Two ex-Phillies turn focus to coaching minor leaguers

Coaching the Threshers requires new focus, they say.
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CLEARWATER

When the playing days of Rob Ducey and Steve Schrenk ended, neither wanted to give up the game that they loved.

With their physical ability diminished, the logical next step was to continue their careers on the coaching side of baseball.

"This is what I've done my whole life ever since I was 5, was baseball, so it was part of my life," Schrenk said. "I just want to continue it, work with kids, get them better."

Now the former Phillies teammates are teaching the game that they love with Philadelphia's Advanced-A affiliate— Schrenk as the Clearwater Threshers' pitching coach and Ducey as the hitting coach.

Once his career came to a close, Clearwater was Schrenk's first coaching job, while Ducey has had stops in the player development departments of Montreal, New York, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Arizona.

For both, the most challenging aspect of the adjustment from playing to coaching was learning to focus on their group of players instead of their own individual roles.

"I think that's the biggest thing probably, learning how to teach in different ways and what works for each guy individually," Schrenk said. "In essence, when you're playing, you worry about yourself and your team and you kind of worry about what you're doing. Now you're in charge of taking care of everybody."

And at times, "everybody" can be a lot of people.

During spring training, Ducey and Schrenk, along with five other pitching and hitting coaches in the Philadelphia organization, are responsible for 180 players. And the coaching staff still is expected to maintain an individual relationship with each player.

"The organization builds a database as far as player movement from city to city, and the notes that are carried on from the hitting coaches and managers and pitching coaches that have had the player in the past," Ducey said. "There's constant communication between the levels … making sure that we as a staff know the individual player that's coming in."

That knowledge will include more than just the players' certain skill set. Ducey and Schrenk try to know each of the Threshers' on a more personal level.

"We have to teach them not only how to be accountable on the field, but off the field," Schrenk said.

But that comes in addition to the extensive amount of time Schrenk and Ducey spend working with players on the fundamentals of the game.

Ducey's day begins in the cages doing individual work with players looking to make adjustments. Once that ends, it's time for stretching and batting practice on the field where Ducey leads players through fielding and base-running drills as well.

Schrenk's pitchers start each game day by throwing bullpen sessions. After helping shag balls during batting practice, Schrenk schools his staff on the mental side of the game.

"There's probably some mental stuff for us as far as the pitching, getting ready, mentally learning how to pitch guys and what we might do with sequences and stuff like that," Schrenk said.

When players learn from these teaching moments and move on to the organization's next level, it gives Ducey and Schrenk their greatest feeling of accomplishment.

"That's why we're here," Ducey said. "They assign these players that have very good physical ability and it's our job to teach them how to be major-league players."

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