It’s a new dawn for the Baltimore Orioles.
The team is looking outside of traditional channels to find support throughout the organization. From analytics to business operations, the Orioles are changing the way they’ve traditionally run the club.
This new direction also applies to all of the minor-league affiliates. The Orioles recently looked to the commercial training ranks to find support for player development. The team hired Tim Gibbons from Be Elite Sports Training to serve as the hitting coach for the Double-A Bowie Baysox and Ryan Fuller from Power in Training to be the hitting coach for the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds.
Gibbons and Fuller are able to blend traditional hitting instruction with the latest technology when working with their pupils.
“I really try to bridge the old-school approach with the new-school approach to get the players to buy in,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons had been interacting with Ryan Johansen, a minor-league coach for the Chicago White Sox, about getting a job with a major-league franchise. He later saw a job posting by the Orioles on TeamWork Online about a minor-league hitting coach job. Gibbons applied for the position and received a call two days later from Matt Blood, who is in his first year with the Orioles as director of player development.
Gibbons and Blood spoke for about 90 minutes by phone, which led to a series of face-to-face interviews during an eight-hour period at Camden Yards.
“They decided to bring me on board, which is absolutely awesome,” Gibbons said. “I’m beyond excited about the opportunity.”
Gibbons spent the past six years in Florida with Be Elite Sports Training before recently moving to New York. Gibbons has worked with players at every level to improve their hitting skills.
One of the strategies is using motion sensors on knob of the bat, which track all types of data, ranging from:
• Bat speed: The speed of the bat at contact.
• Attack angle: The angle of the bat at contact, where a swing that is parallel to the ground is zero degrees.
• Time-to-contact: The time it takes for a hitter to make contact with the ball from the start of the swing.
Gibbons then uses that feedback to guide his instruction.
“I think that’s the primary reason that Baltimore was interested in me and why I qualified for a professional job,” Gibbons said. “Being able to use the data and the analytics behind the swing and mechanics and formulate a plan to help better develop players.”
The data gives tangible, objective feedback to hitters, according to Gibbons.
“If you’re telling a player to put his hands higher or lower or widen his stance, it gives real feedback as far as the actual bat speed [of those swings],” Gibbons said. “Are you approaching the hitting zone at an effective attack angle or not? It allows us to make better decisions because we’re getting real information.”
While Gibbons plans to create opportunities with the latest technology, his primary goal is to build relationships with the players. Once that trust is built, they can more seamlessly move forward with the instruction.
“We can talk about data and technology all day long, but if your players aren’t buying into what you’re doing as a coach, then it doesn’t matter,” Gibbons said. “It’s all about getting the players’ trust. I mostly consider myself a new-school coach with all of the data and tech. I show lots of videos.”
Fuller was a hitting instructor at Power in Training before joining Delmarva’s staff. He played collegiately at the University of Connecticut and was in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization in 2012.
The process that landed Fuller with the Orioles was a whirlwind.
“Pretty crazy. Two months ago, [pro ball] wasn’t on my radar at all,” he said. “I thought it was something that I would love to do but didn’t know it could happen. Just through coaches that were getting hired by the Orioles and putting my name out there. I have a pretty good social media presence. It was just making connections through that and making some phone calls. I got an interview and it worked out great.”
Fuller met with Blood, Orioles assistant general manager Sig Mejdal and other staff during the interview process. They shared the same vision for the direction of the club.
“It was just so clear that they’re doing innovative things, they believe in collaboration, they’re creative and evidence-based,” Fuller said. “They’re just really positive guys. So, when I went down there and kind of got a feel for the culture, it was just something I couldn’t pass up.”
Fuller is confident the philosophy he developed in the private sector will translate seamlessly to the Orioles’ organization. At Power in Training, the goals were hitting the ball hard, hitting line drives as much as possible and for players to understand their swings better.
“We have plenty of technology that we use and we have players from little league all the way up to the pro ranks come in every offseason,” Fuller said. “It’s been great to work at my craft every day, see what works. That experience will help me as I go into my first year of pro ball.”
One of the advantages of the private sector is being able to try things out, see what works and what doesn’t work, according to Fuller. The Orioles assured him they are fully on board with him having the freedom to try out things out.
Fuller agreed with Gibbons that the No. 1 goal is to form a bond with the players.
“In terms of my vision for the role in my first year is just creating good relationships with everybody in the organization: the players, the coaches, the front office, the support staff,” Fuller said. “Just building on the culture that’s already in place there. Hopefully with the Shorebirds, we create an atmosphere where guys love to come to work every day. Hopefully, they can look back and say it helped prepare them for the big leagues and it’s one of the best years they’ve had in pro ball.”
Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
Originally published Dec. 18, 2019