A Coach’s Journey: Andrew Bartman

A Coach’s Journey: Andrew Bartman

Andrew Bartman
Director of Coaching Development
USA Baseball

Some coaches take a straight path while others zig zag their way into their niche. Andrew Bartman’s coaching history had many jumps and joys before landing at USA Baseball.

Andrew started young – as a high schooler he was already helping out at his old junior high school. By college, he was assisting a Legion team in Lincoln, IL, as well as serving as head coach of the Central Illinois Cannons travel team. After he graduated, he got his first stab at the collegiate level as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at a perennial powerhouse JUCO, Wabash Valley College in Illinois. While there, he worked with dozens of players who went on to play professional ball, with two making it to the big leagues.

After three years at WVC, Andrew headed home to take the job as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Lincoln College, where he had played himself for two years. Working for a former coach allowed him to learn lessons through a different lens as he coached and completed his Master’s degree.

Just as he had done as an undergraduate, Andrew transferred from Lincoln to his other alma mater, MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL. As head coach, he was faced with a complete disaster, but was able to turn the culture around and in his first season, tripled the team’s win total from the previous year. The AD who hired him left two years later for Bethany College, an NAIA school in Kansas, and offered Andrew the job as Head Coach and Associate Athletics Director. Proudly, the baseball program performed over 5,000 hours of community service each year as well as qualifying for the KCAC tournament three out of four years.

After four years at Bethany, American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) offered him the Youth Division Liaison position. For the first time since starting his career, Andrew wasn’t living by a coach’s schedule which was a big boon for his family. While at ABCA, he worked with USA Baseball which is how he eventually morphed into his current position. As Director of Coaching Development at USA Baseball, Andrew coordinates over 150 free Community Coaching Clinics and has recently launched a Regional Clinic program as well.

Andrew is a big believer in giving back and has incorporated that philosophy into his team cultures throughout the years. He subscribes to the theory that giving back to one’s community is not only humbling, but allows players to gain a greater world view as they grow as people.

Along the way, Andrew has been influenced by Coach John Stoltzenburg, who taught him how to be firm, but available, and Coach Rob Fournier of Wabash Valley College, who made a national powerhouse out of nothing and continues to raise the bar every single year. Tony Thomas who taught him to care about the person and not just the player. And Kevin Vest, who guided him throughout his career in navigating the baseball coaching landscape.

While a coach has to be a good listener, motivator, and learner, Andrew Bartman realizes that being an effective communicator is just as important. If sharing stories, skills, and journeys can help change the life of just one player or coach, then regardless of runs and records, it’s a win.

A Coach’s Journey: Jad Prachniak

A Coach’s Journey: Jad Prachniak

  Jad Prachniak
Head Baseball Coach
West Chester University

Like just about every kid out there, Jad Prachniak dreamed of going pro, playing in Game 7 of the World Series, maybe even winning a Cy Young. And like 95 percent (give or take depending on who’s doing the stats) of those kids, there comes a time when reality hits you in the glove and you realize it just ain’t gonna happen.

Some people spend a lifetime lamenting the what ifs and the coulda beens, and others, like Jad Prachniak, get out there and put their time and talents to good use.

Jad was a sophomore at University of Rhode Island when he realized there weren’t many MLB teams calling for an undersized right-hand pitcher throwing 83-86 mph with command issues. He began looking at the game through a different lens, taking in every facet of the field and absorbing as much as he could.

Jad spent his fifth year at URI student teaching and working as an undergrad assistant under Coach Frank Leoni. When Leoni accepted the Head Coach position at The College of William & Mary, he asked Jad to join him as the pitching coach. Knowing what a great opportunity it was for a 23 year old, Jad fully embraced the experience, spending the next six years listening and learning as much as he could.

As an assistant, Jad traveled a good amount, working camps, and attending conventions and clinics. While in each of those different coaching environments, he kept his ears open. And, because he listened, he developed as a coach AND regressed as a coach. He learned along the way that along with the great strategies and killer drills, there’s a plethora of good information out there. But, he also learned that coaching baseball is not a one-size-fit all. The best of the best wasn’t necessarily going to be the best fit for him or his team. When Jad took ownership of finding what was right for him and right for the team is when he took his biggest step forward as a coach.

In the summer of 2011, Jad was offered the head coaching job at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, and he’s been there ever since. He started building a positive team culture immediately and knew instinctively that for every individual to be taken care of, he had to figure out exactly what they needed in order to thrive. He knows that players need to know that they are cared about, by the coach, and by each other. When he sees his guys taking care of each other away from the field, that’s when he knows the team is in a good place.

From day one he’s always asked his players to DO THE RIGHT THING, which means in the classroom, on the field, in the community, and everywhere else. He tells them, “Be at your best,” when dealing with adversity, and circumstances aren’t the best. And, “Be at your best,” when dealing with success, when it seems like everything’s going the right way.

When Jad was asked what he believes to be the most important quality of a coach, he took a line from the late sports psychologist, Ken Ravizza:

“What is the most important moment of your season? ….Answer: Right Now.”

While it’s important to learn from past experiences and to look ahead to see what the future may hold, the best way to get to where we want to be is to take care of the NOW.

For Jad Prachniak, NOW also includes his wife, Kelly, and daughter, Emilia, who as she toddles about, demands, “Ball, ball, ball!”  They are his biggest fans, along with his parents and siblings who supported his baseball endeavors throughout his journey.

With the now that Jad Prachniak is living as a husband, a father, a coach, and a friend, it’s abundantly clear that his future is also going to be pretty darn bright.

Jack Hawkins: Our Friend and Founder

Jack Hawkins: Our Friend and Founder

Back before some of us were even born, Jack Hawkins was laying the foundation for the rest of our baseball lives.

Just a regular guy who loved the game, Jack came up with an idea. Why not build a base for coaches to come together and share their knowledge, skills, and friendship? Well, that idea became a reality and out of his vision, Be the Best You Are Coaches Clinic was born in 1972.

From the beginning, Jack was committed to making this annual event a clinic run by coaches FOR coaches. And, that’s exactly what he did for 43 years. He was a charismatic creator who, every year, put together unparalleled lineups of professional, college, and local coaches for a few days of instruction, interaction, and a whole lot of fun.

Be the Best has endured the test of time despite the ever-changing culture of youth sports.

Jack was a three-sport athlete at Princeton High School who went on to play quarterback for the West Chester University (PA) Golden Rams. After graduating, he took a job as a Physical Education teacher and remained a predominant figure in the Manasquan community for over 30 years. In 1968, Jack became head football coach at Manasquan High School where, in ten seasons at the helm, boasted six division titles, two undefeated seasons, won the NJSIAA CJ Group Two State Championship, and was a three-time Coach of the Year.

Jack also served as head baseball coach at Manasquan from 1968-1976. In those eight seasons, the team had a 100-35 record, won four division championships, one state championship, and two Monmouth County Tournament titles.

Jack was inducted into the Princeton High School Hall of Fame in 2008, the Manasquan High School Hall of Fame in 2009, the New Jersey Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991, and the New Jersey Scholastic Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jack Hawkins was a formidable presence both on the field and off. He was a coach, a character, a visionary, and a friend.

Because of him, Be the Best continues to thrive, making it the longest-running baseball and softball clinic in the country. The people you meet, the lessons you learn, and the skills you share each year in Cherry Hill are the direct result of one man who had the courage, the commitment, and the chutzpah to make it all happen.

John “Jack” Albert Hawkins
August 21, 1941 – October 26, 2019

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

Be the Best Baseball Schedule Released!

Be the Best Baseball Schedule Released!

Just in time for the holidays! Check out the schedule for when your favs are going to be at Be the Best.

This year we’ve got the bases covered with some of the game’s greatest coaches sharing their skills and stories about pitching, recruiting, team-building, base-running, hitting and more. There’s no better way to start the new year than attending the best coaches’ convention around. It’s full of information. Full of friends. And full of fun.

So, look at the line-up and make your game plan. Sign up for Be the Best TODAY. It’s less than a month away!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Why do coaches coach?

Why do coaches coach?

Coaches coach for many different reasons. Some want to give back. To the game, to the community, to the people who helped them along the way. Others are motivated by the thrill of competition, the emotion of the game and the camaraderie of the team. And some want to propel their players to the next level, watch them succeed and have a positive impact on their lives.

But the bottom line is, coaches coach because it’s fun.

And that’s why Be the Best adds FUN to the line-up.

Ask anyone who’s ever been to the convention. It’s not about listening to lectures from top college and professional coaches. It’s not about one-sided dialogues and technical presentations. What makes Be the Best so great is the natural interaction, the candid discussions and the back-and-forth sharing of skills, ideas and stories.

You may find yourself exchanging emails with one of the most celebrated coaches in college softball, drinking a beer with an MLB coach or chatting over coffee with a professional player. Be the Best speakers remember when they, too, were making their way in the baseball and softball worlds and genuinely want to do what they can to enhance your personal journey.

Don’t miss the ball on this one. We promise that Be the Best is more than instructive. More than informative. It’s down-right fun!

Registration is open NOW!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Softball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19
Make your hotel reservations NOW!