Pudwill never gave up, led turnaround for Redmond High baseball | Reporter Coach of the Year
June 7, 2012 · 11:37 AM
As coach of the Redmond High School baseball team, Dan Pudwill plays many roles.
Teacher, counselor, motivational speaker, comic, role model and friend — the list is almost as long as a lineup card.
Pudwill’s coaching performance — and patience — were put to the test as his Mustangs, who entered the season with high hopes, lost their first seven games out of the gate.
But the 37-year-old never gave up, continued to motivate and his team delivered as Redmond won 16 of its final 18 games and finished one win away from the Class 4A state semifinals.
Along the way, the Mustangs won the Kingco 4A tournament title and advanced to the state tournament for the third straight year and the fifth time in the last six seasons. Even after the slow start, Pudwill had confidence his team would turn things around and the Mustangs did before falling to eventual state champion Kentwood in the state quarterfinals.
“I told them it was important to stay the course and not waver and believe in what we are doing,” Pudwill said as he reminisced about the recent season inside the Hartman Park home dugout. “The talent was there. … At the end of the day, if you put us against most of the Kingco teams, we’re very well the most talented team. We just didn’t have the results early on. The kids needed to be reminded that they were talented and things would be fine.”
Pudwill is the Redmond Reporter’s 2011-12 Coach of the Year for guiding the Mustangs’ remarkable turnaround.
After tinkering with lineup and the team’s late-inning pitching for much of the early season, Pudwill found the right winning formula when it mattered most.
The biggest issue for the Mustangs early in the season was the lack of hitting so Pudwill put an emphasis on offense in practice and it translated to wins.
Pudwill got creative in practice with a two-strike scrimmage, where each hitter began their at bat with a 2-2 count and if they struck out looking, they couldn’t hit for the rest of the scrimmage. If they struck out swinging twice, they also had to take a seat. He also worked individually with particular players who needed to tweak their approach at the plate.
And it worked as the Mustangs started being more aggressive, which translated to more runs — and more victories.
“Just like that, it started working,” said senior Patrick McGrath of the team’s hitting turnaround. “No one really messed up on that drill. … It definitely worked and we saw results. We definitely focused on offense in practice.”
With the defense and pitching already clicking, the offensive surge helped the Mustangs rattle off a school-record 12 straight wins, highlighted by a huge comeback against Skyline and perfect pitching performance by senior Peter Hendron versus Eastlake.
The win streak led to a playoff berth and then Redmond won three straight games in the Kingco tournament, including a 7-0 win in the league-tournament title game against Issaquah. The Mustangs had lost twice to the Eagles during the regular season, but Pudwill and his players made the right adjustments in the game that mattered most.
McGrath, who went 7 for 7 in the Mustangs’ three victories in the Kingco tournament, said Pudwill, an English teacher and father of three, has a very calm coaching style and is a great teacher and motivator.
“There’s nothing that fools him,” McGrath said. “He knows all the small things about the game of baseball. He knows how to play the game and play it right.”
Pudwill also keeps a light-hearted attitude in the dugout and is always there when his players need to talk about something beyond the baseball diamond, McGrath said.
“I’ve had personal issues in the past where I need to talk to someone and he’s the first guy I got to,” McGrath said.
Pudwill, who is also funny and witty according to players, said this year’s team was a “neat group,” and when he wrote a letter in the team’s season-ending memory book, he highlighted the lessons learned.
“One of them was never underestimate the concept of a true team,” Pudwill said, recalling what he wrote to his team. “That’s one of the thing that they taught themselves and taught me. And the other one was never give up. We certainly had that lesson.”