Plainfield baseball team’s ‘change of philosophy’

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Mar. 28, 2011
Plainfield High School baseball players practice at a soft toss batting station. Photos by Denise Coffey.
Plainfield High School baseball players practice at a soft toss batting station. Photos by Denise Coffey.

The hard slap of baseballs hitting leather echoed through the Plainfield High School gym recently, as two pitchers on portable pitching mounds practiced for the new season. The baseball team’s head coach, John Schiffner, watched them and offered advice. “Adjust your release,” he said to one pitcher. He threw a curve ball and Schiffner liked it. “That’s a nice pitch. That’s a nice velocity.”

To his catchers, he said, “Expect them to throw it in the dirt and then you’ll be so happy when they don’t.”

When the pitcher threw a breaking pitch, the coach said, “Nice location. Nice rotation. That was a nice pitch.” Then he moved on through the gym, checking on his other players.

The rest of the Plainfield baseball team moved around four different batting stations set up on the outskirts of a mesh batting cage. Schiffner’s players practiced swinging a heavy V-Grip bat. Then they moved to a station to use a short bat with one arm only. He had the players swing with their left arm, then with their right. The drill strengthens each arm, he said. They then moved through to a soft toss station. “Then we go in and see live swings,” he said. Two of his players went in at a time, one to pitch behind a screen and one to bat. “I hate pitching machines,” he said.

Seven players are returning from last year’s team, but the school has lost some power hitters, the coach said. “This year it will be different,” Schiffner added. “We’re going to have to bunt more. We’ll have to do more hit and runs. We’ll have to create runs where last year we could sit back. We had three or four hitters who could hit home runs out of many of the parks they played in. It’s tough to lose that.”

Still, the team’s pitchers are experienced, and many teammates have been playing together for some time. “We’ll just look a little different than last year,” the coach said. “We just won’t have the power. There will be a whole change of philosophy this year. Last year we wouldn’t send a runner in certain situations. We’d let a hitter bring them in. We wouldn’t take the bat out of his hands. This year, we’re going to have to manufacture more runs.”

Schiffner has been coaching college players in the Cape Cod league, and hopes to put that experience to good use in Plainfield. “It’s an incredible experience to be able to coach some big leaguers,” he said, “and to be able to bring it back here is amazing. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful here. I talk with coaches that I meet down there - I talk with players from programs from all over the country.”

 

 

Coach’s Corner-

Plainfield High School Baseball Head Coach John Schiffner

Seasons with the team: 33

Plainfield’s pitching is experienced, but they’ve lost some big hitters from last year. “We’ll look a little bit different than last year,” Schiffner said. “We just won’t have the power. There will be a whole change of philosophy this year. We’re going have to manufacture more runs.”


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