Georgia Gwinnett College assistant baseball coach Scott Ward is leading the charge in starting the Grizzly Baseball Academy. (Photo: GGC)
Scott Ward an the assistant baseball coach at Georgia Gwinnett College. The Florida native is leading the charge of creating the Grizzly Baseball Academy, a training arm of the baseball program focused on players in the GGC community.
In this installment of “Getting to Know…” staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with the former Shiloh baseball coach Ward about his camps, playing minor league baseball for the Evansville Otters in the Frontier Leauge and working with Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin.
BB: You coached one year at Shiloh when you moved up here from Florida, why was that so short lived?
SW: While at Shiloh I was starting my own academy and training program, it was short just because of that. It kind of got me introduced into the Gwinnett County area around here for what we are doing. I spent a year in high school ball down in Florida, also. But, most of (my time) has been in the camp, showcase, academy; my background’s been in academies so I just stuck with that.
BB: Academies are not a thing many people are familiar with, how did you get involved in the organizational side of that?
SW: When I finished playing, I was living in Orlando at the time and there was a local academy, kind of like Suwanee Sports Academy that Barry Larkin owned down in Florida. I had used it a time or two during the offseason and when I finished up playing ball I just went in and started working, doing lessons and kind of moved up from doing lessons, running camps to I ran his baseball department in his facility and from there he promoted me, I was the GM of his facility. The key was, once I started working with Larkin, the information that was being taught and the things that were being shared — we would get on the field and train and get in the cages and hit — there was just a wealth of information (from a active and former big league players) and, for me just getting out, it was kind of a culture shock. There was a ton of information being shared from the pro guys that I either didn’t remember or I didn’t get taught coming through. For me, that first six months or year of being there was eye-opening in that there was this huge information gap from what exists at the higher levels to what exists in high school baseball, 12-year-old baseball, et cetera. That’s what really kind of drove me and kept me in this industry and kept me on this side of things was the passion behind, how can we narrow that gap?
BB: What is an example of that gap?
SW: The discipline of the regiments, the throwing program. I worked with Barry (Larkin), he had a really specific throwing program that he did. He had several stages of throwing as you went farther back in distances and there were several unique things that he did as a player that by the time he got done with his throwing program his arm wasn’t just loose, but he’s already mimicked certain actions with his feet and his glove and his transitions in his warmup, so by the time his warmup is done it’s like a full workout with skill pieces. The details of that, the information that Ozzie Smith shared with Barry Larkin, that Dave Concepcion shared with Barry Larkin. I was able to be in a place where I was able to have that information passed on to me.
BB: OK, I am going to put on my fan hat for a second. Barry Larkin was my favorite player growing up, what was he like to work with? Unless it’s bad.
SW: He’s an awesome, awesome guy. Truly genuine, articulate. You hear the stories, you read the stuff, you read the things, but you never really know. But he really is that kind of guy.
BB: Tell me about coming to GGC. I know you have an academy in Loganville.
SW: It’s been successful. We had a couple of guys that went really high in the draft come through our facility. I am not claiming these guys, but at some point in their process, they came through our facility. (Austin) Meadows and (Clint) Frazier have been in there before. We’ve had eight kids selected to the USA Baseball national program in the last two years, two alternates and six participants. It’s fun. It’s been great, that is kind of what I’ve been doing for a long time. Once I found out what was going on here at GGC, I knew at some point I wanted to see about getting into the college game. It wasn’t something I wanted to move my family for. Really, I just bugged (GGC head coach Brad) Stromdahl until I got him to meet with me. It was kind of a mutual fit for both of us. I was able to come in last fall and be here for the inaugural season. It was just the right opportunity.
BB: And that’s what led to the Grizzly Baseball Academy?
SW: We wanted to have some different ties to the community outside of just what we do as a baseball program as a part of the athletic department. We have the resources, we have the facilities, we have the things available to us being in the heart of Gwinnett County, which is a great sports county, to be able to provide a year-round available training piece that extends beyond what our regular season would be as a way to allow some of the players and coaches in Gwinnett County to benefit from us being here. To, as I talked about earlier, narrow that information gap. The way to do that is through Grizzly Baseball Academy. It’s our outlet as a baseball staff. Having so many programs, youth or high school programs so close to us, it would make sense to try to do as much as we could to do as much with the local baseball communities that we have. It’s not anything we have to do or need to do, but I think it builds on what our mission and vision is as an athletic program.
BB: You played two years of professional baseball?
SW: I went to Lake City Community College back when they had a program for two years. My freshmen year we were pretty much the No. 1 team in the county all of the year. Second year, we didn’t have as good a year. Transferred out to Embry-Riddle had an injury, a couple of injuries later and three years, I went and finished my degree at Central Florida in between. I went with a buddy (to a tryout) just to go with him because it was out of town in Miami. A Padres guy was there, saw me, liked me and basically at the end of the event handed me a business card and said ‘Here are two names and numbers in the Frontier League, give them a call if you want to go play.’ I just called the first number on the card, went and showed up. I graduated from college May 1, drove out May 2, went out to Evansville, Ind., and played in the Frontier League in 2004, 2005.
BB: Did you like professional baseball?
SW: I did enjoy it. Having a love and a passion for the game and having it taken away with an injury, it isn’t fulfilling. You are moving on with your life, finishing your degree, and you get a chance to come back and be back and (play again). I was in a unique position where I had time in my life where I could go do that and if it worked, great, if it didn’t work, so be it. I had no pressure. It was fun, it was enjoyable, it was a free environment for me to go play. It was blast. Had I not gotten back into baseball in that way, I probably wouldn’t be here.
Grizzly Baseball Academy
• What: A baseball camp and training program offered by Georgia Gwinnett College
• When: Camps begin in January
• Where: Georgia Gwinnett College
• Noteworthy: There will be a Regional Prospect Development Camp Jan. 18 and 19 featuring skills sessions and instruction and education from college coaches and professional scouts.
• More information: http://www.gbatraining.comt