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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 22, 2021 3 weeks ago

Prose and Kohn: Leading and learning

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Sailors baseball coach Clyde Metcalf led his team to victory Tuesday the way only he can.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

Back in 2019, I brought you the wisdom of Sarasota High baseball coach Clyde Metcalf, the master of little details. Metcalf knows more about the game than my brain could ever comprehend. On that day in 2019, in a game against Venice High, the Sailors fell behind early and struggled against good pitching, only to make Metcalf's adjustments and come back to win 3-1. 

Metcalf was in similar form on Tuesday night in the Sailors' home game against Lakewood Ranch High. Sarasota senior pitcher Conner Whittaker was brilliant most of the night, but a mistake to Lakewood Ranch's Ryan Combs in the second inning resulted in a ball flying over the left field fence. It gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead. The game stayed that way for a while. In fact, the Sailors were so stagnant on offense that they had no hits through three innings. They kept popping harmless flies to the Lakewood Ranch outfielders. 

That's when Metcalf started spreading his gospel. 

"If you don't get the ball out of the air, you might get no-hit tonight," Metcalf said to his team in a huddle before the bottom of the fourth inning. Mustangs starting pitcher Brett Plimley, a left-hander, was throwing too well to be taken deep, so trying to do so was futile. Instead, Metcalf wanted the Sailors to focus on making hard contact, even if that contact resulted in a grounder. 

Catcher Satchel Normal receives advice from Sailors coach Clyde Metcalf.

Of course, the next batter, senior catcher Satchell Norman, smoked a ball to left field — on the ground. The third baseman had no chance. Metcalf clapped, but otherwise showed no expression. He's been right too many times before to get excited by a base hit. 

Metcalf never stopped teaching. He yelled at his outfielder for not making a play on a foul ball, even though the first baseman made the catch, because the angles were better. He told junior infielder Mario Trivella to stay at first base after a poor throw resulted in a momentarily loose ball, even though the rest of the team urged Trivella to try for second base. Metcalf was again right in his analysis; the ball ricocheted off the fence and rolled to the feet of a Lakewood Ranch fielder. He noted that every foul ball was going over the Mustangs' dugout, meaning the Sailors' hitters were late on pitches, and told his team to swing earlier.

Metcalf teased his players for not paying attention in the way good coaches do, answering an assistant coach's question about the count after a player failed to respond. He laughed and shook his head as he did so. But he also defended them to the bone, running onto the field to argue with the umpires about a close call at first base. He didn't win the argument, but the effort was appreciated, as was his loud declaration of "great pitch, Conner" whenever a close Whittaker pitch was called a ball. 

In the fifth inning, the Sailors broke through. With Garrett Browning on first base, Trivella slashed a double down the left field line — again, on the ground — which allowed Browning to advance to third. He scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at one.

The game stayed tied through seven innings, which meant extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, with runners on first and second, senior outfielder Danny Torreabla ripped a hit to left (do I even have to tell you what kind at this point?) and senior outfielder Kyle Manitz scored from second to win the game 2-1. The team gave Torrealba the hero treatment, chasing him around the field and ripping his jersey off, while Metcalf just watched. 

Sailors baseball coach Clyde Metcalf gets the infield at Sarasota High back into game shape after his team's win against Lakewood Ranch.

After the game, Metcalf instructed his team to get the field ready for Wednesday's game against Riverview High. Some coaches would leave it at that. Metcalf didn't. He hopped on the infield groomer and drove it around the dirt himself.

"I'm the only guy that can use this thing," Metcalf said afterwards, in a shrugging "What are you going to do?" tone. 

When you watch Clyde Metcalf, you never stop learning — or being entertained. 

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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