments once they understand the concepts. As a coaching staff we are able to communicate more effectively between ourselves and with the players. We can even make the information available to our youth programs and parents so they can start developing players in the same way we want them taught.
Some goals of mine are: 1) always look for the best stuff to teach my players and fellow coaches, 2) win the right way and building a solid reputable program 3) never shortchange a player in my program by teaching anything other than the best material that is understood and available, 4) send players to the next level with the knowledge and tools to be successful and 5) know that I didn’t take short cuts or let other programs outwork me. Even after a 22 year career and over 500 wins I continue to learn a lot about all the facets of this great game of baseball. Fortunately, I was able to gain from the hitting knowledge of Jay Ward earlier in my career and I will continue to use his ProStride Hitting methods as the foundation for my hitting program.