What you should know about Brock Keener

CLPB Head Coach Interview: By Jordan Wolff

 Brock Keener, South Florida Sailfish

 How did you get into baseball as a player?

 “I just always played it growing up, and I just fell in love with it. I just kept playing until I couldn’t.”

It was sort of a mentality of I really like it and until I don’t like it anymore, I want to continue to play it?

 “I found all my best friends through there. I moved around a lot growing up and baseball was a constant no matter where I lived. No matter where I was, I could always find a home on a baseball field.”

Do you have any siblings?

 “I have a brother who is a sophomore in college and a sister who is about to graduate high school.”

Do you mentor them as to how to carry themselves in life or do they mentor you and teach you valuable things?

 “I describe it as lead by example, no matter what you are doing. They’re into their own things as my brother is into designing video games and my sister is trying to become a lawyer. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it because if you don’t then it’s not worth it. That’s why I love baseball and want to teach the game forever. I tried to show them that if you enjoy something and work hard at it, then it’s not really a job.”

How did you start getting into coaching after being a player?

 I didn’t go straight to Michigan, as I am from Houston, Texas. I went the University of Lafayette in Louisiana, then transferred to a junior college and somehow ended up at Michigan. As I was taking some classes to prepare me for the future, I couldn’t picture myself sitting in an office. I was always a student of the game as I was a catcher and cared about the ins and outs of the game. That’s why I was like man I really want to do this. I enjoy helping guys who have way more talent than me reach their full potential. That’s why I love coaching!”

Why do you think in today’s game, that catchers are getting hired as managers?

 “I think with catchers, they always have to know what’s going on. On a ball field, you have nine guys, eight looking at the catcher and the catcher looking at everyone else. Catchers are the only position facing the opposite direction and at practices, position players usually do their own thing. Catchers have to bounce between them which gets them the full team experience.”

Did they offer you an opportunity at Michigan?

 “Around the end of my senior year, I talked to my head coach about getting into coaching and how that would work. Michigan didn’t take all of my college credits so I was going to come back in the fall anyways. I told my coach that I was going to be here anyway, and that all of my best friends are either on the team or are all gone. I wanted to use this opportunity and do whatever you need because I just wanted to be around and learn. I kind of understood how practices were run, but I wanted to learn the behind the scenes action such as recruiting talks, how practices are formed earlier in the day with all the coaches and what they valued as important to practice. After one semester, I couldn’t graduate but I decided to extend it by taking one class so I could the same role. I got to student-coach with the guys by throwing batting practice and fielding ground balls, and when I didn’t do that I was with the coaches. It was awesome because one game I got to shadow the head coach, one game I got to shadow the third base coach to see the different aspects that it takes for a team to win.”

Being from Texas and spending time in Michigan, what drew you to want to be a head coach in Florida?

 “It’s wherever the opportunity is. I’m not real picky as to where I’m at, as long as it’s a good fit and I can learn, grow and add value. I seemed like a great fit down in Florida and it’s going to be warm. Especially with the Cressey facilities be connected with it, I’m able to learn without physically coaching the team on how players can use their bodies to be more productive on the field. It seemed like a great opportunity to get coaching experience under my belt while learning from guys who know a lot more than me.”

Besides calling the shots in the dugout, you’re able to see how players train on a daily basis?

 “The way Cressey is doing it, I’ve always wondered why they’re little dudes who can hit home runs and big guys that can’t figure it out. The same thing with pitching with guys who can throw really hard and guys that can’t. Cressey is all about making the body be one fluid motion and how to activate everything, and it’s just next-level. When I saw the opportunity to coach and be able to teach that to whatever players I coach next, it just seemed like a perfect fit.”

You talked about the aggressive approach you took at Michigan to become a coach, is that something you will instill in your players?

 “I’m not a fan of just coaching without explaining. I want the guys to understand why they are doing certain things. It may not make sense when you’re explaining a drill, but by explaining the bigger picture they won’t expect results to happen immediately.”

What is one aspect of today’s game that you want to see improved?

 “One thing I want to emphasize is the player to coach relationship. I feel like in certain scenarios, there is a distinct gap between players and coaches. If coach is constantly barking at a guy, it’s hard to differentiate what is the important message versus what is not. If you build a relationship with your players, when you sit them down they understand okay this really holds some weight, He’s trying to talk to me as a person and is going out of his way to explain things and make me understand them.”

 Your main point is to make sure guys are also in the right state of mind to play the game?

 “For a while, I had a hard time understanding that I’m not just a baseball player. I always thought I am a baseball player and my name is Brock, when in reality my name is Brock and I happen to play baseball. That’s my passion and I want more guys to understand that mentality.”

Who’s a player that you always tried to model yourself after and look up to?

 “Craig Biggio was my dude growing up. He came up as catcher, then moved to center field and even played second base for a little bit. He did whatever it took for the team to be the best and win. When Jeff Kent came to second base, he went to the outfield. That’s who I try to model my game after because he’s tough, hard-nosed player, who is not afraid to get hit a little bit. Not afraid to bounce back and even when he’s not feeling his best, he’s still trying to do whatever it takes for the team to win.”

Who’s a coach that you look up to?

 “My head coach Erik Bakich at Michigan has been great. I can’t thank that dude enough because he’s the reason I got this opportunity. He put my name in without me knowing about it and he’s a genuinely great dude. I also grew up watching the coach at Texas, who was hard-nosed, but got the players to work. Everyone always sees videos of him screaming, but they don’t see the work done behind the scenes. Those two guys definitely helped me out in the long-run.”

Is there anything else you would like to add?

 “I’m super blessed and excited for this opportunity. I can’t wait to get down there and get to work with the guys. I know the whole point is to win games, but summer ball is for player development. When these players return to their teams in the fall, I want the coaches to say damn these players got better. That’s what I’m excited for to help these guys grow. A lot of these guys are freshman and sophomores and are maturing from younger to more manly bodies. This is the time to make that jump and I want to be a big part of that.”

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