With an 0-7-1 start, the Manitowoc American Legion baseball team has had a tough go of it during the opening stretch of the 2013 season.
But as far as head coach Kevin Stangel is concerned, success can be measured in places other than the win column.
“You just have to build upon where you’re at. The goal is never wins or losses,” Stangel said. “The goal and the philosophy at least that I’ve always had has been take it on a game-by game basis and try and improve as you go along and hopefully get to having a little bit of fun along the way, too.”
An array of health concerns on the pitching staff have made it a bumpy ride at the onset of the season.
“The problem is we’ve had a number of kids that are either limited in the amount of pitches they can throw per game or the amount of rest they need between games, or the fact that they are not allowed to throw at all, at this point in time,” Stangel said. “There are kids that didn’t pitch an inning at all in the spring that are getting the opportunity now to pitch in the summer…you just piece it together.”
Stangel is well aware that his players want to win as badly as he does. He also knows that it is his job to help his players keep things in perspective.
“It’s not worth it to try to win a game at the risk of hurting a kid,” Stangel said. “That will never happen, at least when I’m coaching.”
As Stangel sees it, being consistent and even-keeled will ultimately pave the way to success, however it is defined.
“I guess I don’t really change my approach or philosophy on a game-to-game or season-by-season basis,” Stangel said. “I’m yet to find the first player that was either yelled into or scared into a better hitter or pitcher. You just keep the same philosophy, you keep it steady, and you keep encouraging the kids to do well.”
Stangel is confident the struggles will come to an end eventually. The effort put forth by his players mixed with a bit of patience could be enough to turn things around.
“We have a good, quality group of kids. They’re quality kids. They work hard. They want to do well, it just isn’t there yet,” Stangel said. “It’s an adjustment process, too. A lot of these kids haven’t played legion baseball until this year. It’s a little bit of a step up in competition.”
With plenty of season left, Stangel and company are going to keep striving toward additional improvements.
“It’s been a struggle to date,” Stangel said. But, you keep working and, hopefully, good things happen.”