Coach Zach Casto started his coaching career at West Virginia State University Student Assistant for 2 years (2016-2018) and is currently the Nitro High School Assistant Coach (Outfield, Base-Running, Analytics, First Base Coach). He is the author of “Rounding Third: Skills, Drills, and Best Practices in the Game of Baseball” and the Rounding Third Leadership baseball blog and Co-Host of “Classroom Chatter” podcast.
You can follow Zach on Twitter.
Sammy and Zach discuss:
- Why he decided to write a new practice and coaching book Rounding Third
- Why was it important to you to share where you learned these great ideas from
- His winning formula for teams and how to select players.
- Coach Butch Chaffin (Cookeville (TN) High School), “Teach your players like they are eight years old every day and you won’t get frustrated with them” and why it was mentioned in the book?
- Teaching seems to be always controversial but what are the core teachings for hitters
- How Coach Cal Bailey teaches pitchers to attack batters for our listeners His favorite defensive drills to work on with your teams
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Zach casto pbk
Sammy: [00:00:00] Zach. Are you ready?
[00:00:03] Zach: [00:00:03] Yep.
[00:00:04] Sammy: [00:00:04] Let’s play ball. So there have been many great coaching and drill books over the years. Why did you create your book Rounding Third?
[00:00:12] Zach: [00:00:12] I made it because I think there’s a lot of great books out there, but I don’t think there’s been necessarily recent books out there that have been made that have been using modern techniques specifically on catching
[00:00:27] if you’ve watched baseball, obviously you understand that the catching world has changed. If we want any growth in players to trickle up the system and have success, we have to be able to teach it at the lower levels. So that’s why I made it.
[00:00:42] Sammy: [00:00:42] So what clearly noticeable difference between your book and many of others is you’re telling us who you learned the ideas from.
[00:00:49] Many of these books make it seem like they came up with everything that is inside their book. Why was it so important to you to share who you learned these great ideas from?
[00:00:58] Zach: [00:00:58] I think all great coaches and great teachers are thieves. And that’s by admission. We all are, but here’s the thing. Ideas are great.
[00:01:08] And they’re based on success stories from coaches. Anytime you take something from a coach, you have to mold it into your team. Butch Chaffin says it all the time. You may take something from us, but it may not work for your guys unless you turn into something that works for your guys. So trial and error is a huge thing.
[00:01:29]Again, with my book, if you get it, try out some of the ideas they may work, they may not, but keep it in the back of your head because you might have a team that this works on.
[00:01:40] Sammy: [00:01:40] So early in the book, you share a winning formula for teams. It is important to remember that you were looking for 11 to 14 players who play selfless baseball instead of selfish baseball.
[00:01:51] This goes to an old adage of finding the best nine, not the most talented nine, the best. Can you tell us how you would go about identifying these players?
[00:02:01] Zach: [00:02:01] I think it all comes down to finding high character and finding high character people. You need to find people who are good teammates. Be are good people in the community and C take academics, fiercely and there’s multiple ways to do this.
[00:02:16]I’ve even come up with the idea of. When I become a head coach one day at the school I’m at, I will probably have a kind of a survey based on players. Just anonymous surveys where players rank their teammates because yes, I’ll be around the school. Yes, I’ll see the school, but there might be a part of that person I don’t see everyday because I’ll be in the classroom and in my little bubble, so to speak. So it’s important to have honest feedback around your team for anything to. Positive to occur. So again you want to have good people on and off the baseball field who take academics seriously and take pride within their program.
[00:02:57] Because if not, then you’re leaving a lot on the table. And unfortunately you would have your team saying, what if, instead of what can I do to improve?
[00:03:09] Sammy: [00:03:09] So being a high schooler, this quote you shared from Coach Butch Chaffin. “Teach your players like they’re eight years old every day and you won’t get frustrated with them”.
[00:03:18] Stuck out to me. I remember at one of Lance Wheeler’s pitching camps, how he had everyone show him how they gripped a fastball. It was amazing to see kids 11 to 18. And some of them didn’t even know how to grip a proper fastball. Why did you feel that it was so important to mention this?
[00:03:35]Zach: [00:03:35] Was listening to the Ahead of the Curve podcast with Jonathan Gelner and he was telling a story about how even at the professional level, they put electric tape around their baseballs.
[00:03:47]It’d be black electric tape. And just to tell the four-seam spin and the players to understand if they’re getting the proper spin and all on the baseball. And another aspect to that is at that time I was recently at fall practice and it really took me aback understanding how many of our guys didn’t know how to throw a four-seam fastball.
[00:04:07] Or knew to throw a four-seam fastball when playing catch. And it’s not their fault at all. It’s just you only know what you know. So again, going back to Coach Chaffin quote, there is don’t take any teaching for granted, teach everything as simple as possible and make sure your players understand that and can put it in their own words.
[00:04:31] So you can understand that they understand what you’ve taught them.
[00:04:36] Sammy: [00:04:36] So you started off the chapter on hitting saying, hitting might be the most debated topic within baseball coaching community, but here’s a disclaimer, whenever you teach, you must consistently try to add on or change your mind. What are the best concepts we will find in the hitting chapter?
[00:04:52] Zach: [00:04:52] I think you’ll find that all great hitters and great hitting coaches believe in balance. Believe in weight transfer, believe with getting the bottom hand on plane with the pitch so that the bat will lag and also can whip at the baseball. I think that’s part of it. I know there’s always been a battle between linear and rotational, but in reality, hitting is a linear start.
[00:05:18] With a rotational finish. And what you’ll find is you’ll understand the mechanics mechanical part of it, but also you’ll get drills to where you can give your players external cues and goals that when they do these drills, they’ll find their best pattern, movement pattern for themselves in order to have success,
[00:05:40] Sammy: [00:05:40] You shared a lot of great pitching information in the book.
[00:05:43] But I would love if you could share how coach Cal Bailey, he just pitchers to attack batters.
[00:05:51] Zach: [00:05:51] Cal first and foremost, Cal was a great mentor of mine. The reason why I got into baseball is his baseball camps that I got into for the love of the game. Cal was the most successful baseball coach in the state of West Virginia.
[00:06:05]And Like legend. He unfortunately passed away in March but his lessons onto his players and to his friends still live past his Does he see past his death essentially. But Cal always we were at a high school game and essentially what he said is that if you have a player that’s crouching you pitch him, up a little bit or pitching low, just based on how he’s crouching and how they’re moving.
[00:06:33]And in the book you can tell based on his advice Based on how a batters stance is how you can pitch them because the stance will tell you where to pitch the batter. And I think that’s very fantastic information. And of course, Cals won over, he won over a thousand games, so he knows what he’s doing.
[00:06:54] Sammy: [00:06:54] So you share a lot of different defensive trails, which are your favorites to work on with your teams?
[00:07:00] Zach: [00:07:00] Oh man. That’s a great question. For me, I always like the 27 outs drill and I put it in the book. It’s it, as a player it’s pure chaos it’s but it builds a lot of mental toughness.
[00:07:13] It builds awareness, it builds communication and trust between your teammates. And I think It incorporates everything incorporates rundowns and corporates cuts and relays, double cuts, anything imaginable, and it’s very game like but it’s the true mental test of can we get through a game without making an error, whether that’s physical or mental and if we can what did we learn from it?
[00:07:40] And 27 outs is probably my favorite drill as a team. I really like on the outfield side, I really like the bucket drill. I learned that from Corey Dijon of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he’s the single, a high single a manager of of the Pirates and the bucket drill essentially teaches players to understand the depth, to get behind the baseball and come through on the catch.
[00:08:05] So the goal of that drill is for the player to drop the bucket down. As soon as the ball is at its highest peak and that helps the players understand their depth perception and how far they have to get back in order to come through to make the catch. So those are probably my two favorite drills out of the whole book.
[00:08:26] Sammy: [00:08:26] And what is your favorite catching drill in the whole entire book?
[00:08:31] Zach: [00:08:31] Oh man recently I’ve learned a lot of really good catching drills, but it might make, it’s probably more so a teach as opposed to a drill. I really like understanding how to receive better and for catchers to also understand multiple ways to receive pitches to accommodate based on the umpire.
[00:08:52] Obviously. We want our catchers to move the pitch and manipulate the pitch. But there’s sometimes there may be some umpires who may not like that and may take some strikes away from you. So again, I learned this from Brandon Oliver and essentially he would ask his catchers. Where do you think the ideal strike is?
[00:09:14] And they would tell him usually it’s right underneath the chin. They would first start out, just playing catch. They would, and then go into sticking the pitch. And then he would say, Hey, let’s move that pitch toward that ideal strike zone. Ideal strike is for you. So they would start receiving and bring that pitch up to the chin.
[00:09:34] And then they continue working on making things smoother by adding in a pre-pitch movement, which could for most catchers is having the glove on the ground. Sometimes it’s a Twitch. Sometimes it’s a breath into a stance. And sometimes rarely though, sometimes rarely There is no movement at all.
[00:09:54]But again, that’s probably my favorite thing to talk about and catching is receiving because every catcher catches differently, some and have a different reason why they catch a certain way. So that’s where that’s I, that’s what I love about coaching.
[00:10:11] Sammy: [00:10:11] So on this podcast, I’d like to end with more of a broader question.
[00:10:14] So who is your favorite catcher in the league right now? And why?
[00:10:19] Zach: [00:10:19] Probably Mitch Garver. And the reason being is actually I have two catchers, so I won’t do that. Mitch Garver is probably my favorite one and for multiple reasons, he’s just flat out fun to catch. They’re fun to watch catch just the strikes he can make and the balls, the pitches he can make in the strikes.
[00:10:37] It is just amazing to me. And. Selfishly. I’ve probably watched a ton of Statcast video on him and just clips of how he moves the pitches. So he’s probably been the person I’ve learned the most Watching him through his mechanics, but also locally, we get the Pittsburgh Pirates and I like watching Jacob Stallings.
[00:10:56]And he might be an interesting name to bring up, but he leads he’s led the national league and parts of baseball in receiving, and he’s also fun to watch receive, because he’s really good with the pirates staff and does a really good job of presenting pitches. So he’s a guy probably to watch in 2021.
[00:11:15] I think he’s a, and he’s. Historically received very well. So those are probably my two favorite catchers to watch because there’s a lot to learn in how they set up what their stance and also how they receive pitches.
[00:11:29] Sammy: [00:11:29] So where can people find out more about you and your book Rounding Third?
[00:11:33] Zach: [00:11:33] You can follow me on Twitter at coach Casta.
[00:11:37]Within that within my bio on Twitter, there is a website link and the website link is to the book patch. That’s where you can buy my book. Currently the ebook is $20 and the physical copy is $28 and 25. It’s
[00:11:55] Sammy: [00:11:55] Zach, thank you so much for playing ball.
[00:11:57] Zach: [00:11:57] Thank you. I appreciate it.