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Back Home Again
Dragons pitching coach Brian Garman's baseball path ended up being a circle right back to where it all started from
When Dragons pitching coach Brian Garman was hired by the Cincinnati Reds, he may have had his eye on one particular Reds affiliate. And when Garman learned that he would be assigned by the Reds to their affiliate in Dayton, the Wapakoneta, Ohio native had a different perspective than any other coach in Dragons history.
“I came to Dayton Dragons games in the early 2000’s,” Garman recalled. “I remember that it was hard to get tickets. We had to score tickets from somebody else in town from their office. It is wild to think that the team I watched as a young kid and the closest affiliate to home, now I have the privilege to be here on a daily basis. You talk to a lot of guys throughout the game, and there are not a lot of them who have that opportunity.”
Garman went from Wapakoneta High School to the University of Cincinnati as a pitcher. Then he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and eventually assigned to their Single-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. In 2011, Garman actually played a game here in Dayton. The Timber Rattlers visited Day Air Ballpark to take on a Dragons team led by Billy Hamilton and Tucker Barnhart and Garman came on in relief during the June 4, 2011 game.
He spent four years playing in the Brewers farm system, reaching the Double-A level in his final two seasons (2012 and 2013). In 2018, he was hired as a minor league pitching coach by the Los Angeles Angels and spent the next two years in their organization. He moved to the Reds prior to the canceled season of 2020, and now his many travels have brought him back to Dayton.
“In many ways, I would describe it as being in the right place at the right time,” Garman said.
Garman in 2011 as a pitcher for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers, Single A Affiliate)
Garman was a successful minor league pitcher, posting a career earned run average of 2.65. But he knew that his playing days would not last forever.
“I actually thought about being a coach long before I became a professional player,” Garman said. “I remember thinking about coaching when I was still in high school, but I never thought I would do it for a living. If I had the opportunity to lead and teach and make an impact, that was something that I would like to do, even if it was just a little league team.”
“I bought books on coaching and leadership in high school and always found them interesting. If I have an opportunity to try to help people be better, be it at baseball or just in life, I feel like I should do it.”
As the years have gone by, coaching has changed. Long gone is the old “My way or the highway” attitude of coaching that was commonplace throughout the 20th century, when every player was expected to conform to a single style of coaching. Now, each coach is expected to connect with each player.
“(Connecting with each player) is certainly the most difficult part of our job,” Garman said. “We are responsible for 10 to 20 players, and they are all very different. They all have different backgrounds and very different experiences with coaches before they get to you, so you have to cater to that, and understand that they are all going to respond differently to the same dialogue.”
“The key is, I get to know my players for who they are. I ask a lot of questions without being too intrusive. I need to get to them as individuals so that I can find out what makes them tick. And once I can start to solve that, I can base my coaching cues or strategies around who they are.”
Garman in 2021 giving some advice for a young Dragons staff during a game.
Within the last five years, the role of data analytics has exploded in popularity throughout professional baseball. For decades, professional baseball coaches based their opinions on their eyes and their instincts. Now, they have data for every player that goes way beyond game statistics. Where before, a coach had to trust his experience to determine if a pitcher’s throwing mechanics were sound and balanced, he now has pages of data to point him a direction where improvements can be made. More than just numbers that provide fastball velocities and spin rates on sliders, he now has data to literally break down a pitcher’s throwing style.
“Because of the technology, we know so much more about who they are as players. That makes it easier to connect with them because we can give them very focused, individualized details…things that they don’t even know about themselves. We can dig deeper into the numbers, and it catches their attention. They are very willing to listen at that point because they know that we have information that they don’t.”
While all of that is true, Garman maintains respect for his chosen career, and the many who have undertaken the challenge before him.
“Coaching is not easy. We are teachers. Our classroom is a baseball field. If you are going to try to connect with everybody, you have to establish a relationship and get them to trust you. Sure, it’s difficult, but it’s also really enjoyable.”
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