Conversations with College Coaches: Denison University
In our latest interview, Woody Wingfield spoke with Assistant Coach Zach Huttie from Denison University. Denison is a Division III program out of the North Coast Athletic Conference. From use of video to what he looks for in a prospect coach Huttie gives insight to his program at Denison University.
1. How long have you been coaching? How long at Denison?
This will be my 2nd year coaching and also 2nd as an assistant coach at Denison. I was also a 4-year varsity player at Denison.
2. Who are some of your mentors or coaches that you look up to?
My parents are my greatest mentors, always being there to guide me in the right direction and always being there to support me when I played, and now as I continue my dream to coach at the collegiate level. I have to say my head coach Mike Clark and our other assistant Sean West have provided me with the kind of guidance and direction that has allowed me to mature as a coach. The late Kelly Kulina of the Baseball Factory was also someone who kept me focused on my goals and encouraged me to keep doing those things that made me better as a player and person. Kelly also encouraged me to think about coaching as a career possibility after my college playing days ended. I was also fortunate to be around Josh Hamilton when he began his road back to the majors. Having seen him at both his worst and best taught me a lot about how easy it is to get derailed.
3. What is the first thing about your school and program that you want recruits to know about?
At Denison you have the opportunity to get a great education as well as play very competitive baseball. We say we have the perfect balance of strong academics and great competitive baseball. We play in one of the best D3 conferences in the country and also play a strong non conference schedule. We are also a nationally recognized school academically so we have players from all over the country. Since we are a residential campus there are also a great many social experiences available to students. Finally, our campus environment is just about as good as it gets with the newest in technologies and a beautiful campus it’s a hard place to say no to once you have visited. And that’s one of the reasons we are so big on having recruits come to campus for a formal visit.
4. What do you look for in a prospective recruit on the field? Off the field?
On the field we obviously look for the way people play. The “tools” as you say. But that isn’t the only thing. How you handle yourself on the field as well as off the field is a big part. We want character players. You are representing Denison, the coaches and your teammates every time you step on the field. Since Denison is highly respected for its academics you also have to be a serious student. Not only do you have to meet our set of recruiting standards to play baseball at Denison but you also have to meet the high academic standards the Administration has established for admission.
5. How has video helped you in the recruiting process?
You can’t go everywhere to recruit, even though we would like too it’s just not possible. Video is a tool that allows you to evaluate a player’s skill when you don’t get the opportunity to see him at a game or event.
6. Denison has tough academic standards, so do you have any advice for a prospective baseball player looking to attend your school?
Be prepared to work, study and become educated. Being a Denison alum, one thing I know is that if you take your studies seriously Denison will provide you with a spectacular education. A big plus is that because the school stresses academics our professors are readily available to discuss your courses and any issues you might have. It’s a very supportive environment and geared to helping every student succeed.
7. Despite those tough academics, the baseball program has done very well in the North Coast Athletic Conference the past few years. Can you give any insight on how the team is a consistently contending from year to year?
At Denison we stress hard work. You are only going to improve if you take responsibility for your own development. We are here to provide you with the right training and good coaching but you have to want it as a player. We make no bones about it, with us your academics are your number one priority but baseball and your improvement as a player has to be number two on your priority list. Now especially, because we have made great strides in our program under Coach Clark, our levels of expectation for each of our players is going to get even more demanding. This year’s recruits and returning players need to be ready for the demands when they step on campus in the fall.
8. Can you break down your fall practice schedule? What do you try to accomplish?
We use fall as both an evaluation period and learning experience for our players. We have a four week fall schedule with 16 practices. We stress basics and demonstrate how we want the game played. We also have intrasquad scrimmages a lot to give players a chance to put our teaching to work under game conditions. From our fall practices we establish a preliminary depth chart that we use for our winter practice sessions. We are also conscientiously building team chemistry. It isn’t only about competing for a position and playing time, it’s about wanting the team to succeed and being a solid teammate both when you are on the field and in the dugout.
9. Do you have a strength and conditioning coach?
Yes we do, and he is a great asset to our program.
10. What can you tell us about your facilities?
Currently I feel like we have one of the best indoor facilities in D3. The Mitchell Center is used and we can pretty much get a full field in. In Ohio with the winters being so unpredictable it’s important that your indoor facilities work well for you. We have two indoor batting cages that are maneuverable which gives us a lot of flexibility. We like to think that our field is a pitchers ball park with 330, 380, 400, 380, and 330 being the dimensions. But because of its location it plays about 15 feet longer so you don’t see cheap homeruns. We just recently had our mound and plate redone, and look forward to adding additional Red Brick Dust dirt to our infield this fall.
11. What part of the 2012 schedule/year are you looking forward to the most?
I’m looking forward to our conference season. We are going back to divisional play which is a two-fold street. DePauw which is a very strong program is coming into the conference and you are going to have to be one of the top two teams in your division to get into the playoffs. That is going to make things extremely competitive. Our division, the west, is always a dogfight and this year will be no exception.
12. Is there anything you would like to add about your assistant coaches, recruits, parents, or program that we have not asked you about?
Check Denison out, it’s a great liberal arts college right outside of Columbus, Ohio. We have the balance of very strong academics with a strong baseball program. It’s a beautiful campus and our baseball program is headed for big things.