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Ep. 60: Montana State University Head Baseball Coach Aaron Sutton | A Baseball Podcast

Geoff Rottmayer March 16, 2020 2


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Montana State University Head Baseball Coach Aaron Sutton

Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development

Guest Bio:

Aaron Sutton, Head Baseball Coach at Montana State University.

Summary:

On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayer sits down with Aaron Sutton

Show Notes: In this conversation, Aaron talks about:

  • His coaching path and some of the coaches he learned from along the way.
  • His coaching style and why it works for him.
  • What player development means to him.
  • How his approach and style has chance as he progresses through his career.
  • What is all included in his player development plan.
  • Implementing a system to communication and having guys taking some ownership of what they want to accomplish.
  • The different between practice at the NJCAA and NCAA.
  • How he stay on top of guys and their academics.
  • What it is like when guys first report and getting everyone on the same page.
  • What does the fall season looks like for them.
  • What does the spring season looks like for them.
  • What the administrative side of the coaching looks like.
  • What the business side of coaching looks like.
  • How to deal with guys that do not want to be there.
  • How to deal with guys that are good but not as good as the guy ahead. 
  • Summer ball for college baseball players. 
  • What are the main measurements of tracking in their player development plan.
  • Capturing real data and not getting carried away and losing fundamentals. 
  • How he developed the communication skills that allowed him to be a successful coach. 
  • and much more.

Website: www.baseballawakening.com

Facebook: Baseball Awakening Podcast

Twitter: Baseball Awakening Podcast

Instagram: The Baseball Awakening Podcast

Email Address: geoff@baseballawakening.com

Geoffrey Rottmayer
On today’s show we have on coach Aaron Sutton, head coach of the Montana State University baseball program and seem to be the manager for the Minnesota Twins. High a team in Fort Myers, Florida. And we’re talking coaching from the coaching side, the administrative side and the business side.

Intro
Welcome to another episode of the baseball awakening podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered unsexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host Jeff rottenmeier. Welcome to

Geoffrey Rottmayer
baseball weekend podcast. I’m Geoffrey Rottmayer. Today I’m sitting down with Coach Aaron Sutton, head coach of the Montana State University building your jacket and soon to be the manager of the Minnesota twin high affiliate team. Coach doesn’t have a very strong and a very accomplished coaching career. He was the head coach at treader Valley Community College where he went on to win the Northwest Atlanta conference, each region Coach of the Year three times more taken over at Montana State University in 2017. He continued to have that break in numerous school record and conference record and leading the program for the very first ever g NEC championship title and the program very first birth into the NCAA Division Two West Region Championship. So a lot of success. And a guy we’re excited to learn a lot from today. Coach, how are you sir?

Aaron Sutton
I’m doing great, Jeff, how you doing?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I’m doing great. You know, listen, Coach, you know, I’m excited to learn from you today. And I’m sure everyone that’s listening in is as well. But let’s just let’s just kind of start to get to know you a little bit more. You know, so Talk a little bit about your path into being a coach. And then maybe some of the coaches that you learn from along the way.

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, man. I’ve got a pretty unique story. I’m a small town kid from fruitland, Idaho. One stoplight town was very fortunate man, like, growing up being around some pretty good baseball minds. Went from fruitland to a junior college down the road Treasure Valley CC. And I played for a guy named rush right? Our hitting coach, that’s actually his dad, so rushes in abca Hall of Fame, just a tremendous baseball mind. And he was really the first guy that taught me that there’s more to this game than just showing up thrown hit and killed and so I owe a lot to him as far as my development actually kind of sparking my interest in getting into coaching later on down the road. From pvcc I ended up getting the opportunity to go to Oregon State and so I got a chance To be around guys like Pat Casey, Marty Leeds, Dan Spencer, in all three of those guys had a tremendous impact on me in the short amount of time I was with them. I ended up leaving Oregon State to get a chance to play and when I finished my crowbar at Western Oregon University and Jeremiah Robbins was that was his first year as a head coach. Coach Robbins and I have a tremendous relationship still to this day. I mean, he moved on to NC State, I think he won three national titles and you know, I it’s, it’s nice to say that probably all three coaches that I got a chance to play for in college are going to be in the in the Baseball Hall of Fame as far as their resumes and what they’ve done. And so I owe a lot to them as far as teaching me the game and, and teaching me how to respect it and appreciate the opportunity to get out there every day.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Very cool. So So with that, you develop a style and you’ve had a lot of success with your coaching style. Can you talk a little bit about your style And then maybe why you think that it works?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, you know, another day I had someone in my office they’re asking me about, like put it into a nutshell, I think it’s hard to define it. But the one thing I thought like the probably the most important piece, as a coaching staff that we talked about is love your people, man. Love your assistant coaches Love, love your players, and try to create a family like atmosphere where everyone understands you care for him, and then they start to put that trust in you. Because I think at the end of the day, like we want to have shared ownership in our program. We communicate a lot with our guys development key for us, like development development. That’s that’s a big thing for us in our programs, but we also want them to be invested in that as well. So we get a lot of, you know, freedom for them to talk to us about what they’re feeling what what their goals are. And then leadership’s a big thing for us. We want player led culture so we predict that those areas per By our guys opportunity to lead to develop as young man, because at the end of the day like you want to win baseball games, but I think he coaching the right way you show them you love them. That’s just winning gonna be a byproduct of all those small things you’re doing with them in their everyday lives.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I agree. You know, when we talk about developments, you know this the word that gets thrown around a lot. What What does development mean to you?

Aaron Sutton
I think it’s a it’s a full time gig. It’s not just on the field, it’s off the field. You know, it’s teaching them how to be great young man. I think the student athlete experience, a lot of it is baseball. But I think the reason why we’ve gotten a lot of success or had a lot of success and got some really good players is the fact that they know they’re coming into a place where we’re going to make them take their hats off when they eat, you know, we’re going to teach them how to shake hands properly. We’re going to teach them open doors for people. doing those things then when you get to the field like baseball is the easy part of your day. You know, they’re excited To be out there and get coached up and, and have a plan and stick to the process. You know, Nick Saban year that guy talked about the process until he’s blue in the face. And I think we’ve really tried to embody that everywhere we’ve gone as far as keeping your nose down and working hard and getting better every single day, you know. Awesome. So,

Geoffrey Rottmayer
let’s go back to when you first started out, the coach. You were at Tiger Valley Community College. What had changed since you are there to where we are today because a lot of things have changed. You know, the kids are a little bit differently. They’re grown up in a different environment. So what what is changed? You know, how have you evolved in terms of your style and your approach?

Aaron Sutton
I think, you know, when we were growing up playing, you have that respect for a guy that was a coach that you did things because they told you to do it and you believe that is the right way. I think now, the way we coach and the way you kind of connect with players is you got to show why these guys have so much access to technology and information that you’ve got to be prepared to show them this is the plan and this is why we’re going to do it. So I think that’s a big change for us because we have those resources now I mean, we need we grew up you got a bucket of balls you with your buddy went through BP to each other and say, Hey, I think your your shoulders wide open early, or you’re collapsing on your backside. No, that’s, that’s how you taught yourself. And now I mean, you pull out your cell phone and get film and you can break it down slow mo frame by frame and so you have to be prepared to to coach guys that way. Other thing that I think as a coach now, like, you got to put your ego aside like you can’t have an ego as a coach. It’s not my way, it’s the best way you know, and that and that’s going to be different for each individual player. That’s going to be different for each individual coach, but finding the best way Because at the end of the day, it’s about the results for the players to go have success on the field. So those are two really big areas for me. And then I think the other one is trying to separate how we play the game from practice. Practice time is our time as coaches game time is players time. You know, I don’t think when we coach in games, we’re not we’re not yelling and screaming from the dugout anymore. The game is already hard enough. So trying to take the backseat and let them go perform and have fun and enjoy themselves when they go out and compete. That’s been a pretty good balance for us and breaking that down and making sure our players understand that that’s you’re gonna get coached up during the week. But then when we get to Friday, Saturday, Sunday, like that’s, that’s your time to go have some fun.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
That’s awesome. You know that. That’s where things need to head if it’s not already, because like you said, you know, they have the information at their disposal. And you and I both know that knowing just enough that dangerous.

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, it is.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So you please you’d mentioned you know, your big thing is a, the plans and you put together for guys the player development plan. What does that look like? What does what’s included in those plans?

Aaron Sutton
I think, you know, you look at each each guy and you want to have meetings and communicate with them on what their goals are, you know, and I think if they can be goal oriented into their development, then we as coaches then can dive in and aid them along their, their process and their road to become who they want to become as a baseball player. So that’s where we first start, I mean, we will film guys offensively on the mound defensively and then bring it in and break it down with them. But I also want to know like, what’s their plan when they’re showing up to the field every single day because they’ve got to understand that their career too, like they should have as much say as we do. So I think that’s where it all starts getting a base form. Do a lot of baseline testing, you know, mobility stuff, strength stuff, ball exit speed, I mean all those things, I think giving them a baseline and then going to work. And this is how we’re gonna improve in these areas, and then testing them again so that they get to see because I think at the end of the day, we know baseball, you got to have a confident mind, your mind gotta be right. But as you’re going through that process, and you know, you’re developing, your numbers are increasing, and you feel like a better player than that correlates to confidence on the field. So I think that’s a big part of player development, helps us win games, because they also get more confident and trust your ability as a player as well.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I love it. So when you get a young guy a freshman, they may or may not have the best social skills, which is kind of becoming a little more common. The lack of social skills. How do you get a guy to openly communicate what his goals are, and actually be kind of proactive in the process? Putting the plan together, you know, instead of being a guy that just said, Yeah, coach or whatever, whatever you want me to do,

Aaron Sutton
everyone’s different. I mean, you’re gonna have guys that are breaking their own film down and wanting to come in weekly and talk about those things. And then you’re gonna have guys that are a little bit more reserved. So as coaches, I think we have to respect each of those personalities, ways that we try to open up lines of communication. And in our fall, probably for the last eight years, everyone we’ve had, we do weekly goal sheets. So we have players returning these in every Friday before practice, they turn them into their position player coach, and it has like their goals academically, so we kind of have an idea what they’re doing in the classroom, and then also their goals baseball wise on the field for that coming week. So then the coaches we get to read through those over the weekend. We respond to them by email back to them before Monday, so that we have a good plan heading into that week. So that opens up some lines of communication, especially for the guys that aren’t really getting And then you always have the opportunity to Hey, we’re on the same page man you got to come by the office let’s let’s hash this out and make sure that we’ve got a good plan has ended this week and I think our players have really appreciated that piece

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, I was just gonna ask what the response was like doing that every single week.

Aaron Sutton
I think you know, at first you’re kind of like man’s a lot of work I got schoolwork and I’m lifting and all this but then once they get into it, and they start to understand like the importance of it and the value then they really buy into it, you know, and we’ve only done it in the fall because I think that’s a big developmental time for us once we get to the spring I mean, we’re on the road it’s a little tougher to to navigate and we want to make sure our players gonna put the time into it coaches were able to put that amount of time back for them. But it progresses because at first like you get guys right now like, I want to, I want to throw harder or I want to, you know, I want to be a better infielder. Well, like no like, let’s have purposeful travel. Like, what are you working on today, man, like you want to throw harder, like, let’s let it rip three out of the five days on our pull downs, you know, be specific in your work as an infielder having a tough time go into my glove hand side, like when we’re in a BP, like make sure that machine setup I’m getting extra ground ball or to my glove side. So just being more purposeful in our practice, and they they come to the practice that was with a plan and you get done, you evaluate and go, did I get what I wanted to accomplish, you know,

Geoffrey Rottmayer
very nice. So so when I when I think about this, I think about time commitment involved. So so for the coaches that are listening, you know, I would assume, coach that when you first started off developing and implementing this system, that it took time, but over time, it became the norm and it got easier and easier. So can you talk about that a little bit?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, I think anything you’re trying to implement, like you’ve got to be organized as a coach, because players can see right through it. It’s your decision. Organize. So if you’re going to do something, you got to do it all in. That was a big learning curve for me as a young coach was like, as a player, you show up and you and you go to practice, and that’s what you think it is. But as a coach, you’re there three hours before and three hours after losing sleep over it. So you just have to find your routines. And once you start getting that implemented into your routine, just like your players are like I know, every Sunday morning, I’m hopping on my computer, I’m filling out goal sheets back to these guys responding, then it just becomes a part of who you are, you know, it’s just everyday life. It’s just waking up and brushing your teeth.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I think I think you nailed it right there. You know, I it’s got to be a part of your routine, you know, and I see it all the time. You know, coaches have this desire to have success. They want to try something new and when they go into implementing, it’s only within a couple weeks that they go back to the norm because they haven’t stuck with them long enough for it to be a part of their routine. Or maybe it would more work. And then they expected to be, but it does pay off if you want to be successful as a coach.

Aaron Sutton
No question, no question.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Okay, so let’s go back to your treasure, your Treasure Valley days when you were the assistant and you are now the head coach. So can you talk a little bit about the difference between being an assistant coach, and now being a head coach with more of the administrative side and the business side of things? He talked a little about that.

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, you know, I was put into a really fortunate situation where, you know, I didn’t know I was gonna coach pay, so I was doing insurance so they get away with college and it took me about 30 days to realize that that wasn’t for me. I walked until the guy was out and jumped over as a volunteer under a coach Rick balm and he was he’s really a big mentor for me. I was always fortunate enough as I worked through that process with him, I was under him for five years, he got kind of gave me a little bit more each year, you know, he knew he was going to retire he said, Hey study, you get your masters and I’m going to retire. So by the time like I did finish my masters and he was ready to hang them up, I felt like he had prepared me to take over a big job. I think the biggest thing moving from that assistant role to the head coaching role is like he told me man, like no one’s jumping in your van anymore, man, like you’ve got to wear that bigger hat and, and still have that relationship with your players but also the separation because you’re gonna have to be the one that lays the hand down on discipline and all that all that stuff, but I felt like I stayed the same as far as the coaching side developing all that you just you just wear a lot of hats, especially at the junior college level. And that that business side of it that no one else sees is what makes the program run so the fundraising the grade checks, the academic advising trying to make sure you guys are NCAA eligible to move on you’re placing guys with Summer ball, you’re recruiting guys. I mean, you’re trying to place guys at four year schools. I mean, I feel like the Juco level that that job is going to prepare you for any job you want. After baseball, you don’t have st or if it’s going to be at another stop before your school or professional level, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, I know you’re really big on the academic side of things. I know as a player you received a national award for your academic which is awesome. So how do you add I know part of that ball non you know, the recruiting side of things finding the right fit, but when you get a guy in and high school is easy, and he now just getting hammered with scored there with the workload. And he probably didn’t expect that type of workload on top of the schedule. How do you get guys motivated and staying on top of their academics?

Aaron Sutton
I think you know, a big piece of it is make sure that they understand It’s important for you and answer them, you know, we have a player’s handbook and our number one goal is to graduate all of our sophomores when I was at Juco. And now it’s, you know, all of our seniors so I think it’s important for them to know that’s a big goal for them. And one thing we really talk to our players a lot about as you know, being great isn’t just a part time job like if you’re going to be great on the field, like you’re great all the time, off the field in the classroom in the weight room, as a boyfriend as a son. So that’s a thing I think for them to kind of take that that mindset that if I’m going to have success in life, it’s an all avenues not just baseball. And then show me care by keeping them accountable. You know, all this stuff. Great. Check. The weekly goal sheets are big for us. We do study hall hours, we have academic meetings with guys. We had our guys print off all this their schedules and we track them and do classroom checks and all that because if they see you putting in the effort And they know that you care at them getting an academic done getting the degree is important to you like they’re gonna they’re gonna own that a lot more

Geoffrey Rottmayer
as well. Awesome. So so at the Juco level, the the rules and the regulations are a bit different than where you are now at Montana State, the Division Two program. Can you talk about the difference in terms of the practice, the academic and the recruiting side of things?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, there’s a lot of I mean, Juco is kind of like the Wild Wild West. I mean, there’s, there’s not as many rules, you know, there’s more scholarships available. You can get pretty much any kid in the school. So that that transition was a little difficult for me moving on to an NCAA Division Two program. Obviously, you have care log hours where you’re limited to your time with the guys. So that was a big adjustment for us as far as how we organized practice. And then also what’s the importance of what we’re working on in practice. You know, we don’t have five different book plays and seven different first and third and take plays, because I don’t feel like those are things that we needed to put our time into, you know, so you have to really find that balance of what’s going to really help you win ballgames. The recruiting piece is a little more difficult because now you’ve got to check the transcripts, you’ve got to make sure that they’re a qualifier out of high school, and especially the Juco guy, that’s, that’s one area that I’m pretty passionate about moving off from a junior college to the fourth level is, a lot of these guys go to junior college, and they don’t get advice properly. You know, we go into a 3d kid and we get a transcript and I’m going, dude, you got to go in and you got no shot getting into the NCAA school. So making sure that you’re recruiting those guys and then informing them of what they need to do academically to get themselves in a position to to get to the school that they want, you know, so those were things that I think were the biggest adjustments was getting our practices organized. And then also making sure that recruiting side of things like we’re recruiting the right guys.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, awesome. So, let’s talk about and we’re still in your Treasure Valley days when guys are first reporting, you know, at the end of summer what this looks like when when they first come in, you know, and it’s probably similar to what you’re doing now, you know, at Montana State but in terms of what in turn the practice and getting everyone on the same page and understanding what the expectations are of you and them. Can you kind of take

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, probably one thing that’s important that I always felt like in the recruiting process, your expectations of your student athletes should be clearly communicated them. So when guys show up on campus in the fall, they know what’s expected. You know, we we were on we were on a kind of a tight ship. I mean, you guys got to have clean cut haircuts. We all wear pants up, you know, kind of a blue collar mentality look. So I think that’s clearly communities in the recruiting process so they understand when they show up on campus, they know exactly what they’re getting. themselves into, you know, once they get into the fall Junior College, you know, the nice thing is, is you get them in early, you know, he said Bring him in two weeks before school started. So it’s, you know, two or three days practice for 14 days and really get to kind of implement everything. And then I always felt like the fall was about two things developing and competing. So we really tried to tie both of those avenues into our practice plans. And the way we went about, you know, scheduling things for our players. The winter, once you moved inside, it was focused on development, take the results away, like let’s really break film down, let’s have a plan. And let’s get after a skill set that we’re trying to improve. And then once you move into the spray, I feel like the hard work has been done, man, like, that’s the reward. So it’s more about performance, you know, and especially at a junior college where these guys came to you for the sole purpose to develop them and give them the opportunity to move on to the next level. So springtime is about maintenance. Still, still developing. But also it’s about going out and showing

Geoffrey Rottmayer
out now boys No. Awesome. So So when you say that the Fall is about developing and competing. Can you take us through what a typical week would look like?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, you know, I think as far as junior college where we lifted three days a week, strength was a big piece for us. A lot of guys are getting physically underdeveloped. So we will live Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, early in the morning, 6am we get after it. We practice at least six days a week, we typically try to give them Sundays off. So as we would go through that week, early in the week would be a lot of skill set development stuff. middle of the week, we would try to get more team oriented. And then by the end of the week, like we’re strapping on and we’re scrimmaging and we’re playing as many innings of baseball as we can. So I think it’s kind of aligns with what you do in the spring, but just at a higher intensity and a higher level. Because now it’s you don’t have to worry about the result and on the weekend, so let’s go put it put a test and see how we do against each other type of deal.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so how do you keep a big picture focus, because when you talk to coaches, timeframe is a thing and always will be a thing. So instead of saying we have just two months, if that object thing, you know, I really just have two to four years, you know, how do you work that in in terms of, you know, how fast guys are developing versus what you were expecting?

Aaron Sutton
I think the big picture you know, at the junior college level is getting them the opportunity to move on but also competing for a championship I think winning is is very crucial to player’s development and competing understand the importance of that. So really early, maybe communicate right away. Hey, our goal is the graduation to get you a four year program offered And so when the championship and then hey, let’s listen like that’s the last time we’re going to talk about it. Like we know that the expectation and where we want to go. Now we got to get back to the process man like getting getting better every single day and keeping our nose down and taking every opportunity for what it is. And I thought the guys that could really buy into that that mentality, we’re the ones that typically made the biggest jumps and typically had the best opportunity when their careers have done for us there.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so what do you do with the guy that are not all in? You know, they’re not developing like you thought he would? Or could? What the conversation like with them, or what do you do with those guys?

Aaron Sutton
I think honesty is always the big piece, right? Whether they want to hear or not, I need to hear it, you know, so having those tough conversations in the office. The one thing I think is a coach, you as you move through your career, you’re going to find out like they don’t always know the conversations and things you’re doing. going on right now, or the best in the moment. But down the road, they’re gonna realize that at some point, I mean, every year, I get a text message from a guy that I had no idea that he was listening, or he cared what we were talking about, but it’s like, hey, coach, just want to reach out and say, I really appreciate what you did for me, you know, eight years ago, that really turned me into who I am today, you know, so having those tough conversations are are vital for their success and their development in the long run. And you’re going to run into kids that maybe they don’t have the work ethic or they don’t have the buy in. But you recruited to be there. So try to get the most out of them. You know, that’s, that’s one thing. I’ve always tell all of our coaches like, Hey, we recruited them, like you never give up on a player like you continue to push you teaching you to coach them, because at some point is going to click long and someone doesn’t. But at least you can look yourself in the mirror and say I gave it my all for those kids, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. So what about the kid he is, you know, he’s your favorite. You know, you put in the work. He listened. He did everything you asked. He worked hard, but the result is in what he was expecting or hoping what that combination might be keep him going.

Aaron Sutton
Those are the tough ones, man. And we all have them like that, that practice all star that that’s pushing the guy in front and the guy in front of them maybe is more talented and gives more opportunities. I think it’s, it’s easy to overlook those guys. So I think making sure you’re paying attention to everyone on the team. And then defining roles for every guy in the team. You know, a big thing we have here is we don’t compete against each other, we compete for each other. So understanding that we might have two or three guys at that spot competing, but our goal is to be at our absolute best so that when the guy that gets to play, we prepared him as a team and I feel shared ownership and his development and our success as a team as a result of me giving my all every single day so we can get guys the ball That I know as hard as it sounds, for them to realize like that, I think you recruit the right kids like they’re gonna understand that process. And then when it is their turn, like that’s the most rewarding thing man look at you get that opportunity and they take it and they run with it. Man, that’s that’s a great day. That’s a great relationship you’re going to have with those kids moving on.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, awesome. So what about, you know, we’re still talking at the Juco level. What the fall, you know, because you had mentioned that you had the administrative duties, the fundraising, recruiting and all that stuff. But what’s the main focus on the administrative side of coaching during the fall?

Aaron Sutton
I think everyone’s a little bit different. You know, I think the administrative side of things as a junior college in the fall, you’re really putting an emphasis on recruiting. You’re also putting an emphasis on your fundraising. You know, I know that not a lot of you goes out there there are fully funded and can get anything they want. So you’ve got to find avenues to raise money to make things go. I think you’re also looking at promoting your players to four year institutions. We were always really detailed and writing reports on our guys getting film of them during the fall to send out the schools and colleges. So that when they they look at those emails, like they have good content for them to look at. I think the summer ball pieces and other fees that you’re looking at in the fall as well. And then obviously academics, I mean, making sure those guys are in line with getting themselves prepared to graduate and the NCAA eligible afterwards, but those are probably the biggest pools that you’re putting your focus into, especially in the fall.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so you mentioned a couple times, the summer ball. Are you big fan of the summer ball for the college guys?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, I think it depends on the situation. The more I’ve been in it. I love our hitters. to go out and get out bass and play up a level and get challenged pitchers more detailed as far as hitting limits, and you know, what was their workload like in the spring, or, hey, this guy had a really good spring. Let’s get them out in summer, finish it out and shut them down in the fall. So just that communication with the player and your plan for them, I think is crucial. throughout that process. I think summer ball plays a great role for guys development. But you also have to make sure just don’t just send the guys out and turn him loose and they’ll check in make sure you’re communicating through the summer. When there’s been times we’ve pulled guys home just because hey, bodies beat up coach, I got to get home. I want to get ready for the fall, those types of things and also making sure that it’s not them just topping out and wanting to go hang out at the lake and relax to like they made a commitment. So you’ve got to kind of know your guys along those lines as well.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Okay, cool. So let’s take a two and we’re still in at the Juco level. This spring, what the focus during the spring, you know, I’ve thought of winning and obviously winning games are super important. But what what the focus during insteon during the spring season,

Aaron Sutton
I think in season, what you’re going to really deal with at the junior college level is a lot of kids that are stressed out because they don’t know where they’re going to play yet. So I think that promotion of them and communicating the coaches, making sure that you’re involved in the recruiting process for them with who they’re talking to making sure they’re staying on point with third communication with other schools. That that was a big focus for us. Because at the end of the day, I knew like winning games was important to us, but also like, they came to school that a junior college and move on, so making sure that you’re providing every opportunity for them to achieve their goals as a player. All the other stuff I always felt like the fall we do all the dirty work, man. So you put a lot of time into the fall and the spring. It’s about playing and Promoting guys and trying to get in place.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. And then I assume that the administrative side, it’s the same year round. You’re trying to get guys to the next level, summer ball fundraising and all that stuff.

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, yeah. I think that kind of just goes year round.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
All right, very good. So So now you’re picking up your family and you are heading to Montana State. What was that? Like? I mean, you know, listen, coaching coaches, wives are special. So what was that like for you, your wife and your son?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, I think it was a exciting time but a stressful time. I’m kind of a homebody. You know, I grew up in fruitland, Idaho, Ontario, Oregon is just across the river. I was my alma mater. I’d spent nine years there. I don’t think I would ever left that place. If it wasn’t for my wife. She’s always kind of been the one to see the bigger picture in our family and kind of give me a boost to cheese My biggest fan, my son’s my biggest fan, they love baseball, they love the players. So the transition for her was probably a little less for me to be honest and she was excited for that next opportunity. But kind of going through that process and obviously trying to find, you know, the right assistant to go with me. So that’s what I called Ryan right. You know, he was down at Cal State Northridge as a volunteer and I called him to say, Hey, I get this job and billing Do you think you want to come up and he packed his Subaru up and drove from LA to Billings in three days, and he met me in Billings, and also we were running. The interesting thing was, it was it was a late hire. You know, this school had already started our guys want a session. So I spent, you know, when I got the job the next few days calling all our current players at treasure by informing them of the change and then also calling all the new players at MSU Billings. I live in the dorms for three months. I never thought that my first time the doors would be when I was 30 years old, but they put me up in the door. For three months, which which was awesome for us as a staff, there was a lot of late nights early mornings, getting caught up getting ready for the, for the team. And then my wife, I mean, she’s a rock star man, she had a one and a half year old, she stayed home. And she packed up the house all by herself, got it ready to sell. And then we finally got them moved out right about Thanksgiving time. And it was great to see them come out, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. Awesome. So now you’re there and you just love Juco and now you’re part of the NCAA. And we talked about this a little bit, but what was like the biggest? Oh, geez, you know, when it came to the rules and the regulations.

Aaron Sutton
Man, I was in the compliance Office of Becca gas as our compliance officer here and she’s, she’s a saint man. I owe her a lot in that first year. I was seeing her every single day, just as far as what we can and we can During the recruiting process, because obviously, everything starts with the players. So recruiting was a big emphasis for us right off the bat, understanding, you can’t pay for meals on the road for recruits, you know, when, when you can bring them on campus, what you can do with them on campus. I mean, so that was a big adjustment for us. And she really helped us get through that. But yeah, I mean, baseball is baseball, I felt like a lot of other stuff kind of ran pretty smooth. It was just making sure that we were doing everything by the guidelines and not breaking a bunch of rules.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so So unlike the last situation, you know, the last situation you you helped build that team that you took over. Now you’re recruiting them, they all knew who you were, by here, you now into a brand new program where a different code group brought these guys in. What was that process like, you know, getting them to buy in and understanding that, you know, this is the way it’s gonna be. You know what With that profit, like, you know, you don’t know them, they don’t know you, and we’re all better to go out there and win games.

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, you know, that’s, that’s the exciting part about coming out was, you know, MSU B’s a pretty new program. So we were really excited about putting our name on something special, you know, and coach Bishop who was here before me, did a tremendous job of turning around, I mean, going from a team that was at the bottom to finishing that 500 to finally get some winning seasons in there. So we felt like we were in a good spot as far as trying to build on that. We knew we had a really strong senior Group, a group that was experience. So it was a lot of meetings with those guys right off the bat to say, Hey, listen, like we’re here to take this thing to the next level, and we need your buy into this. And it was a special group man, going through those guys. I mean, they bought in right away that made it a lot easier for the younger guys to continue to progress and make that transition as smoothly as we could. But yeah, I mean, anytime you go into any place, you want to put your stamp on it and change some things. So we were just very fortunate that we had a very accepting group that was that wanted more that understood the vision was to not just win a conference, you know, regular season championship, but to get to a regional to get to a World Series. And so that bind happened pretty quick for them. Nice.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So So do you get input from them? You know, like, do you try to get an idea of what they like or what they don’t like, you know, how does that work?

Aaron Sutton
You know, I think one thing is just setting your standard, you know, again, like I mentioned earlier, we have a player’s Handbook, well, it’s a 10 page document of this is, what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it and how we’re going to go about our business. So just making sure they understood like where I was coming from, and then I asked them to I say, hey, what are some things here that like you guys feel are crucial to your success or traditions that you guys have that you want to keep and maintain? Because again, that shared ownership I think, people they get excited about him stuff. They also, you know, feel like they put input into something before he got there. So you want to make sure that they feel collectively, you know, included in those decisions. And at the end of the day, you’re the head coach and got to make some tough decisions. But I think asking them what they had done before to have success. I mean, that’s important, man, that communication is key.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. Cool. Cool. So So now you know what, what changed with your practices, you know, from the Juco to the NCAA. Obviously, the goal and what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s all the same, but what changed now that you have the rule, man and the regulations?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah. I laugh about this. And I joke around with Ryan because he played for me at Treasure Valley, and we will probably go crazy back in the Juco days. And so you get to the floor, your program and you’ve got the rules and regulations. And the one thing I found in a hurry was you have to be really efficient. Like your your Practice planning is down to the last second, you know, and we’re rotating. And we’re moving on, like when we get to the timeframe. And if it’s not, right, like, we’re going to come back to it the next day, you can’t sit there and beat a dead horse. And so I thought, the move for me really helped me just manage my time better. And then I mentioned it earlier, just making sure you’re putting the right amount of time into the parts of the game that are gonna help you win. So immediately, we had to really evaluate our personnel and figure out what we what were we what talent skills that we have to have success on the field. I came from a wood bat league. I mean, it was pitching defense, we sold a ton of bases. we bonded a ton to now like we don’t have team speed, and we got some big boys. So let’s try to hit the ball in the gap and run it out of the yard. So we had to adjust like our philosophy around what players we have. That makes sense.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so you mentioned that you went through a period of trying to figure out how to be more efficient Like you kind of documented more and really tried to figure out and really tried to reflect on it, you know, how long does it take you to find something that works you know obviously the the thing that you’re always tweaking to make an adjustment to but but how long does it take you to sit down and say, This is the most efficient thing we can do at this moment?

Aaron Sutton
You know, it probably didn’t hit hit me until we got to the spring did I never post at the four year level yet so I didn’t know you know what was out there as far as how good quality programs ran. In the preseason, we went down and we played Colorado Mesa University’s power our division two and I think we took two out of the four games from them, but I just remember looking over in the dugout and seeing the way they did things like okay, that’s, that’s what we got to get to that. That’s the team that is competing at the national level every year. So that’s when it clicked for me on like, what do we need to work? We got a really pitch and we really got a hit. And we got to defend at a higher level. And those were the things that we we came back and we evaluated and that’s what we started putting our time into those three avenues. And as simple as that may sound like, you can’t, we didn’t put time into the p fps and the pig plays and all that stuff as much anymore. Like, let’s hit it, let’s pitch and let’s defend, you know, and I think that’s if you look at our three years here, and all avenues, we’ve increased in those avenues every single year here so we set a goal and I think we accomplished that to some extent as we progress through our coaching careers here too as well. Very cool.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So so you you are player development focus, you know, what kind of thing are you tracking? You know, are you using technology? You know, what, what kind of thing are you tracking? I’m talking on the, the player side, not the personal side, not the but but on the player side. What type of thing are you guys looking at him? What type of thing are you tracking?

Aaron Sutton
So a couple things, I think that we track. We do a lot of ball exit speed stuff with our guys. We’re big in the Generate bat speed. So we try to get a baseline test with them early. And then we kind of continue to go through that throughout the year with them. We do a lot of speed stuff based running times. I mean that that really for me correlates like how are we doing in the weight room? Are we getting faster, we’re getting stronger. But those are the two columns on the offensive side of things. We film a lot so that we have you know, film of guy swings that we’d go back and look at and see their progression as they go. And then defensively, just infield patterns, we try to put a watch to them to step four step patterns think that we can see if we’re improving because at the end of the day, I think players want to know if they’re getting better. So So track it for them and see where they’re at along those lines. Pitching wise, we just have different stats that we tracked through the fall, you know, three pitch mentality. We were big into tempo so we have a stopwatch on them consistent As far as getting pitches off, other small things like third down efficiency, which means like once you get to two outs, get off the field right away. So just some of those things that we track for him, I think give them a good idea of their progress and things that are important to us. And I think embodying or compensating all three of those things, we love to compete. So when we’re doing these things and practice team settings, individual settings, we’re constantly competing, we’re putting scores to games, we’re putting scores to the process in side those games, and then we’re letting them know who wins at the end of the day, because I really, truly feel that competition is really the driving force behind player development. Like you, you want your guys to get excited. You want your guys to play faster and become better players, like compete and track it and tell who wins and and that way, you know, they’re not taking any days off. But yeah, those are probably the big areas as far as what we’re tracking with those guys on a daily basis for them.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Cool, so So what about, you know, if we were to measure your active ball speeds? How do we do that without guys totally losing fundamental man just trying to chase the number?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, one thing we’ve done is we, when we do ball jerseys, like we don’t, we put a square up in front of them. And that’s going to be however, the distance is going to be at about an eight to 10 degree launch angle. And they got to hit it in the bat, because to reproduce a sling that’s going to create an eight to 10 degree launching Alaska line drive, that’s what our goal is to hit line drives. Then they’ve got to be mechanically sound like the hook the hook, ground ball and a guy buck that 110 like, yeah, we’re not counting that like that’s an out man, you know, so I’m kind of giving them those external cues as far as what they’re trying to accomplish with dish links and then testing them in that

Geoffrey Rottmayer
awesome they do you know, we mentioned earlier how Kids are our difference. And you know, they’re kind of getting a little bit harder to relate to. You know, because if we think about it, if we think about when grandpa raised dads, and dad raised us, and when we raised our son when we were grandpa raised dads, he raised dad the same way he would raise because much hadn’t changed. And then whenever dad raised me, it was still a very similar approach.But nowbut now we’re in a culture that the culture different we have access information we have about the technology, the kids are getting a little harder to relate to, in that sense. But as you get deeper into your coaching career, you know, and the transition is happening. How do you relate you know, how do you work on that?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, I think I think number oneone thing I talk about a lot there coaches is like we hear that a lot like a Get the day kids these days like, and I’m sure they said that about us when we were growing up as well. And I think one thing for us as coaches that we try to stay consistent with is, yeah, kids are changing these days. But at the end of the day, like, they still want structure, they still want discipline. And it’s, it’s on us as leaders to, to change that, that culture and to keep things consistent and for them as players because I think, when we look at human beings, like the deeper meaning for all humans is that they want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. So communicating that to those kids, that, hey, we’re going to be consistent, we’re going to have a standard, we’re gonna hold you accountable, and they fit into that mold. I think as far as like, the technology and all those things have changed, like as a coach, like you’ve got to be a chameleon, you know, you have to adjust to each situation you’re going to be in I tell guys, every year I’ve been coaching college baseball for 12 years, and every year I learned that I don’t know anything about the game like You have to have that growth, growth mindset that I’m going to adjust to the guys we’re going to get, but I still keep my core values and my standards and all that stuff has to stay the same for these guys, because they do want it. They really do. I’ve found, if you give get away from that, like, the natural stuff goes haywire, like they want that that structure, they want to be coached, and they want to have a leader in front of them, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, I agree. Yeah. And you mentioned communications. You know, when you study successful coaches, and you’re one you know, and I’m sure there was a book out on you, it would mention how effective you are at communicating. So, is this something that you always had? Or is this something that you develop? You know, what advice you have for the young coaches that need to really improve on the skill?

Aaron Sutton
I think it’s like a baseball skill, man like you got to develop it. Anytime you do something that’s uncomfortable, like it’s gonna be an opportunity to grow, and I can remember my first speech class getting up there. And I think it was supposed to be a five minute speech. And I railed off that thing in about two minutes. And our speech speech instructor said, Hey, Aaron, you got a lot of great content, but you got slow down, man. So I don’t, I don’t think it’s a skill that you just have. It’s something like anything, like, the more you practice it, the more comfortable you become, and the more efficient you become at it. And when you’re not ready, then you got to prepare more, you know, I remember as a young coach, getting ready to have team meetings and sit down conversations with kids and having notes like written out and being prepared with what my message was going to be and, and practicing that in a mirror to see what that was going to look like for those guys. Because communication is so crucial to any organization success. So the guy at the top gotta be phenomenal at it. So you got to practice it, you got to develop it, and when It’s uncomfortable, keep keep preparing more, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So So we’ve all been in a position where we said something that we wish we had. And that’s part of the learning process. So how do we communicate that to the guys?

Aaron Sutton
I think I think when you mess up and we’re all gonna mess up, we’ve all been there showing that vulnerability and apologizing, like, we got to own it. You know, there’s been plenty of times in my coaching career where I felt like we were doing what was right for the group and went completely the wrong direction. And getting up the next day swallowing your pride bringing the guys together, and hey, I screwed up, man. Like, I thought this was gonna go this way. And it didn’t. And I apologize. Like, I hope that you guys know that our best your best interest is always in our hearts. And I mean, just man enough, I guess is the right term because I think we expect that from our players to own their mistakes. Never pass the blame as a coach like that, You have to reiterate that with them and be that figure that if you’re going to talk to talk, you better walk the walk as well with them, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. And what about the code that just didn’t have that awareness? You know, and they’re probably not going to be a pretty successful coach, at least not for long. But but maybe there one listening and he started to think that I need to maybe start kind of paying attention and gain more awareness and self evaluate himself. So can you talk about, you know, how you do your own self evaluation?

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, I think, you know, being honest with yourself, and you know, going through that process of your development as a coach, I think a lot of times coaches feel like the successful guys, like they don’t have self doubt. They don’t question that they’re doing it right. Like everyone does. So like having those reflection days. No, I have a notebook that I carry with me all the time and I reflect back on things we do. And how we felt what was the feedback from the players. And then having that core group of guys on your team that you trust that you can communicate with them and get feedback from the players as well. Like, I’ve always been that way. As far as a, I want to know what you guys feel how is this working? Because at the end of the day, they’re the ones falling. Yeah. So you got to make sure it’s, it’s working for them as well. Another thing I would say is finding a mentor, find a great mentor that you can bounce ideas off, or great assistant coaches to that aren’t afraid to tell it how it is. I mean, me and Ryan have had some some knock down, drag out fights in the office and, and we love each other and we walk out of there and we’re still best buddies, you know, but we always try to keep things in perspective of what’s doing what’s best for those players. And sometimes we’ve got to check ourselves as well.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice. So let’s talk about the the business side of baseball. What what the that part entails?

Aaron Sutton
think, yeah, as a young coach, the operations of a program, a lot of times, it’s just the head guy that knows it. So I would suggest that if you’re a young guy and you’re getting into it, like, Shadow your head guy, ask them if you can sit in on meetings, asking if you can go to meetings with administration, so that you get that experience because if you want to be a head coach someday, like you need to learn all avenues of what makes the program run. Because there’s things that you’re gonna have to take into account as far as what’s the budget, like, like, how do we increase our budget? Where do we have to add and subtract from roster moves, like having those communications with players and exit meetings and their developmental plans on how you handling discipline, you know, and being consistent and having a plan so that when things arise, like you’re prepared for those things, I think other things like as far as the business side of things I always tell our systems to have prepared is have a vision man, like have a coaching manual. I know I’ve been waiting Working on one since the first day I started coaching and I think it’s up to 60 pages long now, like, Who are you as a coach? And why do you do things the way you do? I mean, we have the player’s handbook that I always felt like, was a business side of the thing that gives our guys guidance and direction. And then at the end of the day, like, be consistent with what you’re doing. And know you’re gonna screw up like it’s gonna happen. And I think those business decisions that you’re making is a part of your growth and development as a coach, but it’s also a crucial part of what makes a program go, you know,

Geoffrey Rottmayer
awesome. So what? Just good real quick, you know, when you are talking with the administrative team, you know, what type of conversation Do you guys have in terms of, you know, being on the same page what the program trying to accomplish?

Aaron Sutton
I think that that communication relationship with your administration is crucial. We have a phenomenal athletic director, Christa is a rock star, all the success we’ve had like, she’s been my And all that with us through this process and so I think communicating your plan and your vision to your administration’s key so they know what what you want to do and make sure that you have buying from them. And then being honest and being realistic like we have some 15 hour bus trips here when I first got here and now we’re making those into flight but at first like I had to be really good myself can we afford to fly so having those tough conversations with your athletic director and telling her and not just coming in and asking like hey, I want to fly on this trip I need 25 extra thousand I hey, we want to find this trip. But we’re going to add this fundraiser in the fall that’s going to make this amount of money and this is x y and z better All right guys, body butters as soon as that experience are going to be in the classroom or having the reason why and being prepared when you go present that information at babies Always. Always appreciate the the being prepared and detailed when you come in. He asked for stuff because they got a lot of people look over you know, we got 4040 dudes in that locker room we’re looking over where she’s got a lot leg department to look over. So make sure that you’re you’re respectful of her time being prepared, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. Awesome. So, so now coach you you’re getting ready to head down to Fort Myers, Florida, my, my hometown now I went to Florida Gulf Coast University. Love that area. That’s my my place. And now you’re going to be the manager of the twins organizations. Congratulations on that, by the way. So, you know what, what are you expecting that to be like,

Aaron Sutton
Man, it’s gonna be a great opportunity to grow as a coach, you know, as a person and for our family. We always tell our players like nothing great happens when you’re cozy and comfortable, man and I’m about to get uncomfortable here really quick again. So we’re, we’re, we have been on the phone for the last, you know, four days just trying to get prepared for that transition. And the one thing that I think is really excites me that I feel like with the twins organization, a lot of their core values and what they hang their hat on aligns with our family’s core values and what we believe in and so I think that transitions gonna be pretty smooth and man, I can’t I never thought I’d be signed a pro contract and an opportunity to jump into pro ball as a coach and it’s like a dream come true. It really really is. That’s

Geoffrey Rottmayer
awesome. So what the what the conversation like with the guy that Montana State you know, obviously you know that they want to see you do well and advance your career. But but it’s still tough. So what was that like?

Aaron Sutton
It was tough. A lot of a lot of reach out when people when we got the job, like, How excited are you and I said, Hey, man, initially when we took the job, super excited, but then about an hour later, I’m going man, I got to tell the guys and that was the hardest part about this. So obviously came as a big shock for them. We let them process it. And we kind of opened our doors and me and my Ryan and myself are in our office for the whole day. And I’m be honest, man, we shed a lot of tears with some of those kids. And that that really showed me that it really meant a lot to them. And that really meant a lot to us as a program that we were doing it right. Every single one of those kids said, Hey, while while my hearts get ripped out, like we can’t tell you how proud we are, and can’t tell you how excited we are for you guys. So that that really helped our hidden processing and got us going in the right direction. It’s unfortunate for us, man, like, are you gonna stay on here till January. So we’re staying through this this whole individual time, we’re still putting our focus on development. And this last week has been phenomenal. I mean, our guys are getting better they get after it, the fist bump in us. And that’s probably been the best part about this is just seeing their excitement and their continuance to buy into what the big picture is for their seats in the spring because they got a chance to do something really special and I’m excited to follow him.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Very cool. So so a couple more questions. If I can, what has been some of the best resources that help you develop as a coach and the person

Aaron Sutton
there’s a lot out there I’m having a mentor you know, Coach bomb and was always a great mentor for me. Ross right is always a great mentor for me, Gary mantle, who’s the new head coach of Boise State. I mean, he’s been a huge mentor for me. So finding those guys that have been in the trenches, I’ve done it the right way for a long time that you trust and, and those guys are there to help you. You know, they want to help young coaches develop. So I would say that’s number one. And then the ABC as a huge resource for me. I remember the youngest says I don’t have enough money, making 1500 bucks a year, just to make ends meet to put food on the table. I was buying ABC videos online in Washington office in the mornings. And now unfortunately, I get to go to the convention every year and that’s a great resource for coaches and get in get new ideas or meet new people network and then reading I mean, it’s an old school that sounds like finding books that interest you and trying to develop yourself in all areas. And I read a ton of books, military books, leadership books, baseball books, mental health books, I mean, just finding those little nuggets that are gonna help you develop the young men that are underneath. Yeah.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice. So what would your favorite book, you know, one that you highly recommend?

Aaron Sutton
Man, I would say one that’s kind of unknown, that my dad actually turned on to me. And it’s a book called the influencer. And it’s a book that studies like high, higher organizations that are very successful and what they all have in common and how you influence people to see your vision. And that book was tremendous for me and just the way we develop leaders. So that’s a little little hidden book that a lot of people know about that I really enjoyed.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Very cool. So So one last question, coach, if you were me and you interviewing yourself right now. What question would you have asked that I didn’t ask.

Aaron Sutton
Man I, I listened to a lot of podcasts and I always at the end Typically they’re asking coaches what their hobbies are something so maybe what asked as well My hobbies are as far as with my downtime but kind of a funny story about like hobbies coach ball one of my mentors when he handed me the keys to the program at Treasure Valley. He said hey Sadie, like I know you love to fly fish. I know you love to golf, man. I’ma tell you what, like you show me a baseball coach. That’s a great fly fisherman or a great golfer. I’m gonna show you a crappy baseball coach. So as a coach, I think you’ve got to be careful with having those hobbies and really putting your time into your job and your family and, and finding your downtime as well. But yeah, very cool. Well, coach,

Geoffrey Rottmayer
thank you very much for coming on. board. We’ve we’ve covered a lot of things. You poured it out, man, and I Appreciate it.

Aaron Sutton
Yeah, thanks for having me on. It’s been a pleasure had a chance to share some info with you and thanks for reaching out

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Geoff Rottmayer

Geoff Rottmayer is the owner of Athletic Mission Baseball Academy, a training facility in Tulsa Oklahoma. Geoff also host The Baseball Awakening Podcast, which was developed to provide content to the baseball community straight from the source. In addition that that, Geoff, is helping coaches and professional start their own podcast and find their own voice.

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