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ABCA Minority Member Spotlight: Gabe Ortiz, Kofa High School (AZ)

The American Baseball Coaches Association strives to help diversify the baseball community and help bring opportunities in the game to all areas. The ABCA Minority Spotlight series looks to capture the experiences, coaching style, and impact that baseball has had on different ABCA member coaches. A new Minority Spotlight feature is released on the ABCA Podcast on the third Monday of the month and we will transcribe a small portion of the interview, which you can find below.

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The ABCA Podcast releases a new episode weekly featuring coaches from all levels of the sport. Discussions run the gamut of baseball coaching topics, from pitching, to hitting, to the mental game, practice planning, recruiting and more. The podcast is hosted by Ryan Brownlee, longtime coach and current Assistant Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).

Gabe Ortiz has been on the Kofa High School (AZ) coaching staff for the past 22 years and was named head coach in 2022. Ortiz is also a part of the Team USA National Trials staff and a bird dog scout for the Cleveland Guardians. Ortiz has also coached at Arizona Western College, where he was highly regarded for his ability to develop and motivate players.

Ryan Brownlee: What have you really enjoyed about USA Baseball?

Gabe Ortiz:
There is so much that comes with it. I would say kind of the “USA way” that I kind of got from RJ Farrell from being on his trial staff for a couple years. It's just a different environment, the guys they bring in it’s almost like a coaching clinic. They give us a coaching staff of four, sometimes eight, and you are able to pick each other's brain. It is similar to an ABCA clinic because there is so much knowledge being thrown around. 

RB: How did you get started with USA Baseball?

So, around 2015 I was working at Perfect Game doing score keeping. Andy Rojo noticed I was taking notes on players and he asked what I was doing. He asked me to join him for lunch and he told me he just got a job for the Southwest Regional National Team Identification Series (NTIS) and asked me to help him. That is where I got to meet RJ Farrell and later got to coach alongside him and he asked me if I wanted to get more involved. 

RB: What do you feel USA Baseball is doing right with the training piece that maybe other programs are not doing?

I think it is the quality of people they bring in, they are baseball people. There is a balance of having the ability to run an event efficiently to having directors who run the event from top to bottom and having coaches and staff who are really excellent baseball players. Having that blend of good people attracts good athletes. 

RB: How did you not make the playoffs last year when you went 11-1 in your region?

It came down to power points and for the life of me I have given up trying to figure it out. We knew that going in and it came down to the strength of our schedule. It was kind of bittersweet, we ended up winning a region title which had not been done in a while. Then the bitter part of it was on selection day we were sitting three spots out of the last playoff spot. 

RB: By having kids put technology down, do you feel that is the best way for them to get better at communicating?

I think that is one of them. Our school has a policy that phones have to be put away and you are seeing a lot more collaboration in class now. Also putting them in competitive environments and team building activities, that cohesiveness of competing and collaborating help with them communicating.

RB: How are you balancing your USA responsibilities with your high school responsibilities?

The blessing in disguise is we have a two week dead period. This gives me a little time to go out of town and take care of USA responsibilities. What else is helpful is I teach the Physical Education class, so I have almost every player in our program and that classroom piece is like an extension of our program and helps build relationships and cohesiveness. 

RB: As a high school coach, how are you relaying how players are moving without the advanced technology that the professionals have?

We are heavy on machines. So we'll set the machine up and then set a cone out and simulate putting our hand down as the pitch. Guys will then be able to either get a good jump as soon as the ball goes up or they will choose to delay it to read spin. At that point they can see if they are camping under the ball at the cone or if they are running through the cone. 

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