Inside Pitch Magazine, September/October 2020

Last Inning: A JUCO Way of Life

Kory KoehlerKory Koehler played in two JUCO World Series as a catcher at San Jacinto College and has helped coach the Gators to another dozen trips to Grand Junction since. In his tenure at ‘San Jac,’ Koehler has taken on additional responsibilities that include community outreach, hitting, recruiting, and offensive planning and development. Inside Pitch caught up with the 2018 NJCAA Div. I ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year:

Inside Pitch: What would you say are the main reasons you’ve chosen to stay at San Jac over the years?

Kory Koehler: My goal is to win a national title at San Jac. If the right opportunity were to come up, who knows, but I really, really enjoy the junior college level. I have a solid foundation here with family. My wife's family is local, I met her at San Jac, and her family lives in the area. I've spent pretty much half of my life here, and I owe a lot to [head coach] Tom Arrington for what he's done for me. He's done everything he can to help me to grow, so there's that loyalty there to him and to this program. He’s an outstanding manager of men. He allows us to do our thing, he doesn't accept "yes" men – he let us have our opinions. He's fairly hands-off when it comes to recruiting. When it comes to the game management, he allows Woody [Williams] to manage the pitchers and lets me manage the offense. It's fun, because he wants you to learn the game through trial and error, rather than having a hand in everything and making sure it's his way or no way.

IP: Speaking of Woody Williams, he played for 16 years at the MLB level and made a Major League All-Star team. What’s he like?

KK: Woody is very, very easy to work with. He's a player's coach, he's hands-on, he wants to be able to work with every single arm he has, regardless of whether it's our number one or the 14th guy on the staff. Every pitch, every bullpen, whatever they're doing, he's right there with them. He's also a very Christian based man, and he's kind of a father figure. The guys can pick up a phone and call him at two o'clock in the morning, just to talk about anything from pitch design or their girlfriends.

IP: In general, what type of players are you looking to recruit?

KK:
Assistant coach Eric Weaver and I have become very close and compliment each other quite well. We both have a wealth of separate contacts we trust, and we trust each other, so it is easier to be on the same page with what we’re looking for. How is the kid in the classroom? How is his approach off the field and how does he attack the game once he crosses the line? Is he a bulldog? Is he a guy that's going to fit within our culture? But in general, we look for athletes; guys that can play multiple positions.

IP: Last spring, you had 15 players from outside the state on your roster. Is that a goal of yours?

KK: I'm sure it's the same no matter where you go…the guys in our area, their dream isn't to play at San Jac. It's to play at Texas, A&M, Rice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, whatever. They typically end up here because something either didn't work out or because they realize the draft may be a real option sooner rather than later. There is obviously a lot of competition around here for players, and I don’t necessarily think there's really a goal for us to go outside of the area to recruit guys, but I'm going to go wherever I can to get the best guys I can get.

IP: When it comes to recruiting, if you could do it differently, what are some mistakes you might've made earlier that you are better with today?


KK: I used to get frustrated when a guy told me he was going somewhere else. What I’ve realized over time is that it’s not about me or even our program. It's about the kids, their families, and what they feel is the right fit. Wish them the best of luck and move on.

IP: What would your advice be to players who are trying to stand out in the recruiting process?

KK: Do you hustle? Do you come out of in-and-out with a giant smile because you know you're about to get after it with your brothers? Or are you just there because your parents signed you up again this year? The guys that go through the motions, even if they’re tooled-out, will lose you ball games. I'll take the guy with lesser talent that is up there to play every day. It's 115 degrees on turf in the seventh inning and he looks like he just got out of the car ready to go. Those are the guys that I want. 

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