Q&A: Larry Sheets, Gilman Baseball Coach
When Larry Sheets was introduced as the Gilman baseball coach following the 2009 season, the team was coming off the worst season in school history. At 3-16, there were not many moves Gilman could make to stimulate the kind of excitement for baseball that other sports like football and lacrosse receive at the school. However, the hiring of a former major league player accomplished that goal.
|Coach Larry Sheets and sophomore Tom O'Neil.
Sheets played with the Baltimore Orioles from 1984-89, where he spent time in the outfield and as the designated hitter. In his first season coaching the Greyhounds, his team played to an outstanding record of 27-5 and won the MIAA A Conference, taking the title of champion away from Calvert Hall for the first time in five years.
PressBox: What is high school baseball like coming from a major-league perspective?
Larry Sheets: I think you realize that you are back to the learning process of the game and that mistakes will be made. You are to a point where you are almost building up from whatever your ground floor is. I think the main thing is that you know that you are back in the teaching phase of the game in getting the kids to understand and getting them to execute.
PB: What do you like most about coaching high school baseball? Do you enjoy it more or less than playing professionally?
LS: Oh I enjoy it more. I think it goes back to the purest form of the game where the kids just love playing the game. Again, there are going to be mistakes made, but it’s the purest form, and I just think that the love of the game makes it that much more intriguing.
PB: Following Gilman's shortcomings last year, what has allowed this team, which personnel-wise is very similar to last year’s team, to be so successful?
LS: I think it’s important to understand that the framework was there. You know, I told [athletic director and former] coach Holley that no matter who coached the team this year, they were not going to be 3-16. The freshmen were a year older; the seniors took more of a leadership role this year than they did last year. That’s just the make-up of the team. It has nothing to do with the coaches.
I think what I brought to the team was maybe getting the kids to believe in themselves and maybe getting them to believe that they could win and that Gilman baseball was an important sport. And that came through with simple things like having the games announced and putting a fence up in the outfield, things that didn’t pertain to the everyday aspect of baseball but that just got them excited about playing baseball.
PB: What is the most important thing you teach your players as a coach?
LS: Probably integrity, playing the game the right way and handling yourself the right way, but then also playing fundamentally sound. I think those are the most important parts of playing the game of baseball.
PB: The MIAA is known mostly as a lacrosse conference. What are your thoughts on the MIAA as a baseball conference?
LS: I thought this year that the parody was incredible. Even going into the tournament, you had six teams that could have won the whole thing. We were down to the possibility of us losing to Loyola and Loyola going to the finals while we would go play Calvert Hall in a semi-final game, so I think the parody was good, and I think the quality of baseball was good. It was a little different this year that there wasn’t a big gap between Calvert Hall and the rest of the teams. I think all the teams were fairly competitive.
PB: What do you think has been the biggest factor on this team’s championship run?
LS: I think the most important thing is that from 1-18 everybody had a role, and as we finished up the season everybody knew their role. It was one of those things where, toward the end of the season, people were making moves before I did because they knew this was my time or this was when I am going to play. I tried not to have surprises for the kids -- you are playing today but not tomorrow -- we didn’t do that type of thing. They all understood what their role was on the team.
PB: What are your thoughts on the current state of your former team, the Baltimore Orioles?
LS: There are a lot of people in that organization that are a lot smarter than I am, and I know they are struggling to figure that out. You just hope that they will be able to turn it around before the year is over, but it’s certainly not a good situation.
--Interview conducted by Cooper Sutton
Posted May 28, 2010