The Diamond Jacks are taking their pitching program to a new and impressive level.
The northeast’s largest and finest baseball facility has hired pitching guru Steve Schrenk, of Pitching Coach Pro, the new Diamond Jacks Pitching Director. Schrenk, who pitched two seasons in the Major Leagues with the Phillies and played 16 years of pro ball, in all, has developed a stunning 100 major leaguers.
Schrenk arrived this week at Diamond Nation to begin, as he said, “evaluating every pitcher in the Diamond Jacks program.” The marrying of Schrenk’s deep and well-tapped well of pitching expertise with the Diamond Jacks program has created excitement among the organization’s coaching staff and its players at all levels.
Schrenk has paired his 16 years playing on professional diamonds with 17 years of coaching pitchers in the Phillies and Mets organizations. And the past five years he’s guided his own company, Pitching Coach Pro. Schrenk has also tutored several Diamond Jacks pitchers the past few years on the finer points of their baseball trade, so Schrenk’s outstanding reputation spread quickly through the Flemington facility.
“Diamond Nation has a lot of hitters on its walls,” said Schrenk. “We want to put some more pitchers up there.”
While the Diamond Jacks and Super 17 programs have schooled such outstanding Major League pitchers as Rick Porcello, Anthony DeSclafani and Anthony Ranaudo, Schrenk is not wrong to say there is plenty of room for more high level development and, subsequently, performance in the program.
The Diamond Jacks’ current high-profile college pitchers include Vanderbilt reliever Nick Maldonado, Rutgers righthander Drew Conover, outstanding Maryland freshman Kyle McCoy and lefty Joey DeChiaro, who works out of the pen for Old Dominion. Another past Super 17 player, Joe Martinez, reached the Major Leagues with the San Francisco Giants. Figure that pitching war chest to expand and elevate to a new level under Schrenk’s guidance.
“I plan on being at Diamond Nation twice a week and at tournament games on weekends,” he said. “We need to get out and watch as many guys as we can in the late spring and summer. I’ll be directing and overseeing things with Chris (Allen) and Cory (Kent). We’ll be there for every one of our pitchers.”
Assisting Steve as age group pitching coordinators will be current Diamond Jack pitching coaches Chris Allen and Cory Kent, who doubles as the Voorhees High School head coach. Allen, who graduated from FIU and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2003, will oversee the 10U-13U arms. Kent, the career leader in saves and appearances at Lehigh University, will manage the 14U-17U pitchers.
Diamond Nation’s longtime catching coordinator Travis Anderson is fired up to work with Schrenk.
“I’m excited because I work with a lot of pitchers,” says Anderson, who came up in the Atlanta Braves organization and finished his professional career with the Somerset Patriots. “It’s going to be great to have Steve to bounce stuff off of. All we want is someone who comes in and gets after it. That’s Steve’s reputation.”
Anderson and his fellow Diamond Jacks coaches, including Kevin Cust, Director of Baseball Operations, have been all about developing players to the point where they are prepared to play at the next level.
You can bet that staff is proud of Diamond Jacks grad Anthony Volpe, who was just named the New York Yankees starting shortstop at the age of 21.
“Adding Steve to what we do developmentally is huge,” Anderson said. “It’s a piece we’ve been missing for awhile. It makes us a complete organization. What Steve does for a living is develop pitchers.”
Schrenk sees the same well-rounded program for the Diamond Jacks, as well.
“We want to blend it so it’s a one-stop shop for great pitching development as well as hitting,” says Schrenk.
Young Diamond Jacks pitchers like Jake Dally, a senior at Nazareth (Pa.), Noah Baird, a senior at Hunterdon Central, and Cole Raymond, a freshman at Immaculata, vouch for Schrenk’s ability to fine-tune their mechanics and reach them on a personal level.
“First of all, coach Schrenk is a really good guy,” says Dally, bound for Binghamton. “I started using coach right around COVID. I didn’t have much pitching experience and he knew right away what I needed to fix. He showed me how to pitch with my legs.”
Dally is a terrific two-way player who hit 10 home runs over the summer for the Diamond Jacks Super 17 team after a high school season in which he went 6-1 on the mound with a 1.46 ERA. He struck out 83 batters in 48 innings. Dally credits Schrenk for that development.
“He’s a really good coach,” says Dally. “Our pitchers at Diamond Nation will only get better with coach Schrenk there.” T.J. Dally, Jake’s younger brother and a pitcher for the Diamond Jacks Super 13U team, has received instruction from Schrenk, as well. “My dad wanted coach Schrenk to work with T.J. as soon as he got to the big field.”
Jake Dally, also a very talented shortstop, perhaps best exhibits the importance of proper mechanics and arm care to an athlete wherever he plays on the diamond.
“We do pick up things on the field that all the players can benefit from,” says Schrenk.
Schrenk had a lengthy minor league career with stops in the White Sox, Orioles, Red Sox, Phillies and A’s organizations to go with his two-year stint pitching at the major league level for the Phillies in 1999 and ‘00. After he turned his attention to coaching, Shrenk would spend much of the next 17 years coaching in just about every level of the Phillies organization, making stops along the way as manager of the Canberra Cavalry in the Australian League and as the pitching coach for the Syracuse Mets.
Schrenk and his wife Jennefer launched their pitching school, Pitching Coach Pro, in July of 2017, operating primarily out of the Easton and Bethlehem, Pa. areas.
“We want to evaluate what we have and constantly improve the program,” says Schrenk. “We know we have quality pitchers. The goal is to take the ones we have and make them better. We’ll be implementing the Pitching Coach Pro program into the Diamond Jacks program.”
Schrenk’s program is a detailed one and leaves nothing to chance. He certainly knows what made himself successful as a pitcher and what has worked for so many professionals he’s tutored.
“Physical strength and good mobility is a good starting point,” he says. “You have to get in the weight room and do the work.” And very much more, according to Schrenk. “Being prepared, having a good mental approach and using analytic data at your disposal is also important. I’ll even add nutrition to that.
“Once we have that, we can put it all in play. We can identify your own strengths and weaknesses, identify how to attack specific hitters and how to be accountable on the mound.” To say nothing of Schrenk’s plans for PFPs and pick-offs.
Schrenk has worked with such familiar Major League pitching names as Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, Cole Hamels, Max Scherzer, Cliff Lee, Sir Anthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez and Brad Lidge. And his tutelage has been utilized many others with MLB experience, including Hector Neris, Nick Pivetta, Mark Leiter Jr, Adam Morgan, Jerad Eickoff, Victor Arano, Trevor May, Tylor Megil, David Peterson, Kyle Kendrick, Bryce Montes de Oca, David Buchanan, Vance Worley and Scott Mathieson.
As impressive as that is, Schrenk has shown an equal knack to reach a wide swath of youth age groups.
“Coach Schrenk has shown me the kind of pitcher I truly am,” said Super 17U pitcher Noah Baird, a senior righty at Hunterdon Central in Flemington. “I wasn’t a complete pitcher from a mechanics standpoint until I worked with him.” Baird just began taking lessons with Schrenk in February.
Baird’s very first pitching performance off of Schrenk’s tutelage occurred on Friday when he threw two scoreless innings against Mount Olive in a scrimmage, permitted no runs on one hit, striking out one and walking one.
“The ball is coming out of my hand a lot better,” he said. “I’m more comfortable throwing my fastball. My fastball has always tended to live up in the zone. Everyone told me that was bad, which seemed to make sense. But coach Schrenk told me that because of the spin I get on my fastball, it’s actually a good thing. I’m definitely more trusting of my command now.”
Cole Raymond, a left-handed freshman at Immaculata and a member of the Diamond Jacks Super 15U team, began working with Schrenk in October.
“Coach Schrenk does a great job pinpointing little things that affect your delivery,” said Raymond, who suffered a knee injury on Jan. 14 and has been working to return to the mound with two days of physical therapy a week while working on strengthening his arm with Schrenk.
“I’m planning on working on my scap load again when I start throwing bullpens again,” said Raymond. “I was bringing my arm down instead of back. It was already helping my velocity before I hurt my knee.”
While Schrenk found some issues in play with Raymond’s shoulders, he was also building a relationship with the young pitcher.
“He’s great with that kind of stuff, too,” says Raymond. “When he works with you, you can see he is actually trying to make a connection. It’s great he’s coming to Diamond Nation. Every age group will benefit. Everyone will like him.”
They will also like Schrenk at Diamond Nation for his natural lean toward taking the overall abilities and strengths of each pitcher up a notch.
“Steve makes adjustments based on each kid’s ability,” says Mike Raymond, Cole’s dad and the Diamond Jacks 10U-13U coordinator, “He takes what a pitcher does well and makes it great. On top of that, he teaches them how to self-correct.
“Steve joining us gives us elite coaches in all aspects of baseball development.”
While we’ve been highlighting the impact Steve Schrenk has made at the youth level, one quote stands out from a colleague at the professional level and from none better than former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
“In my 16 years with the Phillies, I have had many opportunities to work side-by-side with Steve Schrenk, said Manuel. “I have always been impressed with his knowledge of the mechanics of pitching and his holistic approach to coaching. His ability to communicate with pitchers is one of his greatest strengths and he uses it expertly to help them develop their mental skills. I believe that any pitcher who works out with Steve will gain a competitive advantage.”
What Schrenk achieved in the Phillies organization reached its pinnacle in 2015 when he was named the recipient of the John Vukovich Award. The award is presented annually to an instructor in the Phillies organization who embodies the characteristics of the award’s namesake. Vukovich is the longest tenured coach in Phillies history and, after his 17 years in the organization, certainly is one of the most respected persons to ever wear a Phillies uniform.
An honor that is high praise for Schrenk, indeed.