Championship Coaches Corner
With Coach Joey Sato – Bingham High School
This week I am pleased to continue my Championship Coaches Corner with a friend of mine who I have great respect for. I have met many coaches across the country but yet to meet anyone who is more respected that Coach Sato within the state of Utah. He is everything a great head coach should be and a true knowledge hound who has sat in Denny’s with me until early in the morning and traded numerous emails with me after meeting two years ago. Soak up some knowledge from one of the best around. I always learn something from him every time we talk and hope you do as well.
Coach Justin Dehmer: What is your baseball/softball background? Resume? Talk about your program.
Coach Joey Sato: First I’d like to talk about Bingham’s baseball program.
Our baseball program has a rich legacy and tradition, dating back to the early 1930’s. The beginnings of our baseball program and tradition was featured in a July 5, 1999, Sports Illustrated article titled, “Bailey’s Boys”. The article is named after Bingham’s 1st baseball coach, Bailey Santistevan. Our baseball program was also honored at the turn of the century as the Salt Lake Tribune named Bingham Baseball the “top Utah high school baseball program of the last century”.
In the history of Bingham’s baseball program, we have won 32 region (conference) titles and with the 2013 State Championship, 21 total State Championships. This long standing tradition of baseball excellence is something our players are well aware of. It helps our ballclub knowing they are a part of something greater than each of them and they want to continue the tradition. Tradition is one of the cornerstones we build our program on and we rely on it heavily.
When our ball club is selected, we stress to our players that they are now a part of the great legacy of baseball at our school. It is important that they are aware of what legacy they leave behind as they graduate from the program. We constantly remind them that 5 years from now, no one will remember how many games they won or what their batting average was. What their teammates will remember is how you treated them. We hope that each player is able to leave a positive mark upon his teammates and the baseball program.
Began coaching career as an assistant baseball coach at high school alma mater, Bingham High School, while attending college at Univ. of Utah. (1975-78) Upon getting education/teaching degree hired as teacher at Bingham High and continued as assistant baseball coach, while also being an assistant basketball and football coach. Also coached high school summer league team from 1979-90. Became head baseball coach at Bingham in 1993, till present. Stopped coaching football in 1994 and stopped coaching basketball after the 2000 season.
Honors: Utah 5A Baseball coach of the year 1999 & 2003. 1999 Utah High School Activities Association Distinguished Service Award. BCA Rocky Mountain Region Coach of the Year 2011 & 2013. Utah High School Activities Association 5A Coach of the Year 2012.
I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of 11 of those 32 region titles as a head coach and 1 of those state championships as a player(1974), 4 as an assistant coach (1975, 1976, 1984, 1985) and 4 as a head coach (1999,2003,2011,2013).
Coach Justin Dehmer: What are some of the biggest factors in your success?
Coach Joey Sato: Talented Players, Loyal, Knowledgeable Staff, Work Ethic, Team Concept
We have been fortunate to have good players come through our program on a consistent basis. I don’t think any program can be successful without having talented players. We don’t have the types of players the California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, etc high schools have, but we’ve had our share of players who have been drafted and/or receive scholarships to continue their playing careers.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have loyal, knowledgeable coaches on staff. They are a huge part of the success our baseball program has had. I’ve tried to surround myself with the most knowledgeable baseball people I can, give them responsibilities, and let them coach. They have all done a wonderful job in not only teaching baseball skill development, but also help our players mature and grow in areas outside the diamond as well. 5 of the 6 members of our staff are also teachers, so we’re in the business of developing youth, which is our main concern. We’ve been fortunate enough to also have great stability in this area also. Assistants Rand Rasmussen(20 years), Scott Sommer (14 years), Justin McCoy(15 years), Bill McDonald(7years), and Jeremy Butterbaugh(7 years) have made great contributions to our program during those years. Rand Rasmussen and I were assistant coaches together under previous coach Brad Bevan for 5 seasons before I became the head coach. We are very familiar with each other and he has had a tremendous positive influence on our program. Coach Sommer and Coach McCoy are ex-Bingham players, so they are well versed in the traditions and workings of our baseball program. Coach McDonald has had a son go through our program so he is also well aware of the workings of Bingham baseball. Coach Butterbaugh has brought in a great attitude, knowledge and work ethic that has added greatly to our program. We are all on the same page and they all do an outstanding job of teaching the game and helping our players progress on and off the field.
We feel like a great reason for the success of our players is that they have developed a great work ethic. Our players understand that they must respect the game to be successful. To respect the game, you need to put the necessary time into developing your skills. As a team, we don’t have long practices, but our practices have become fast paced, and we feel like we work at the right things to help our team be successful. We make sure we pay attention to details and we will always try to make sure that no other team will work as efficiently or as hard as we do. That work ethic is not just during the high school season. We have a summer weights/conditioning program, summer league, fall instructional program, winter weights/conditioning, and a pre season skills development program. We try to use all those to give us an edge on our competition.
We try to heavily build upon a team concept. One of the big sayings Coach Sommer used this year was to … “be a part of something bigger than yourself”. We expect all our players to buy into the team concept and be on the “same page”. We will be successful if all players buy in and try to contribute to the success of their teammate, before worrying about their own success. As an example, offensively, we ask all of our players to know how to execute the short game, to understand situational hitting, and to be able to have a productive “team” at bat. One of the valuable stats we keep is a “team at bat”. To promote this further, all players in our program practice together. This year, that’s a total of 43. (11 srs./6 jrs./13 so./13 fr.) We expect our more experiencde players to set the right example and to teach the less experienced players how things are done. We include all of them in all the team activities we have and let them know that our success is based not only on how well the players on the field perform, but that the lowliest freshman better also perform his job well during the game.
Coach Justin Dehmer: What role has the mental game played in your success? How have you implemented the mental game in your program?
Coach Joey Sato: The mental game has played a huge role in our recent success. I believe that if you are not implementing some type of mental training with your players, you’re really missing the boat. Was it Yogi Berra that said “90% of the game is from the neck up, the other ½ is physical”. In his wisdom, Yogi is correct. A player who is mentally out of it, due to pressure, fear, anxiety, etc., will not be able to perform successfully no matter how perfect his mechanics are or how much practice he’s put in.
We started to implement phases of the mental game as long as 5 – 6 years ago. We began with being more process rather than results oriented. We started with having team process oriented scrimmages in practice and having process oriented goals for our team. We gathered those process oriented scrimmages from Coach Corbin at Vanderbilt. From there has evolved from team process oriented training to a more player process oriented approach to the game. In the past 3 years we’ve focused a great deal on helping the player learn how to use the mental game to help him be in the moment and help them perform successfully under any circumstance. We’re big on developing individual “routines”, to help players have the proper mental approach. We started using mental game signs in the dugout and giving the players a “mental toolbox” of phrases to use. These have now become pretty ingrained in our players make up. You’ll hear them use “win this pitch” or “get big” during certain points in the game. As an example, when our catcher Jake Druce was interviewed after our quarter final win, he was asked about playing for the state championship. He responded by saying that he was only worried about the “next 200 feet” and that the state final game was too far away. Referring to the idea that his focus would be on the next days practice and then the semi final game, and not looking too far in advance. We have borrowed mental game training from Brian Cain, Ken Ravizza, Bruce Brown, and yourself Coach Dehmer. To further the mental game training, we’ve also drawn relationships to being process oriented in all of our off season sessions. We will continue to look for ways to help our players in their mental approach to the game. Being more process oriented has helped them obtain the confidence to perform successfully.
Coach Justin Dehmer: How have you created a program of excellence? What advice can you give to others about making those strides from good to great?
Coach Joey Sato: “Tradition of Excellence” has been a trade mark of our program for many years. It did take me a long time to figure out how to insure that’s what we stood for. When I first became the head coach, I’m sure I worried too much about the wins and the losses. After a few years, I finally realized that type of approach wasn’t getting the success I wanted and wasn’t what I wanted our program to stand for. That’s when I analyzed what we wanted to stand for and what we wanted to do for our players. We began by asking our players to “to things right and do them right all the time”. This was not only on the field, but, in the classroom, at home, in the community, etc. That started back in the late 90’s. As we’ve become more clear in our approach in this area and with the help of Brian Cain, 4 years ago we began to use his acronym of P.R.I.D.E.. Personal Responsibility In Daily Excellence. Our players have bought into this philosophy. They know they are expected to do their best each day in all that they do. Now, our baseball players are expected to live by this creed year round. It has created a little more work by our staff, but it has also produced the desired outcome. We’ve had less off field issues with behavior and academics. Our players know what is expected of them and that there are consequences if they do not live up to the expectations.
To go from good to great, I think you have to develop a sound philosophy that reflects what you want to accomplish. Back in the late 90’s when implanting the change in our approach, I don’t know if I really had a sound philosophy. But when looking into what we wanted our baseball program to stand for, my philosophy became clear. We wanted our program to reflect a “Tradition of Excellence”. Something that not only our current players could be proud of, but all of the players who had played in the Bingham Baseball program, even dating back to “Bailey’s Boys”. When holding our opening meeting with our parents, here’s what I express to them…
1. Our main focus is to provide a positive experience for your son while he’s a part of our program. We want him to continue to love this great game and to develop some great relationships among his teammates and coaches,
2. We will try to help our players become good people, the best person they can become at this time and,
3. We will try to help them improve their baseball skills.
If we take care of those 3 things, we’ll probably find a good measure of success on the baseball field. That basic philosophy has helped us generate the success we’ve had in our program.
If you would like to checkout Bingham’s Core Covenants Coach Sato has been gracious enough to share with other coaches. I have provided a link to them here: Core Covenants
Coach Justin Dehmer: What are the things you love most about coaching? What keeps you motivated?
Coach Joey Sato: Building the relationships with the players and being a part of a group working toward a common goal. I really enjoy watching the players grow and progress as young men and as players. Seeing the players mature in their approach to their academics, their decision making skills, and in how they relate to others is very gratifying. What we look forward to and even more gratifying is when we have past players come back. They are constantly stopping by the field during games and practices. During games, its great to have them back in the dugout and then to visit with them after practice or games are finished. I think that is also a measure of how successful the philosophy of our program is.
I am basically motivated by fear. Because of the rich tradition and the great baseball coaches in the past who have continued that great tradition, I don’t want to be the guy who tore down the Bingham baseball program.
Coach Justin Dehmer: What is your favorite practice technique, drill, or game that you use at your practice that others can use right now within their program?
Coach Joey Sato: Our practices have changed drastically within the past 5 – 6 years. We utilize many more game speed/game simulated drills.
Here’s a game speed drill we’ve picked up from Coach Price at Kansas at the ABCA Clinic a few years ago which combines both and offensive and defensive component.
Simple explanation is one team in the field and one at bat.
Team at bat also has a runner on 1st.
Coach pitch behind L screen or can soft toss to hitter.
Hitter takes 2 swings. On 1st swing, if it’s a ground ball, the infield turns a double play. If it’s a ball that gets through the infield, the outfield makes the throw to 3B as if there was a runner trying to go from 1st to 3rd. Infielders should be in proper cut off position or at respective bases. The runner at 1B does NOT run on the first ball hit.
On the second ball hit, the runner on 1st plays as if in a game and the hitter does also. The goal of the offense is for the runner on 1st to get to 3B and the hitter to get to 2B.
Defensively, if the ball is hit on the ground the infielders are to let it go into the outfield, and they are to get into position to make the play at 3B. Outfielders are to try to throw the runner out at 3B
Goal of the defense is to hold the runner at 1B from getting to 3B or to throw out the runner at 3B while also not allowing the hitter to get to 2B.
If you have any questions you can contact Coach Sato via email at joe.sato