The first pitch: A sit down with Jeff Andrews

Jeff Andrews as he throws batting practice.

Jeff Andrews as he throws batting practice.

Pitching and defense is highly sought after in the game of baseball. It’s arguably where everything starts and finishes for a club and having that distinct advantage can mean the difference between making or missing the playoffs. RoughRiders pitching coach Jeff Andrews has learned a thing or two over the course of his career about mentoring the young arms that the Rangers might depend upon come October, and he knows exactly what to look for.

“Consistency. Consistency from day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year. It’s about trying to get the guys to understand that the big picture is ‘What are we going to look like?’, and at the end of the year have we improved or gotten better. It’s about looking at one bad outing or two bad outings and changing the way we pitch. If they’re better at the end of the year than they were at the beginning of the year then it’s been a successful season,” Andrews says.

Establishing that consistency can be difficult for these young talents as they work their way through the Rangers’ organization, but effort is something that stands out to Andrews as he mentors his young prospects.

“Coming ready to compete is probably the number one thing I look for. It’s not about creating an idea in their mind that the other team is really good or that the next level is really good, but coming with the idea that they can control certain things, they can control their effort level, they can control their attitude, and they can come to the ballpark everyday with that and see where it leads them,” Andrews said.

He added by saying, “It’s about staying in the middle and having a consistent routine as far as having a consistent day-to-day outlook that gets you through.”

Jeff is in his 30th season as a minor league instructor and his experience with the Rangers first began in 1986, which was his first stint with the club. He acquired big league coaching experience serving as the Pirates pitching coach in 2008 and says that technology has come a very long way changing the day-to-day functions of his job.

“When I started doing this there were no cell phones or computers so the back-and-forth distribution of information, or even phone calls to Arlington weren’t easy, Andrews said. “We’d be on the bus for ten hours and you’d never hear from anybody and now it’s texts, emails and phone calls coming at you all the time. I think it’s made it better and worse just like anything, it has it’s good points and bad points.”

There are hundreds of different outcomes that can happen after a pitch or because of how a pitch is executed and Andrews says, “Sometimes I think we become so handcuffed mentally and physically by too much information that we forget to use our brain to think. We have to adjust to certain situations because when there are guys all over the bases and we just gave up a two-run double the information isn’t there. You’re in survival mode and competing mode and you rely on your instincts to get you out of the situation.”

The Rangers have acquired these pitchers because they understand the value that they can bring to the club and are looking forward to seeing the true potential they hold. Andrews understands that, but he also sees something more than what the box score says in the morning paper.

“The biggest reward is just watching guys get better. A lot of people think you get enjoyment out of working with the best talent, and that’s not necessarily so, because you look for the guys with the most drive to really grind and try and understand what the minor leagues and what development is all about,” Andrews said.

“Watching them go forward and watching them improve and go up the system can be very rewarding,” he added.

“I have a special place in my heart for guys that know they aren’t the most talented but they compete as hard or harder than anybody. The ones that have the talent and compete are the ones that succeed, but as far as having favorites, I don’t know if I have any. I just know that there are guys that I enjoy working with and being around that love baseball,” he said.

Every team has an identity and strives to execute the small things on a consistent basis. It’s the foundation of a winning club, the backbone of a pennant race, and is what Andrews and the Rangers work to improve every single day.

-Cameron Varnau

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