Prep baseball: Coach Lou Green brings new energy to Park City
Park City • On a bluebird late April evening on a petite baseball field less than a half-mile down the road from Park City High School, a young pitcher winds up and uncorks a pitch toward the plate.
The Wasatch Back still is snowcapped from the winter's boon, and the diamond still is working on its color as hollers fill the air along Kearns Boulevard. The youth league team clad in Park City red runs through drills with the coaches hours after the high school Miners hosted just their second game of the season.
Up the road, Park City coach Lou Green still is steaming behind a smile.
The two-time Major League draftee hates losing, and his Miners just lost their first Region 10 game of the season at home to rival Juan Diego, dropping the upstart squad to 15-6.
"It's a very unique and special experience," said senior pitcher Mark Trevino when asked what it's been like playing for the fiery West Virginian who is in his third season coaching at the school.
It's unique because Green, at the young age of 25, is a baseball perfectionist. He has to know he's the best that particular day, and if his team didn't practice as hard as it could on an off day or he didn't have his guys prepared for a late-game situation, Green doesn't sleep.
"It's knowing how to win, having an understanding of how you win every day and then show up and expect to win," said Green, an imposing 6-foot-5 former right-hander who played in the Angels' organization for three years.
When he took the job in 2010, Green was asked to make a small community best known for churning out world-class Olympic athletes into a baseball town.
The first thought was to create a local minor league program of sorts that would feed the high school program. When Green first arrived, there were three local club teams in Park City comprising 30 kids. Add that with the 25 players competing for the Miners, and there were just 55 kids pitching, fielding and hitting.
Green planted a seed and waited.
There are 110 baseball players in the Park City youth program along with 25 high school-age players two years later.
"It's good to see the program where it is," Green said. "It makes showing up every day and working your butt off a little easier."
If there is one thing you need to know about Green, it is that he feels hard work is as necessary as oxygen is to breathe or water to drink. Green and his coaching staff, which includes MLB All-Star pitcher and World Series champion Mike Morgan as well as Illinois high school hall of fame coach Bob Mackey, recently ran through 40 hours of youth clinics for kids ages 8 to 14 during the offseason.
"He's made us believe that he's a good coach and made us believe in what he does," senior infielder Tim Leary said.
That's teach baseball, and own an unwavering dedication to his players and a sport he loves.
The Miners had three seniors who saw significant playing time last year coming into this season. The rest? Freshmen, sophomores and a sprinkling of juniors.
Green has sat seniors who he felt didn't trump the hard work or skill of younger players and said keenly, "I'm not here to please parents I'm here to win games."
Leary and senior Cole Tan had to work their way into varsity playing time a year ago as juniors, and both now are shining in their opportunities, both on the mound and in important spots in the lineup.
"Coach knows that the best player should be on the field," Leary said.
But Green had to take himself off the field this year. His spirited and oft-turbulent demeanor coaching third base in his first two seasons got him in trouble. He barked too loudly and too often. He now sits on an upside-down sunflower seed bucket at the edge of the dugout or leans against the fence, shouting instructions.
Being on the field is, as he explained, as if he's back in the mix of it as a player commanding the game from the mound.
"It's highly emotional as players, too," said Trevino, Park City's ace who threw a perfect game in 2012 and committed to the University of Redlands this week.
But it's also working. After going 11-13 in 2011 and 15-12 in 2012, Park City is scoring runs. Lots and lots of runs. The Miners have scored 195 runs in 21 games only 5A Davis and 2A Manti have scored more.
And the Miners do so by playing a concise, disciplined style of baseball.
They single. Sometimes they double, and perhaps a triple every now and then. They single you into submission.
Sophomore catcher Chandler Barkdull hit the team's lone homer, as Green explained, on a small field at Pine View in St. George earlier this season.
"I don't think we've hit the wall more than a handful of times," he said. "We don't play the game like Spanish Fork or Snow Canyon or Juan Diego."
As the eventual influx of youth begins to really infiltrate the program, Green eventually could change the style of play, but the team will ride shotgun with its tenacious coach who saw a challenge in a wintry wonderland and did his best to turn it into a place where the pings of a bat can be heard from Kearns Boulevard.
"I tell my kids every day, 'If you're green, you're growing, if you're ripe, you're rotten,' " he said.
Under Lou Green, the Miners have sprouted into a perennial contender.