Major Dads Handle Pitchers

By Staff

Coaching Management, 12.7, September 2004,

When East Coweta, Ga., High School Head Coach Franklin DeLoach looked at his coaching staff this past spring, he saw stars. When it came time to make a pitching change, DeLoach called on former major league reliever Rick Behenna to visit the mound. When he looked in his bullpen, warming up his pitchers was 1987 National League Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian.

Along with being volunteer coaches for DeLoach’s program, the former Atlanta Braves teammates were also fathers of two of East Coweta’s strongest arms. Bedrosian’s son Kyle, a senior left-handed starter who is headed to Mercer University in the fall, and Brandon Behenna, a sophomore right-handed reliever and spot starter, helped lead East Coweta to the Georgia 5A-state championship game while compiling a 31-win season. This season was Behenna’s third as the team’s pitching coach and the first year Bedrosian was officially a member of the coaching staff. Bedrosian made his services available after his hunting and fishing show on ESPN2 was cancelled prior to the 2004 baseball season.

“Three years ago, when Rick joined my staff, I completely turned the pitching staff over to him, and when Steve came aboard they began sharing the responsibilities,” says DeLoach. “And when I say completely turning it over to them, I mean it. Everything from conditioning and workout schedules to choosing who would start the next game. They handled everything regarding the pitchers. When you’ve got two ex-major leaguers, it’s a no brainer—they’ve forgotten more about pitching than I’ll ever know.”

Once it became public knowledge that he would have two ex-major leaguers on his staff, DeLoach began hearing whispers that the ex-teammates—both fiery competitors in their professional days—might have trouble suppressing their egos and sharing power. And DeLoach admits that in the beginning, even he had some doubts as to whether having two pitching coaches would work. So he vocalized his concerns.

“I wanted to make sure each man was operating in his own space,” says DeLoach. “So we established roles. And it went real well.”

Behenna’s role with the staff basically remained the same as in previous years: He called pitches and visited the mound during varsity games. Prior to and during games, Bedrosian worked in the bullpen, getting the pitchers loose and critiquing their form. Both men took turns throwing batting practice, a treat for both DeLoach and his players.

“Every high school coach in the country can appreciate that,” says DeLoach. “It was priceless—instead of me throwing B.P., and at the same time trying to watch the players hit, I’m able to concentrate on the hitters and evaluate their swings a lot better. Besides, how many high school players can say they took B.P. off a Cy Young winner?”

DeLoach says both men worked very well together, spending a lot of time during practices and games bouncing ideas off one another. And because they had grown up playing baseball with Kyle and Brandon, East Coweta’s players were not awestruck or intimidated by having to perform in front of the ex-major leaguers—even though they often had to watch their assistant coaches sign autographs for fans, players, and even opposing coaches before and after each game.

When asked how the Bedrosians and the Behennas dealt with the inevitable father-son friction that can appear when one is coaching the other, DeLoach says he saw something interesting transpire. “Both Steve and Rick admitted that it was tough at times to get through to their own sons, which I can relate to because I grew up with my dad coaching me. They would often ask each other to talk to the other’s kid,” says DeLoach. “It was really funny, but it seemed like Kyle Bedrosian would hear Rick Behenna better than he would hear his dad—Brandon Behenna would listen to Steve better.”

And both fathers made a point of drawing the line between being a father and being a coach. “There were a couple times when I heard Steve Bedrosian say to Kyle Bedrosian, ‘It’s not Dad out here Kyle, it’s Coach,’” DeLoach adds. “It’s really hard to find that line, but they always did.”

Bedrosian and Behenna not only made their mark on the team’s win-loss record, but also on the program’s player development. This fall, seven of East Coweta’s eight seniors from the 2004 team will be playing collegiate baseball. Three of those players are pitchers, and two, including Kyle Bedrosian, will be competing at the NCAA Division I level.

Next season Brandon Behenna will be a junior, and DeLoach expects the elder Behenna to retain his duties—and that he will continue in that role as long as Brandon is playing at East Coweta. But with the graduation of Kyle Bedrosian, he isn’t sure if Steve will stay on his staff. Though with two more Bedrosian boys coming up—one an incoming freshman, the other a middle school student—DeLoach is confident that Steve will remain an integral part of the East Coweta program for years to come.

“I am very thankful for having had them around,” says DeLoach. “I enjoyed learning from them, hearing their stories and just plain being around them. And I know the players did too.”