Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

April 04, 1985 St. Petersburg Times

Marshall's New-Style Swing Has Monarchs Hitting Above Average
St. Petersburg Times
by Kevin Thomas
April 04, 1985

SAINT LEO, FL:  Well before the Sunshine Conference ball game between Eckerd and Saint Leo, the host Monarchs took batting practice while the visitors from Eckerd looked on--and stared.

"Look at the way he holds the bat," said one Eckerd player as a Monarch took his cuts.

"My God, they all bat that way," said another player after more Saint Leo batters went through the cage.

Saint Leo personnel are getting used to such comments.

"A lot of other people from other teams think its weird," said Monarch captain and first baseman Phil Ross.  "But it's helped me a lot."

What's weird is a stance that has the Monarchs resting the bat on their shoulders.  It's the stance that coach and Doctor Mike Marshall has brought to the program.

Marshall, the former major league pitcher who has a Ph.D. in kinesiology (study of human movement and the anatomy involved in the movement), developed the stance.  There's more to it than holding a bat on the shoulder.

"It's far too complicated to try and explain it," said Marshall carefully, not wanting to offend a member of the baseball laity.  "You only need to look at Phil Ross."

Ross, a senior from Venice, FL, is one of two players returning who played regularly.  His numbers were good last season--.313 average, eight home runs; this year, the numbers are great.

He leads the Sunshine Conference in five categories:  .488 average, 15 home runs, 69 RBI, 60 runs and 62 hits.  Also, he has reduced his strike out ratio from 1-in-8.8 at bats to 1-in-17.1.

The improvement didn't come easy.  Overhauling a swing that brought a .313 average isn't easy on the mind or body.

"At the start of the fall, he was trying to change me and I had a hard time with it," Ross said of the new swing technique.  "I worked on it a lot over Christmas.  It's been a lot of hard work, but now, it's great.  I'd been swinging wrong the last 10-12 years."

Besides leading the conference in several categories, Ross is one of two known players (college or pro) that has hit two grand slams in one inning.  The other is sophomore teammate Cliff Champion, who did the feat last Saturday, two weeks after Ross.

Champion was rarely used last year, recording only 18 at bats (.208 average).  Now, he's a regular and batting .397 with six home runs.  Another result of the Marshall batting plan.

"I like it. Of course, when you hit two grand slams in one inning, you can't help but like it," said Champion, a Dade City resident.  "He's developed a swing that would maximize our muscles, and all that kind of stuff."

All that stuff is producing results.  The proof in the pudding is no surprise to the coach.

"I've been a student of hitting for many, many years," Marshall said.  "I have a definite theory about how it should be done.  I have no problems with anyone questioning why.  But he WILL swing the bat the way I instruct him."

The result so far has been a .325 team batting average, 23 points over last year.

Despite improved team batting and an average of 11.1 runs a game, the Monarchs have a 20-12-2 record.  Not bad, but in the conference, Saint Leo is 2-8.

One might point a finger at the mound.  The collective earned run average of the pitching staff is 6.63 (doubled from the squad's 3.30 last season).  But Marshall doesn't blame the pitchers.

"Our pitching staff has been excellent," said the former Cy Young Award winner.  "There's no problem with the pitching.  They talk about the good pitching last year.  They had alright pitching.  The defense was outstanding.

"The problem (this season) has been defense.  The defense has been terrible.  And terrible is too kind a word."

Against Eckerd Sunday (an 8-7 loss), Saint Leo committed four errors, two in the Tritons' six-run fifth inning.  Marshall called that a "pretty good" performance.

The defense started crumbling, according to Marshall, after March 9.

"Black Sunday," Marshall calls it.  Saint Leo beat the University of Detroit that day 10-1, but lost shortstop Bobby White (broken thumb) and centerfielder Joe Spagnuolo (broken leg).

"You can't lose your shortstop and centerfielder on a team with only one position player (Ross) returning," Marshall said.  "With those two players, we were an entirely different ballclub.  We're working on getting back to where we were.  I can't say we're there yet."

Inexperience is another problem.  Thirteen of the 22-player roster are sophomores and freshmen. And, as mentioned, only Ross and designated hitter Henriquez (batting .349) are returning regulars.

"There was nothing when I got here," Marshall said.  "I had nothing.  Phil Ross and Mike Henriquez and good luck.  Everyone had a shot for the team."

Although the roster is a New England/New York area majority (11 players), three Dade City people are starters.  Besides Champion, who catches and plays third base, there is leftfielder Greg Sims and centerfielder Cisco Johnson.

All three are former Pasco High players.  Champion's .397 average is second best on the team.  Johnson, a sophomore, is batting .328 and has nine home runs (second on the team).

"Cisco has a good future in baseball," said Marshall.  "And I'm talking beyond the college game."

According to Marshall, Sims, a freshman, is a "bit overwhelmed right now."  The 1984 Times North Suncoast Athlete of the Year is a bundle of potential.

"I think he's finding it a bit more competitive than he expected," Marshall said.  "But Greg is one of those people who can raise himself to the competition.  I expect before he leaves, he will do some great things at Saint Leo."

Sims is already generating excitement.  Against Eckerd, he singled and proceded to steal second, third and home.

Marshall's big drive now is for a lighted field.

"I want lights so bad," he said.  "If you're going to have a quality program, you have to have lights.  And I'm here to build a quality program."

Saint Leo's athletic director said "all the paperwork is done for a Class A lighting system.  It's a question of getting a donor or donors."

Construction is currently taking place on a press box.  A concession stand and rest rooms are also in the plans.

Besides building a baseball program, Dr. Marshall is at Saint Leo to teach.  His seven-course load will soon be dropped to five--Motor Development, Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Theory and Practice of Coaching, and Coaching Baseball.

Happy Pitching Everybody

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