During the 7th EBCA Convention in Cologne, Germany, Greg Frady not only spoke about developing a game strategy and positive coaching, but the head coach of the German National Team and the Georgia State University also received the 2010 EBCA Coach of the Year Award. On Sunday Mister-Baseball had some time to talk with Greg Frady about the award, coaching, Kai Gronauer and German Baseball in general.
Greg Frady: The EBCA Award means very much to me, because it means that the German team had success. When I started the job one of my goals was that the German team perception in the International Baseball community would be respect. And I think that was what we searched for as an organization. This award signifies that we have taking some strides in this area. Ultimately we haven’t reached our final goal or destination. But we’re making a good progress right now. When you win an award like this, it also represents many people, players, coaches, the DBV administration. Some names that stand out to me: Jürgen Elsishans, Michel Gomez, Jesco Veisz, Arndt Wiedmaier, Tobias Wersig, and of course Troy Williams. These people have worked with me from the beginning and have been able to see the German team to get a progression. So the award means a lot to me and I am honored to get it.
MRBB: Did you follow the EBCA? And how important are such clinics for European Baseball?
GF: I always follow the EBCA and I am a big supporter of the EBCA. This is a young organization and it is continuing to grow. But I think the future looks very bright. I think these clinics are important for everyone to share information about Baseball and how Baseball is done. Always when I am asked to speak on a clinic, I take a great pride and honor to do it and hope that my messages will help others with Baseball. And at the same time I am always learning from the other speakers at the clinic. I am trying to pick up new things. That is what we do as Baseball people. We share information to the others.
MRBB: What are the main differences between working at Georgia State and with the German National Team?
GF: The players are the same. Baseball is the same. The travel is the same. Dealing with all the aspects of the game like umpires, weather, conditions, tournaments, important games, everything is the same. The difference is that I get to spend every day with the Georgia State players and I get very little time with the German players, because the German National Team only gets together for a short period of time. So I think the thing that I am always missing with the German team is, I wish we had more time together.
MRBB: The Dutch team is working with their players on a regular basis, nearly full-time, trying to get better. Are you and the coaching staff having a similar approach and give the national team players personal plans to improve their skills when they are not with the national team?
GF: At the end of the season in the past dating back to a few years we sat down with each German player and had one-to-one, face-to-face meetings to say these are your strengths and these are your weaknesses. You need to improve these things over the winter. And we implement these plans with the German National Team coaches, the regional coaches like Mathias Winterrath, Martin Brunner in Regensburg, with Cae Santos in Mainz who now has moved on. You’ll see Troy Williams in the future to take a more active role in these things. Mathias Winterrath, who is now the German Junior National Team coach, is continuing in this role. You’ll see a transaction taking place.
One other thing that the Dutch have going well is their country is a little smaller so the people are closer. So they can drive and meet on a more regular basis. We have national team players that live in Munich and we have national team players that live in Paderborn. That is difficult thing, if you want them meet every week. So the size of the land and the proximity to one location is a very big challenge for the German team. So what is important regionally is the north, the center and the south, so we get these players together as much as possible in the middle of the week and they work on things.
MRBB: Are you talking to the club coaches about your players?
GF: Yes, I talk to club coaches. But probably not as much as you think. Because I think club business is not national team business. I respect club business. Each club coach must things to do to keep their job and keep his club winning. And I am not calling the club coach and say don’t pitch that guy, because I need him for the national team. I never do that. But I do talk to the club coaches to say who is playing well? Who do you like? Who do you recommend? Is this guy a little bit old now? Is the young guy old enough now? These are the kind of communications I have, not as much as about to play different people.
GF: We just need more time. If you look at the last seven years, when I came here there was no chance mentally to discuss beating the Dutch or the Italian team. No chance. And then now, when we play those teams, the games are better and we have a chance. So with a good plan we closed the gap with them being on the top and we close to the bottom. But we still haven’t beaten the Dutch or the Italian teams.
I am happy with where we are today. I think the team doesn’t fear playing those teams. But we have a lot of respect for these teams. One of the other things I said to the German players is that when we’re going playing in the World Cups, when we’re playing Final Olympic Qualifiers. When we’re playing in tournaments like that and we can see how difficult it is to play teams like Japan, South Korea, the United States, Venezuela, Cuba, Australia, Canada, Mexico. Every single day is a brand new very hard game and then you see that the Dutch have been doing this for several years, it makes you respect what the Dutch has gone through.
And the way the Dutch looked at the German team, haven’t performed in World Cups and Final Olympics Qualifiers, it is hard to respect a team which is not doing the same thing you’re doing on the World level. But by participating in these tournaments, gaining some experience. I think we’ve earned some respect in the international world of being there. Now being in these tournaments and playing well, hopefully this will help us keeping a confidence when we’re playing the Dutch team and the Italians and giving us a better chance to compete with them.
MRBB: How much do you follow European Baseball in general?
GF: Of course I follow German Baseball. Closely. I follow the Italian League, the Dutch League, the Spanish League. Not as closely as the German league, but I have an idea what is going on there. I follow the Czech League some. But in general I focus on the German team and this is where I spend all my time and energy.
I am very proud of the German clubs. It was a great year for German Baseball. Paderborn winning the opening tournament in Regensburg was a good representation for the north. Heidenheim had a great representation at the European Cups this year. Regensburg won the Bundesliga championship. And the German national team won a medal in the European Championship. I think it was a very good year for German Baseball.
MRBB: You’re a college coach for basically your whole career. Do you consider coaching at a professional level or a club team in the future?
GF: Well, I always keep my options open. But I am very comfortable coaching the teams that I coach. I love coaching Georgia State University and being a college coach. College coaching is different from pro coaching in the way that they are more stable. The job has more security. The money is good. The competition, the travel, the hotel, the food is very good at the Division I level. And it is also very good at the Major League level, of course. But it takes a long time coaching in professional baseball to work up to something like a major league coach. It also equally takes a long time as a college coach to work up to become a Division I college coach.
So in a way you almost choose your track. Are you going to be a college coach or are you going to be a professional coach. I think there are really a lot of good college coaches that probably could be professional coaches and there are a lot of really good professional coaches that could come over to become good college coaches. So just being in Baseball is my love and I love coaching at the college level. But coaching the German team with the college team is kind of the best for me from both worlds. Coaching a pro team like the Germans, although it is not professional and coaching a college team every day, watching young guys improve and get baseball improving
MRBB: Is Georgia State University supporting your role as German national team coach?
GF: Very much support. At Georgia State I am looking at it as I am a teacher, coaching is teaching. Being a teacher at a University level. If you get the job, you have to have a good knowledge of your job area. You’re looked at as a University employee, the leading person in this area. It is your responsibility that you share your knowledge with the rest of the world. So I look at myself as a Baseball ambassador, a baseball professor going out into the world, doing work in the world, while I am working for the University. And I think that our University at Georgia State sees it that way too. They are very proud what the German team has accomplished and working it as cooperation.
GF: What he already can do is playing Baseball fantastic. He is making everyone in Germany very proud of the way he is doing things. He is catching outstanding, throwing the ball outstanding, blocking outstanding. He is calling a better game all the time. He is handling pitching staffs better. He is handling higher quality pitching staffs, Double-A, Triple-A, some big league guys. He has been invited to big league spring training this year. I think he is going to start at a higher level next year in pro ball. He is doing just some outstanding things.
The things Kai needs to improve on. Every time you change levels and move up, there is a question of ‘Am I being good enough for this level?’ He is going through a lot of first times. Kai doesn’t have any other German players to call: What was it like in the Arizona Fall League? What will it be like if I go to Double-A? What will it be like to get to big league baseball? He may ask a guy, who is from Venezuela, how he thinks about it. He could ask the guy from the US, how he thinks about it. But he has no German player to talk about it.
And the German league is different from the Dutch league and the Dutch league is different from the Italian league or the Czech league. It is just a brand new experience for Kai. He is handling it fantastic. I couldn’t be more proud of him. And when I go watch him play, the only thing I can thinking, he is one of the best baseball players in the world and he is making all Germans proud right now.
MRBB: What about Donald Lutz? Are you also following him in the US?
GF: Yes, I am following Donald Lutz. I am emailing with him. I went seeing Donald in the past two years. I think Donald is doing a fantastic job. Right now he is in the Australian Baseball League and he is getting more time to play the outfield. He is playing a lot of first base in the regular season. But the organization wants him to play in the outfield, so he is getting some work in the outfield. But Donald’s chance to go up on the organizational ladder or to play in the big leagues is based on, he is big, he is strong, he is left-handed and has some power. So his hitting is what takes him up the ladder. Donald is doing a great job. I think his best baseball is still to come for him.
MRBB: Did you also have a chance to see Max Kepler-Rozycki?
GF: Yes, I have seen Max Kepler, not in the US or in professional baseball. He is the great prospect right now, the big-money prospect. The money alone what the organization paid him, will give him a chance to go up the ladder. Some of the guys have to prove they can play, I think Max with the money he got he has to prove that he cannot play. So he always will be giving a good chance to move up the ladder.
GF: That is a tough question. The German league is better than some might think. The competition is really good, when the game is being played. I like that. I think the league is getting better every year and is improving. I don’t think that a German player has to leave to get a good competition anymore. But with that said, the reason every German player has to consider playing outside of Germany is that the league is still only a one-day a week league, but Baseball is a game of every day.
I really would love German baseball go to Wednesday games, so you play at least two days a week, three games a week. Some of the clubs in Germany have gone to a Friday night/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday. I think that is fantastic. If all the clubs could get to two single games on the weekend and a single game in the middle of the week, I think the league again would improve and people would not have to look outside of the league as much.
The reason to look outside the league is that you play more games a week, maybe two, three, four, five, six or even seven depending where you’re going. You’re taking batting practice every day. You’re taking groundballs every day. You’re throwing every day. You’re working on your running, fitness, conditioning, your strength and conditioning. Everything starts to kick in to accelerate your improvement as a player.
And there are really some great clubs in Germany that doing a good job of having middle-of-the-week intra-squad games. The strength and conditioning is really good. The practicing every day is really good. And yet there are still some clubs that only practice one or two times a week and only play on Saturday. So depending on which club you’re in, depending where you’re at, there is maybe more a need to play outside of Germany then in other clubs.
In general for every European, an Italian, Dutch, German, it doesn’t matter. The experience of going to another country and another continent, playing and seeing how a different culture lives and understanding baseball from this perspective can only improve that player and when this player comes back it will improve the younger players at his club.
MRBB: What are the plans for the German National Team in 2011?
GF: Success. I wish I could tell you this. But right now we’re waiting for a lot of information about different events. The German team is qualified for the 2011 World Cup. And it is a very good tournament and a very good event. But we also remain hopeful to be part of the World Baseball Classic. That is right now the goal for the German federation, to be in the World Baseball Classic. We feel like that is very the money is for our organizations that are serious about playing baseball in the future. We go to be involved in that. And that is our goal.
We have opportunities for other world-type tournaments that are not involved in the World Cup and the World Baseball Classic, really high level invitational tournaments. We are considering those. But with the loss of Olympic funding, the unknown of the World Baseball Classic, the German organization, as other organizations in Europe too, are dealing with some reduced funding and so we must be very wise how we spent our money. How we train our players. Where we take our players. Trips that would sound cool that might be fun are not what we’re looking at. We’re looking at the best tournaments with the best competition with the most games that we can afford to train our players. So planning for 2011 is unclear, but we have a lot of choices at the moment.
Mister-Baseball thanks Greg Frady for taking his time to answer our questions
Photo: (c) EBCA Fanpage (top right) and Gregor Eisenhuth, www.eisenhuth-photographie.de