The First Base Foundation and California Warriors constantly look for ways to expand our influence in order to help more young people successfully grow into their adult lives. One of the ways that we have used the game of baseball to help our alumni develop important life and job skills is through the First Base Foundation’s Coach Development Program, which was formalized for the 2017 season after existing unofficially for many seasons. California Warriors alumni who are current or former collegiate baseball players have the chance to rejoin the California Warriors as an Assistant Coach and receive training as they work their way towards becoming a Head Coach. This is an excellent opportunity for California Warriors alumni to develop leadership and interpersonal communication skills while ensuring the current California Warriors players are being coached by skilled baseball players who understand and grew out of the positive and fun California Warriors culture.
The 2017 California Warriors coaching staff consists of a mix of current and former collegiate athletes, all of whom came through the California Warriors program as players. The head coaches for 2017 are Anthony Firenzi (Niagara University, 2015), Cameron Merriwether (Sonoma State University, 2015), Dominic DeVille (University of Montevallo, 2017), and Michael Praszker (Santa Clara University, 2020), each of whom has experience playing at either the D-I or D-II level. The assistant coaches for the summer of 2017 are Joe Jimenez (Chapman University, 2020) and Christian Merriwether (College of Marin, 2020). These coaches, led by Vice President of Baseball Operations Ryan Burke (San Francisco State University, 2016), act as positive role models and mentors for the California Warriors players and help the California Warriors teams operate efficiently.
Moving from playing to coaching is a transition that many athletes make as their playing days draw to a close. Transitioning to the coaching world means having to see the game from a different perspective. As California Warriors Blue Team Head Coach Mike Praszker put it, “Seeing the game as a coach has allowed me to improve my own ability to accept constructive criticism as a player.” Mike understands that from the players’ perspective, criticism can often come off as negative, but a good coach is able to present the criticism in a way that allows the player to internalize the information and use it as a tool to improve. Being able to see this interaction from the coach’s standpoint has helped him see criticism in a positive light, something that will be essential to his success at Santa Clara University, where he just finished his freshman season.
The summer 2017 season was the first one spent as a coach for rising college sophomore Joe Jimenez, and the experience has been a powerful one. “Coaching this summer gave me a chance to work on soft skills that I can use in whichever career path I choose when I graduate from Chapman. While I am usually on the field as a player, this summer as a coach has given me a new perspective and made me think about the game on a level that I hadn’t before, something that will definitely continue to help me in my playing career.” As someone still playing ball, Joe is able to connect on a personal level with the California Warriors players, creating a comfortable environment and proving himself to be an invaluable asset to the organization. While putting a lot into the California Warriors program, Joe has also gained skills through the Coaching Development Program that will prove useful as he explores new walks of life.
Dominic DeVille is another of our coaches who is making the transition from player to coach as he just finished playing college ball at D-II University of Montevallo in Alabama. “The First Base Foundation’s Coaches Development Program has helped open the possibly of making coaching a career for me. I will be attending graduate school for a Master’s degree in Sports Management, and the First Base Foundation has really helped me become familiar with all aspects of a sports organization. I have learned the ins and outs of being a head coach, and have been introduced to what it is like working in the front office of a baseball organization. The skills and experience the First Base Foundation has given me are very valuable and will most definitely help me in my future career path.” Dominic’s experience with the First Base Foundation is a great example of the range of opportunities that arise from taking part in the CDP – learning about the inner workings of the organization in addition to coaching is a unique experience that is a hallmark of the First Base Foundation’s Coach Development Program.
This summer marked another year of great success with the Coach Development Program. The California Warriors coaches have been given the opportunity to learn what it is like be a head or assistant coach and have developed the skills necessary to work with young baseball players. There is a symbiosis present in the Coach Development Program, where our coaches share their experiences and knowledge while gaining valuable job experience. It is an avenue for individuals committed to mentoring, building relationships, working during the summer, learning valuable lessons in team building and strategies, and wanting to build their resume and networking in baseball. We look forward to watching our current and former Coach Development Program participants grow and develop as coaches and members of the workforce. We cannot wait to welcome next year’s coaches for the summer of 2018!