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Profiles of coaches and student athletes

Coach Profile: Aaron Rushing

Friday, December 8, 2006

While working with the Lehigh Valley Catz of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, you worked with several players who were drafted by major league organizations. What was that like?

It helped me realize that I wanted to be at a small liberal arts school. The players there were a mix of top players from every level of college baseball and all of them had legitimate pro aspirations. It was fun to coach them, but I related best with the division III players who seemed to be so much more well-rounded in their lives.

I coached about 20 guys in those two summers who have played some level of professional baseball. I worked mainly as our pitching coach. From those two teams, ten of my pitchers went on to pitch professionally. It’s been fun following their careers. One just threw a no-hitter in the minor leagues the other day! Two of the guys were division III pitchers and both had a good deal of success in short pro careers.

It will be great to see how some of our guys benefit from my connections, as Ethan Guevin, our top pitcher is playing for the Catz this summer.

What’s your coaching style?

I’m laid back with high expectations. I expect the players to hold themselves accountable and be intrinsically motivated. I was always a self-starter, and expect that my players want to be the best players they can be.

I enjoyed doing the repetitive things that help you get better like hitting in the cage and taking ground balls. As we get going, we’re really going to really put a focus on making sure the guys learn how to love practice. So, I stress that in practice it is important to not only work hard, but to enjoy it and have fun. You need to love the little things in order to truly love the game.

How is the program different at Carleton, as compared to the other places you’ve been?

I think we have a more positive coaching staff than I am accustomed to. We focus more on live batting practice in our early season practices than the other teams. We have a greater focus on the players as people and taking advantage of everything Carleton has to offer. Some of our players play two sports, compete in intramural sports, act in our theater program, perform in music groups on campus, are involved in campus government, and study abroad. We have had guys study in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, China, England, Germany, and Nicaragua.

We have a much better Rec Center for indoor practices than what I’m accustomed to. We get to play non-conference games in the Metrodome every year, giving us a chance to play games earlier than other northern schools. The MIAC has less travel than other leagues, which means our students don’t spend their entire spring on a bus. When we go on a road trip we get back that night, in time to take advantage of all that Carleton offers. Our academic calendar is great for the team as we go on our spring trip between winter and spring terms and our spring term goes longer than the baseball season. Because of this we never have conflicts with finals and baseball.

What does a typical practice look like?

First we’ll do our dynamic warm-up to get loose and work on running form and baserunning drills. Then we’ll usually break up into position groups and about half the team will use the cages for hitting drills and live at bats. The other half will use the rest of the Rec Center to do their throwing and defensive fundamental drills. The groups will switch back and forth between hitting and fielding drills. Then for the last 15-30 minutes we’ll get together and do some full team defensive drills. I try to have some competitive drills every day, as things can get very repetitive. The pitchers are basically on their own schedule with their drills and bullpen sessions. We try to get them throwing live in the cages as much as possible.

Do you have anything else you would like to tell future Carleton students?

We offer the best combination of baseball and academics in the country. There’s a balance here that you don’t get at other places. As a Division I athlete, a lot of the coaches have the attitude that they own you, they run your life, in some cases tell you what you can and cannot major in. Compared to other Division III schools we play in one of the best leagues in the country, have great facilities, and offer more off the field opportunities than almost any school in the country.