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Conversations with College Coaches: Covenant College

Baseball Factory is privileged to work with programs from every level of college baseball. We strive to educate and guide our players when it comes to choosing the right school. In our latest interview, Woody Wingfield spoke with Head Coach Doug Simons from Covenant College*. From use of video to what he looks for in a prospect coach Simons gives insight to his program at Covenant College.

1. How long have you been coaching? How long at Covenant College?

I came to Covenant in 2005 after spending 18 years in professional baseball (10 as a player, four as a coach, and four as a scout). Even though a majority of my professional experience came in the minor leagues, I played in the major leagues with the New York Mets and the Montreal Expos. After my playing days ended in 1997, I spent four years as a pitching coach in the New York Mets organization, and then four years as a full-time area scout with the Texas Rangers. In 2005 Covenant College hired me away from the Texas Rangers to start the baseball program. I’m currently on my 7th year at Covenant and the program is up and running strong.

2. Who are some of your mentors or coaches that you look up to?

I was fortunate enough to play for Ron Gardenhire (current Twins manager), Mike Quade (current Cubs manager), Clint Hurdle (current Pirates manager), Felipe Alou (former Expos and Giants manager), Jeff Torborg (former White Sox, Mets, and Expos manager), Jerry Manuel (Former Mets manager), Buddy Harrelson (former Mets manager), Butch Hobson (former Red Sox manager), Vern Ruhle (former MLB pitching coach), Rich Dubee (current Phillies pitching coach), Jim Hickey (current Rays pitching coach), and Dave Gorrie (legendary coach at Pepperdine University). Each of them had an impact on me as a player and a person.

3. What is the first thing about your school and program that you’d want a recruit to know about?

The first thing I usually convey to my recruits is our Christian distinction here at Covenant. We are one of the few Christian colleges in the country that actually recruits Christians. We have a unique atmosphere here and a culture of spiritual growth, on and off the field. We have a lot to brag about at Covenant College but that is the first thing I would want my recruits to know about.

4. What do you look for in a prospective recruit on the field? Off the field?
I look for three things in my recruits: 1) I want a Christian young man that wants to be more like Christ. 2) They must be willing to work hard in the classroom. 3) I am looking for someone who can make a positive impact on the baseball program and around campus. I also have come up with the Attributes of a Covenant Baseball Player:

1. Character- Christ-like, counter cultural, compassionate, considerate, chivalrous, classy. “More concerned with their character than their reputation.”
2. Classroom Committed- Works hard at his studies; remembers why he’s here.
3. Competent- Cranial capacity, conscious of situation, knows the game, calculated, cerebral, has plan of success, can react instinctually. “Practices are for thinking, games are for reacting.”
4. Coordinated- Can play, athletic ability, baseball tools and skills.
5. Compatible- Collective responsibility, cohabitate, Collaborative, conjoined, cooperative, coexist, chemistry, complimentary, camaraderie, great teammate.
6. Courageous- Chance taker, not afraid to fail or get injured. “The one who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success.”
7. Confident- Not conceit but confident in ability, believe you can do it.
8. Coachable- Conformable; takes correction. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
9. Compliant- Loyal as a collie; follows the rules and all authority.
10. Charismatic- Card carrying catalyst, plays with passion, gives life to the team.
11. Committed to the Team- Gives his all at all times, heart is in it, works hard and is on time.
12. Conditioned- Mentally, emotionally and physically.
13. Competitive- Loves to battle, focused on the process rather than the results.
14. Composed- “Cool, calm and collected”, countenance, consistent, controlled, clear-headed, able to handle failure and move on.
15. Clutch- Performs under pressure, team can rely on him.
16. Communicator- Speaks up when needed, listens when spoken too.
17. Climber- Always getting better, never content.
18. Champion- Finds a way to win.

5. How does video footage help your program with recruiting?
Since the criteria to be a Covenant Scot baseball player is so narrow, we have to broaden our recruiting map. We recruit nationally for our players. In fact our program next year will have guys from 16 different states. With that being the case I rely heavily on video recruiting, because I can’t fly all over the country to recruit these players. I can talk to them over the phone, exchange emails with them, but if I want to see many of my recruits play it would have to be via video footage.

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6. Covenant is a tough school academically, so do you have any advice for a prospective baseball player looking to be recruited to your school?
One, they must go to every class. We have a ‘no cut’ policy for our athletes. Two, they must be willing to work hard in the classroom once they arrive, if not I encourage them to go elsewhere. Three, they must be wise budgeters of their time, like studying between classes and after dinner, not saving it for later. Four, take advantage of the tutors and workshops available to the students. Covenant has free tutoring and workshops for just about every class.

7. Can you give some insight on how your players balance academics and baseball?
Our players must be proactive in scheduling classes and deliberate about studying. Our guys are students first, but in order to balance academics and athletics they also have to be proactive in scheduling classes early in the day to hopefully avoid any conflicts. Athletes at Covenant get priority pre-registration so they get first crack at getting in the classes they want, and in the time slot they want. They also have to be deliberate with their time. I require study hall in their first semester (6 hours a week) at Covenant. After the first semester only those students below a 3.0 institutional GPA have required study hall. Last semester we had a team GPA of 3.05; 21 of our guys got a 3.0 or above; 14 of them had over a 3.3; and 10 baseball players made the Dean’s List (3.5 or above).

8. Can you break down your fall practice schedule? What do you try to accomplish?
The NCAA has certain restrictions on our fall practices so we practice four weeks in the fall, four days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and all day Saturday. Mondays are devoted to multiple stations and individual skills work; Wednesdays are devoted to upbeat scrimmages that I call “Hustle games”; Fridays are devoted to the hitting circuit; and Saturdays are devoted to playing intrasquads. We try to accomplish 3 things during the fall 1) properly evaluate the players (for their role with the program and what areas they need to improve). 2) Develop the player’s skills 3) Teach them how to play Covenant style baseball and start bonding as a team.

9. Is there anything you would like to add about your assistant coaches, recruits, parents, or program that we have not asked you about?
I love bragging on my coaching staff. Including myself, our coaching staff consists of three former professional baseball players and two former college head coaches. All four of my assistants usually have better baseball resumes than the Head Coach we are playing against. Assistant Coach Tony Stevens begins his fourth year at Covenant. Coach Stevens played six years of professional baseball, as a shortstop, in the Minnesota Twins system. Coach Stevens handles the infielders, base running and serves as the Scots first base coach. Assistant Coach Ben Wharton begins his fourth year as the Scots outfield coach along with being the strength and conditioning coordinator and head of our academic support. Coach Wharton has played two seasons, as an outfielder, in the Independent minor leagues, in 2007 with the Bay Area Toros (Continental Baseball League) and in 2008 with the Reno Silver Sox (Golden Baseball League). Assistant Coach William Russell begins his fourth year on staff after three seasons as the Head Baseball Coach at Mid-Continent University. Coach Russell works with the catchers and serves as the Scots bench coach during games. Assistant Coach Craig Kleinmann begins his third year on staff. Coach Kleinmann comes to Covenant from Lee University where he guided the Flames pitching staff the previous three seasons. Kleinmann also served as the Head Baseball Coach at King College from 1998-2005. Coach Kleinmann works with the pitchers. As you can see we are blessed to have such a strong staff.

*Baseball Factory takes a non-denominational approach as an organization

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