STiKS Coach Profile- Doug Henry
One of the last places one might expect to find a 2015 World Series Champion, and curator of one of (if not the best) bullpen in a 3 year spans- is in Oconomowoc, WI. Current Royals bullpen coach Doug Henry reached out to STiKS Academy in 2014 after a discussion with a fellow churchgoer led him to contact Sean Smith. Henry found that coaching youth helped him unwind from the rigors of the major/minor league grind, spanning from early February though October.
Henry got his start in baseball after being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 8th round of the 1985 MLB draft. Henry wound up spending 11 years with five different teams in the big leagues before retiring with the Royals in 2001. From 2002-2007 Henry held various coaching positions including UW-Whitewater and a handful of minor league teams before returning to the Royals Organization (as a pitching coach with Low Class A Burlington Bee’s) for good in 2008. Henry accredits the 2008-2012 seasons with the Royals minor league affiliates as a vital experience allowing him to grow and mentor the young Royals pitchers before taking the Kansas City Royals Bullpen coach position in 2013.
Henry made it clear that year round academies and facilities are helping to eliminate previous stigmas about baseball in the mid-west, and no glaring gaps in skill compared to other regions of the country. Henry agrees that baseball is in a good position in today’s day in age but that the game is being taken too seriously at youth levels. Henry feels that baseball has began lacking a few key characteristics which used to be more visible within the game including: fun, desire, and encouragement. Over time baseball has gone from being viewed as “just a game”- which many and all enjoyed, to highly competitive multi-billion-dollar industry.
Henry’s approach to youth player development centers around the idea that youth players can further their development by making and learning from mistakes. Henry brought up and asked a series of rhetorical questions provoking insights to the benefits of learning from failure:
- “What do they (the players) actually learn if (or other coaches) a coach is calling the pitches thrown? There is little/no learning experience for the pitcher.
- How does the catcher improve his game calling skills and baseball IQ? In baseball today, catchers can make it to the bigs with defensive skill as their carrying tool through the minors.
- How or what does the pitcher learn if he’s not making his own mistakes; is the coach learning anything in this case if the players are the ones executing his game plan?
When asked for the specifics regarding the term/position of Bullpen coach, Henry simply said his role is “Assistant/associate pitching coach”. He further noted that in his current situation, the head pitching coach deals with the mechanics while he (Henry) specializes on the mental side of the game. It is the pitching coaches job to to make sure the adjustments are made mechanically. After the change is implemented, Henry reiterates the adjustment/change made in a new way while discussing game plans, strategies and situations.
Henry is prideful of the fact that he is able to provide support to the Royals pitchers as they come up through the organization- which develops a stronger sense of unity/bond when they reach the Royals. Due to the turnover in major league organizations, Henry realizes that each pitcher he works with may not make it with the Royals. As Henry sees pitchers that he’s worked with advance through farm systems and life in general, he hopes that he had some sort of positive and lasting impact in the time spent with them.
With mental-skills coordinators becoming more common in front offices and organizational settings, its hard to argue with the notion that major league teams are becoming more cognizant of the psychology and state of being within the game itself. Henry half-heartedly joked that he should be able to walk into any university in America and receive a degree on psychology.
When discussing the state of the Royals bullpen under Henry’s watch, Henry points out that its tough for the Royals and other small market teams to pay the going market rate of relievers in baseball today. Its almost uncommon to find relievers that weren’t failed starters, but the difference in making it and not is that the successful relievers learn and capitalized on that past failure. The Royals bullpen is no exception.
Henry believes that all of the pitchers that make it to the Majors have “good” mechanics; further noting that if the player is healthy, performing is all mental. Developing the mental capacity from previous failure is where the opportunity for success lies within. It likely benefitted the Royals that the players failed as starters in the minors opposed the majors, and that ultimately sped up their contributions to the major league team.
For additional information or questions, email Vince Rinaldi at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (262) 560-0299