Remembering 2014: Paul Fletcher Profile
The off-season is upon us, but we have plenty of content to keep you occupied here at BlogToBlogChamps. Each Monday, we’ll publish a feature from the 2014 York Revolutionary Times, the official game day magazine of the York Revolution, for you to re-enjoy, or read for the first time in case you missed it at the ballpark. This week, learn more about Revolution pitching coach Paul Fletcher. After his first season in the Atlantic League in 2014, he’ll be returning for a second season.
By Ron Gardner
There are a quite a few successful pitching coaches at all levels of professional baseball that would freely confess that they spend very little time actually coaching their pitchers on how best to deliver a pitch to a hitter.
Today’s pitching coaches are an amalgam of roles that includes being a part-time mentor and part-time psychologist, a mystic guide, a trusted confidant and best friend, a sometimes babysitter and an unwavering cheerleader.
Revolution first-year pitching coach Paul Fletcher has no reluctance disclosing the secret to his success in molding his group of pitchers into one of the Atlantic League’s top staffs.
“Being the cheerleader,” says Fletcher, with a robust laugh. “Pitching’s a lot about confidence. Mechanically, these guys are all very good. There’s little things here or there that everybody has, but it’s more keeping their confidence up, keeping them into the games, focused into their roles, understanding what their roles are, and getting them to produce in those roles. That’s what I spend most of my time on – more cheerleading than anything.
“They’ve been real good, they work hard themselves. I told them from the beginning you know your routine. I’m not going to force you to do something because I think it’s right. You know what you need and let’s work off of that. It’s communicating with them (about) what’s going on, making suggestions, keeping their heads up, that kind of stuff.”
Whatever the 44-year-old Fletcher is selling to his pitchers, they’re obviously buying as the Revolution surged to the Freedom Division’s first-half title, ensuring that York will be back in the Atlantic League playoffs for the first time since 2012. York pitchers compiled a 3.36 team ERA in the season’s first half, ranking third in the league. By comparison, the lowest team ERA in club history was 3.99 in 2012. In the 70 games that York played in the first half, the starting pitchers allowed three earned runs or fewer in 55 of those contests. The Revs also held opponents to a .249 batting average (second lowest in the league) in the first half and their 1.25 WHIP was also the league’s second best mark.
Fletcher was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 24th round in 1992 out of the University of Tennessee, where he was an all-SEC selection in 1991, breaking school records for wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. The 5-10 left-handed pitcher’s professional career lasted just five years, bouncing back and forth between the Class A level with the Royals and Chicago White Sox organizations and the Frontier League. He posted a career 3.16 ERA (12-12 record) in 103 professional appearances before retiring as a player in 1996 to begin a new career as a coach.
Fletcher was the pitching coach for the Springfield (Ill.) Capitals in 1997 and 1998 and served as the team’s manager in 1999. In the 15 years since managing in Springfield, Fletcher may have been away from the field at the professional level, but his life has never taken him away from the game of baseball.
He initially went into scouting full-time for the San Diego Padres for several years before moving back home to his native state of Georgia after his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to their son Bradon (now age 14).
“I was doing the scouting and, I’ll be honest with you, my wife had our son and the travel for the scouting, the pressure of the pre-draft scouting – everything has to be spot-on and that’s tough,” Fletcher said. “Baseball’s not one of those spot-on deals you know. I got kind of turned off on the whole way scouting went at that time and wanted to get back to coaching.”
Fletcher got his wish at the Lovett School (High School), serving as pitching coach from 2004-10 and helping guide Lovett to two AA state titles and finishing as runner-up twice. While at Lovett, he sent 32 players to the college level (22 of which were pitchers) including four Area Pitchers of the Year and one AA state player of the year. He also coached in the Sunbelt Collegiate Wood Bat League from 2009-2011, winning two league titles and had eight players drafted by Major League organizations. Fletcher also started coaching top-level youth travel baseball teams in 2007 and this off-season he’ll return home to manage a travel team made up of players from Norcross High School.
Fletcher is also a co-founder of Norcross Sports Training Academy, a 23,000 square foot facility in the metro Atlanta area specializing in elite sport performance training and private instruction for athletes of every age, sport, and fitness level. He also got back into scouting part-time for the New York Mets, signing over 15 players to MLB contracts. And by the way, he’s also one of the most sought-after pitching instructors in the southeastern US, with a client list over the years ranging from elementary-school children to players who later went on to pitch in the Majors.
But as busy as Fletcher’s resume reflects he was, he was actively looking for several years for opportunities to return to coaching in professional baseball when York manager Mark Mason hired him as the Revolution’s pitching coach in January.
“This has really been fun,” Fletcher said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a good group of guys. Mase has been great. He lets me just work with the guys and go at my pace and (we have) good communications. We get along, understanding what we need and want and I think so far it’s shown pretty well for the players.”
And after those 15 seasons spent away from coaching at the professional level, Fletcher is appreciating the opportunity he now has with the Revs to showcase his abilities to work with pitchers beyond the high school level.
“It’s so competitive at this level, every day means something,” Fletcher said. “Not just working with younger guys to make them better – these guys already know what they’re doing … what their routine is … what they need to do. It’s just honing those things in and being more specific with the mechanics, or the pitches or the day-to-day routines that they do.”
Winning the first-half title, and the recognition and opportunities that come with winning, doesn’t exactly hurt either.
“It’s great…I love it” Fletcher said. “That’s why I came up here. Mase and I talked about that in the beginning – we want to win. We want to have success as a ball club because if we do, our guys get signed. It helps our careers, and it helps their careers and it helps this team and it helps everything about it. It all goes together.
“You’re not going to win if the pitching’s not there. It’s got to be there and that was the focus right off the bat. Mase has got to get most of the credit because he brought all those guys in here and knew them. I didn’t. He knew what they could do and what they were capable of and we just have gone from there.”
With a whole lot of baseball still to be played this season, Fletcher is hoping that this season could be the start of an extended tenure with York that could some day lead to even bigger and better opportunities.
“I’d love to come back here every year,” Fletcher said. “If Mase wants me to come back, I’d love to come back. I’m also hoping that maybe an (MLB) organization will give me a shot. I told my wife coming up here was that I wanted to prove that I could coach guys that were this caliber of a player and do a good job. Not just be able to get on the field with them, but be able to handle them, coach them, work with them and so far it’s been good.”