Pericolosi instructs EU, Aussie & American players and coaches how to play fun, competitive baseball
Before coaching at Pomona-Pitzer, Pericolosi was the assistant coach for the Cape Cod Baseball League Brewster Whitecaps and mentored future Major Leaguers Mike Aviles, Chris Dickerson, Tony Gwynn Jr., Taylor Tankersley and Sean White.
He has been one of the most sought after baseball experts in Europe since 2000. Pericolosi coached the Swedish National Baseball Team for two years and spent three summers in Sweden as a MLB International envoy coach. He also spent two additional summers in Sweden as a player/coach for the Leksand Lumberjacks and two years in Belgium as a player/coach for the Brussels Kangaroos. During the summer of 2010, Pericolosi served as a coaching consultant with the San Martino Junior Baseball Club in Italy.
He has since become a magnet in the European Baseball Coaches Association exchange program, an initiative to develop European coaches’ insights in every aspect of the game through collaborative mentoring by experienced American coaches like Pericolosi at some of the best collegiate baseball programs including Pomona-Pitzer. From running team practices to covering coaching mechanics, strategy and philosophy, participants have the opportunity to closely work with host coaches to fine tune their craft. A 2000 graduate of Pomona College–where he played baseball–and a former coach for the Georgia State Panthers, Australian Baseball League CEO Peter Wermuth commented, “Our Pomona-Pitzer head coach, Frank Pericolosi, has a strong international orientation and has taken this initiative (EBCA exchange program). Frank has coached down here in Australia a few times, and we have set up an ABL intern program. But more importantly, he has coached in Europe for many years, and I am excited that he has made Pomona-Pitzer one of the pioneers in the European Baseball Coaches Association exchange program.”
A sabbatical leave from Pomona College in the fall of 2009 would prove to be a blessing for those Aussie athletes who were fortunate enough to be taken under Pericolosi’s wing.
He worked his magic as an assistant coach for Baseball Victoria Geelong Baycats in Australia, where he strengthened the Baycats’ coaching structures and methodology.
Competing at the highest level in the Victorian State League, the Geelong Baycat coach assisted with all the teams in the club–from children to the most competitive team. Pericolosi also provided instruction at a MLB youth clinic and in addition to serving as an assistant coach with the Victorian U-14 State Team. “Kids play baseball for right reason,” Pericolosi said. “Because it’s fun. For me, the most gratifying thing is to see a player improve and know you were part of that process. Coaches and teachers had a very powerful effect on my development as a person. I would like one of my players to say that about me…”
Pericolosi is so popular that prospective players are making significant life-changing decisions based on his reputation of running a first-class collegiate baseball program to accompany the quality education afforded by the prestigious Claremont University Consortium. Kevin Brice, a senior from Salpointe Catholic High School in Tuscon, Arizona, chose to be part of the coach’s Pomona-Pitzer legacy of excellence recently and echoed the sentiment of mixing the best of sound mind and body in Claremont. The future Sagehen (2016) outfielder explained,
“I chose Pomona because of its great academic program and baseball program. It had a welcoming atmosphere when I visited, and it’s hard to turn down playing baseball in Southern California. I really like Coach (Frank) Pericolosi. He seems laid back, honest, and he’s built up a great baseball program. I’m excited to be able to play for him next spring.” Pericolosi is just as fired up as the young slugger in his line-up based on his past baseball statistics. In 30 games last season, Brice hit for a .527 batting average–including 26 RBI, 12 doubles, five triples–and scored 53 runs. Coach Perilcolosi hopes to add him to his long list of success stories of graduates who have gone on to play professional baseball. Serving as an American Baseball Coaches Association Executive, the 36-year-old coach has had a prolific effect on the quality of the players he has mentored and actively engaged in launching professional baseball and business careers.
Coach Pericolsi said, “It’s great for recruiting to have all these guys playing professionally. We can talk to a kid who is a borderline Division I athlete and say that you’ll still have the chance to get drafted or play overseas and get a great education in the process. It’s also great for all those guys to continue playing. They’ll end up in the business world or other things when they’re done, but in the meantime, they get to play a few more years of baseball.” He speaks from first-hand experience as the Connecticut native attended Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, where here was named All-State in baseball and honorable mention All-State in football during his senior year. A 1997 graduate of Massachusetts’ Williams College–where he excelled in both collegiate football and baseball–Pericolosi was named All-Conference and All-Region in baseball. In addition, he played two summers for the New England Collegiate Baseball League Middletown Giants. Pericolosi was selected as an All-Star and named to the NECBL All-League team in 1995. He later played in Europe.
Whether player or head coach, Frank Pericolsi has always given his best effort and in return he expects that same level of commitment from everyone around him. The bottom line is that Pericolsi knows how to get the most out of his players. Conversely, it’s no secret that players worldwide have trusted that they can depend on their “living legend” coach to give them their best shot of success on and off the field while having fun in the process.
Whether it is Melbourne Ace pitcher turned LA Dodger Shane Lindsay getting into an off-field altercation or actress gone too far Lindsay Lohan “borrowing”, both Lindsays are wild and crazy in different ways. While the Australian Lindsay has often been compared to the rookie wild pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh character in Bull Durham for his lack of control, the American Lindsay’s Marilyn Monroe-inspired Playboy spread has further financed her footloose and fancy free Hollywood party lifestyle of excess. While outside a California restaurant in late May of 2008, the six-foot-one Aussie pitcher Shane Lindsay and a member of his Colorado Rockies minor league affiliate Modesto Nuts host family were attacked. The end result was a trip to the local hospital, where eight screws and a metal plate were surgically implanted in his left hand. Lindsay reflected, “It made me take charge of my life and say, ‘How am I going to keep this from happening again?’ I started to think about where I go and the company I keep.” Nearly four years have passed and the 27-year-old Melbourne native has a rare opportunity to keep the peace in California at Chavez Ravine as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen. Lindsay will need to impress coaches at Dodgers Spring Training when pitchers and catchers report next month at Arizona’s Camelback Ranch before being granted entry to join the game’s elite in 2012, even though he made his MLB pitching debut late last season with the Chicago White Sox. Originally signed by the Colorado Rockies as a non-drafted free agent in August 2003 as an 18-year-old Australian club and national team prospect, Shane Lindsay previously played in the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees minor league organizations before launching his Major League Baseball career with Ozzie Guillen’s Chicago White Sox in 2011. He is known as an aggressive reliever with an electric fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a wild delivery.
Throwing with extreme intensity, no pitch delivery is ever the same. Shane Lindsay has a sharp curveball that freezes hitters and results in less than desirable at bats. Not afraid to throw his fastball inside, Lindsay lives on the edge and provides high drama every outing on the mound. Seemingly scripted for the entertainment capital of the world, the timing is perfect for Los Angeles Dodger relief pitcher Shane Lindsay to steal the show.
Grant Weir, Australian scout for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has not let anyone down in the past with his baseball wit and intuition in discovering raw talent. Just ask Angel owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia, both of whom are very pleased with Weir’s 2002 find of one of the team’s longest-tenured players, Aussie pitcher Rich Thompson. A decade has passed, and Weir is still finding hidden gems. Among his Angel signings are two young up-and-coming MLB pitching prospects currently in the Australian Baseball League: 20-year-old Aaron Sookee of the Sydney Blue Sox and 18-year-old Alex Da Silva of the Melbourne Aces. Both pitchers have seen limited action in the ABL. Aaron Sookee (0-1, 5.68 ERA) has pitched 6.1 innings of relief while striking out seven, and Alex
Da Silva (0-0, 0.00 ERA) has made one appearance. Despite their limited visibility in the spotlight, the education these young hurlers are receiving behind-the-scenes is what is most impressive and valuable.
Aaron Sookee is being mentored
by past and present MLB pitchers–including Korea’s Dae-Sung Koo
(New York Mets) and fellow Aussies Chris Oxspring (San Diego Padres) and Brad Thomas (Detroit Tigers), while Alex Da Silva gets to rub shoulders in the dugout with American Jason Hirsh (Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies) and Aussies Travis Blackley (Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants) and Shane Lindsay (Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers).Aaron Sookee has spent most of his two minor league seasons playing Arizona League Rookie ball with modest success. Last year for the Arizona League Angels, the six-foot-three reliever went 3-3 with three saves and a 4.63 ERA. In 14 appearances, he pitched 23.1 innings and struck out 28. Averaging more than one strike out per inning in both the Arizona League and ABL is an encouraging sign. International scout Grant Weir commented, “The Angels are very excited with the signing of Aaron, and we believe he has an enormous future in professional baseball. He has physical attributes that are going to help him have a long and fruitful career, but more importantly he is a great kid who works hard.” Having a seven-year professional contract with a probable World Series contender a la Pujols, Sookee can potentially develop into a huge Major League Baseball talent over time.
It took Aussie Angel predecessor Rich Thompson over five and a half years to make his MLB debut in 2007.
Based on the Thompson timetable, Aaron Sookee is right on schedule to have a significant impact on this franchise’s young pitching promise and future.
Named MVP of an international competition in America while playing for the Penrith and Sandringham Baseball Clubs and the NSW team in Blacktown, the younger Aussie Alex Da Silva was watched meticulously by MLB scouts during the national youth tournament in Perth and was signed shortly thereafter by Angels’ scout Grant Weir, who was blown away by the velocity of his 90 mph fastball.
With a keen eye for the ladies and his sights on some
of the Angels’ Hollywood heartthrobs and playmates, Alex Da Silva hopes that his pitching arsensal of a wicked fastball, curveball, change-up and cutter will expedite the process of an invitation to Angels’ Spring Training Camp and Hefner’s Playboy Mansion. Having completed eight weeks of intensive training at the
MLB Academy on Australia’s Gold Coast, the young
work-in-progress pitcher will join the Arizona Angels’ Rookie Camp in March. Weir said, “Alex probably throws harder than anyone in the country. Just his tools are impressive. He has the fastball, and he just has to learn how to pitch. He’s got the right tools to pitch.
But he’ll learn in the right environment.” Da Silva has an uphill battle ahead as he experiences the growing pains of rookie camp with aspirations of turning heads and being selected on one of the organization’s minor league teams. Having followed Alex’s pitching finesse since playing for the U13 development squad, Weir believes Da Silva has what it takes to be successful.
“He’s a smart kid. I think he’s realistic, and he knows that this is just the start for him. There’s a lot of work to be done yet,” Weir said. Beginning his baseball playing days when he was nine years old, Alex’s athletic career has progressed from participating on club teams to Victorian State teams and then on to Australian national squads. Alex feels blessed that he was born with what he called “natural pitching ability that cannot be learned.” Da Silva credits his dad for his six-foot-two stature. He said, “I’m a pretty good build, and I get that from my father’s side so I think I just have naturally improved as a pitcher. I really want to see where my talent can take me. I want to make the Major Leagues.” Given Derek Jeter’s Major League relationships with the likes of Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey, Lara Dutta, Joy Enriquez, Jordana Brewster, Vanessa Minnillo, Vida Guerra, Jessica Alba, Adriana Lima, Jessica Biel, Rachel Uchitel, Tyra Banks and possibly Scarlett Johansson, the future looks bright for both Alex Da Silva’s personal dating life and his potential to join the game’s elite as a pitcher for the LA Angels.
Randy Smith, Vice President of Player Development and International Operations for the San Diego Padres, believes that the six-foot-two left-handed hitting Corey Adamson is an athletic specimen that has immense potential well worth the $500,000 signing bonus used to lure one of the finest five-tool players with plus speed to come out of Australia. The sky is the limit for the Friars’ MLB prospect as there appears to be no lack of faith.
Last year San Diego thought so highly of the Aussie’s potential that he was among 30 of the Padres’ best Minor League players invited early to Peoria, Arizona to take part in the team’s annual minicamp for its top lower-level prospects. The accelerated development program for players entering their first or second full season or players who might be jumping a level has proven to be a successful fast track for many prospects as three players from the 2010 program were invited to 2011 Major League camp. If Adamson continues to play as well as he has since joining his hometown Perth
Heat this season, it would not be surprising to see him invited to join the Padres at their 2012 camp.With his 20th birthday and the ABL playoffs fast approaching, Adamson is clearly enjoying his time in the Australian Baseball League as witnessed by his .429 batting average. Perth manager Brooke Knight’s secret weapon to ward off challengers from the throne of the defending champions adds pure firepower to the Heat roster and completes a speed-injected all-star outfield, which features Seattle Mariners prospect James McOwen and Baltimore Orioles prospect Brenden Webb. It not only affords skipper Knight many managerial strategies in a pinch when needed most, but also rests the legs of ABL triple crown candidate–outfielder Tim Kennelly–by penciling him in as the team’s designated hitter on the line-up card. Without a shadow of a doubt, Adamson has aligned himself with a group of dedicated individuals who have a proven recipe for success and always play to win.
Last year Adamson played most of the season for the Padres Rookie team in Arizona, where he hit .245 in 48 games. As a Padre minor leaguer, he has also spent time with Single-A Short Season Eugene Emeralds and Single-A Fort Wayne TinCaps. Prior to being signed by San Diego in 2008, he led his Western Australia Under-16 team to a national title by hitting .520 with a .618 OBP and a 1.040 slugging percentage during the championship tournament. As the son of Australia’s Baseball Hall of Famer, Tony Adamson, Corey has only scratched the surface in becoming a future international baseball star and an Aussie hero.
Considering the Australian Baseball League Canberra Cavalry catcher’s daunting six-foot-three solid muscle build, Madonna should consider recording a 2012 remix of “Don’t Cry For Me Australia!” There has always been a constant debate about whether home plate collisions should be banned throughout baseball history. By prohibiting the catcher from blocking the plate and banning base runners from making contact intentionally with the catcher, many argue the game would be a lot safer. However, baseball purists protest that combat at the dish has been around for years and is deeply entrenched in the sport’s tradition and its fans’ expectations of finding entertainment value in home plate drama. Selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 20th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft as a catcher out of Illinois’ Lincoln Land Community College, Travis Scott knew the occupational hazards inherent to his vulnerable position when he read the disclaimer and signed his first professional baseball contract.
While the lead singer for rock and roll bands usually receive all the attention (and more…), the drummer is virtually unnoticed until he gets a crack at a drum solo (if he’s lucky). The same concept applies to the dynamic between the pitcher and his catcher. The pitcher gets all the hype (and salary), while the catcher keeps the beat (and the leftovers) of the game. He must have the intuition and knowledge to deal with every fine-tuned intricacy that starting pitchers and relievers have in their vast repertoire. As with the world of corporate rock, if your band or team does not possess a solid drummer or catcher, then your franchise will lose on the field and at the box office. While what a catcher can produce offensively at the plate is very important, what he does behind the plate is even more significant. The catcher must have a keen sense of intelligence to call a good game and have the ability to throw out base runners. Travis Scott possesses all the innate qualities necessary to become a successful MLB catcher.
Canberra Cavalry manager Steve Schrenk wasn’t caught off guard by catcher Travis Scott’s batting potential but more shocked by his power. Skipper Schrenk explains, “He knows how to hit. He hit well last year in Double-A for the Pirates so I was expecting some good things, but he brings a little bit more power than I thought.” The 26-year-old Milwaukee-born American import put up good enough numbers to earn himself a 2009 California League All-Star slot while playing for the Mariners Single-A Advanced affiliate High Desert Mavericks. In the first half of the season alone, Scott hit .324 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI. While playing for the 2010 Rockford River Hawks Professional Baseball Club in Illinois and after being signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he was voted the Hawks’ MVP with a .302 batting average and a 34% success rate of throwing out attempted base stealers to lead the Northern League. Scott credits Mariners minor league catching coordinator Roger Hanson for his defensive prowess. He elaborates, “I put in a lot of hard work in my four years with the Mariners, and we had one of the best catching coordinators in minor league baseball in Roger Hanson. You know it’s just all about proper balance and putting myself in position to get the most out of my arm.”
Scott’s signing to the LA Angels was short-lived as the Pittsburgh Pirates quickly took him hostage before he could become Scioscia’s protege in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft. He is now a free agent looking for a new pro contract.
Currently second in doubles (13) and ninth in walks (14) in the ABL while hitting .250 for the Canberra Cavalry, Travis Scott knows in order to achieve his personal goal of a .300 batting average that he must pump up the volume for the remainder of the season. He concides, “In my position as a free agent, any time you get the opportunity to get some at-bats you want to put up good numbers because ultimately scouts in America are looking at your offensive numbers before your defensive numbers. I want to put up .300 or above numbers with a little bit of power to all fields. If I can do that, I’ll have a pretty good opportunity to find a club in the United States.” With eight regular season games left for the Canberra Cavalry catcher, Travis Scott will have to dig down deep and catapult his team into the playoffs so that scouts will have the opportunity to see for themselves why he deserves another chance to join the game’s elite in Major League Baseball.
Leading the Australian Baseball League (ABL) in batting average (.383) and OPS (1.140) as well as being second in OBP (.474) and SLG (.667), 26-year-old American import Kody Hightower has made MLB scouts scratch their heads and ponder how their organizations could have been granted a new lease on life if he had not been left for dead on draft day years ago and had been added as their teams’ spark plug and late-budding baseball star.
Putting everything on the line with a solid spiritual foundation and faith to beat the odds in pursuit of competing with the game’s elite, Hightower is currently walking an Aussie tightrope by simultaneously playing shortstop for the Australian Capital Territory Baseball Association’s Ainslie Gungahlin Bears and the ABL’s Canberra Cavalry. The high stakes North Carolina native and versatile ball player came to Australia after leading the Swiss Baseball League Zurich Barracudas into the playoffs.
Known for his outstanding arm, Hightower traveled to countless U.S. tryouts and showcases to be seen by the movers and shakers in professional baseball. Kody elaborates, “At one tryout in Atlanta, I was videotaped pitching and a manager in Germany saw it on youtube. He got in touch with me, and I signed almost immediately. I figured if I couldn’t play in the states, I might as well see the world and continue playing. I really enjoyed my time in both Germany and Switzerland. I used it as a stepping stone to continue trying to get my name out there.” The Lenoir, North Carolina hometown hero expanded his European fan base by playing for the HSV Stealers and the Zurich Barracudas. Hightower recently led the Barrcacudas to the post-season in late August with a near perfect outing on the hill as the Zurich hurler clinched a playoff spot when he pitched a nine inning 7-0 shutout over crosstown rival Challengers while striking out 16. Hightower helped himself to earn the win offensively by going 4-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and four RBI. It was business as usual for Kody as he relished European pitching throughout the entire season. Before heading to Australia, he was named as the recipient of the 2011 Barracudas’ Best Hitter Award.
After being selected as a NAIA All-America Honorable Mention at Brevard College, Hightower was named to the 2008 Southern States Athletic All-Conference team, NAIA Region XIII team, NCCAA All-South team as well as an All-American and NCCAA South Region Player of the Year in his final two seasons at South Carolina’s Southern Wesleyan University. He compiled a .427 batting average with six home runs, seven triples, 16 doubles, 61 runs scored and 64 RBI in 58 games during 2008.
Having only struck out only five times in 234 at bats and been caught stealing once in 24 stolen base attempts in his final year of college ball, Hightower demonstrated great presence of mind and Big League potential at the plate and on the base paths. Considered a natural 2008 MLB Amateur draft selection by coaches and fans alike, Kody got no love from American professional baseball. He was left out in the cold without a contract or any leads to continue his hot hitting ways in MLB.
The eternal optimist Hightower reflects, “Out of college I had a couple looks from the Pirates and the Reds, but no calls came on draft day. I was disappointed, but you just have to bite your tongue and keep moving forward. It’s not the end of the world. There are still other options. It’s great playing for the Cavalry, and I really enjoy the guys on the team as well as the management. My rituals aren’t too ‘out there’–even though I went through a phase of eating veggie mite before games (laughter). It’s an Aussie spread they put on toast–not very tasty–but I believed it to be helping me in the batter’s box. After I went 0-9 in a series, I stopped with that because you have to start fresh and try something new if it doesn’t work for you.” Despite his love for the ABL and the Cavalry, Hightower is contracted to play for the Ainslie Gungahlin Bears and could miss out on Canberra’s final push for the playoffs.
Kody sheds light on the possible conflict, “I knew the situation before I came and agreed to put the (Bears) club first. That’s just the way it is. My host family here has really done a lot for me, and I don’t want to do anything to disrespect that by any means.” Regardless of the situation, he remains upbeat about his future. Hightower concludes, “It has been a tough road. I am not getting any younger, but I am having a lot of fun traveling and playing this wonderful game. I couldn’t do it without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Will anyone answer MLB’s MIA prayers for a professional baseball contract? Faith can move mountains…
Launched in mid-October to patrol the 2011 Taiwan MLB All-Star Series and the Australian Baseball League, MLBblogger was ranked #48 in the 2011 Top 100 MLB.com Blogs after registering at #10 in November totals and giving others a 42 week head start. We would like to thank Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, the Australian Baseball League, our readers, and family members who have supported our international 24/7 baseball coverage in 2011. As a token of our appreciation, we have dedicated our first official post for 2012 to those special players who share the #48 jersey–including San Francisco Giant infielder Pablo Sandoval AKA Kung Fu Panda, Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim outfielder Torii Hunter and Melbourne Ace pitcher Jason Hirsh. Read on and learn about the mystery behind the #48. Major League Baseball is played in the U.S.A.’s 48 contiguous states and Canada. It is reported that Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, sat under a bo tree for 48 days attempting to figure out life, which developed into a type of spirit of the mind called Buddhism and its resulting expressions called Zen. There is a strong connection between Zen and baseball in Japan as the game developed there during a period of isolationism when nothing else was going on. Exported to America in 1873 by an English teacher named Horace Wilson, who taught at the University of Tokyo, baseball was in its purest form then with much emphasis on its pageantry and symmetry of the perfect diamond shape playing field. During times of drought in ancient times, the baseball fields were made up mostly of sand. Each base represented one of Japan’s islands, and players ran from base-to-base for refuge. The fields were raked before and after each game with different patterns in the sand so that the ball traveled in specific strategic directions once hit.
After the game took on a more competitive edge and the detailed sand patterns were a thing of the past, many retired ball players became gardeners and specialized in sand gardens, which provided a meditation spot for baseball memories. One can see the real life relationship between Zen and baseball practice where skill is perfected. The act of practicing repeatedly until the point of satisfaction is of utmost importance. A player faces an uphill battle in his difficult task and must remain Zen-like focused despite day-to-day adversity. Practice portrays a vision of life filled with the joy and happiness of baseball success. Yet, if one suffers a setback or injury in the process, there is always hope of a better tomorrow.
Life is a struggle, but we will never give in. Through personal persistence and cooperation from others, one’s dreams need not be compromised as all things are possible.
Former MLB pitcher and current ABL Melbourne Ace Jason Hirsh is living proof that better must come one day. Now rehabbing after major shoulder surgery, which put him on the shelf for entire 2011 season, he shares with the world the aches and pains of a player’s battle to return into peak pitching form by writing an eloquent blog On My Way Back Up Down Under. Since coming back from surgery, the 29-year-old Southern California native has been pitching well for the Aces and has tallied two wins in seven starts. A seasoned pro with the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies and New York Yankees organizations, Hirsh is a mentor and an inspiration for aspiring players in the ABL hoping to join the game’s elite.