Winterburn on life at La Verne

Posted May 18, 2007
Rhiannon Mim
A college baseball coach since 1988, Scott Winterburn has coached at the University of La Verne for six years and was named SCIAC Coach of the Year in 2005. This faithful Dodger fan used to be a catcher in the minor leagues for the Boise Hawks and enjoys any activity having to do with water including fishing. Winterburn also operates his own company, the All Out Baseball Academy, which features a summer camp for kids and coaching clinics.

Scott Winterburn has been a part of the University of La Verne family since 2000. In his time here, Winterburn has led the baseball team to back-to-back Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles in 2004 and 2005. Each season, Leopard baseball has battled to hold its spot among the top teams in the conference. This past season, the team was literally a run away from clinching a third SCIAC title. We sat down with Coach Winterburn to talk about his team, his career and his life here at ULV.

Marilee Lorusso: You have been a coach at the University of La Verne for seven seasons, what has it been like being part of the ULV family for this long?

Scott Winterburn: It’s been a unique experience because it’s such a small, tight knit fraternity of adults here which I think definitely filters down to our students. To be a part of a place where people know who you are and support you and come to your games and practices, it’s a really neat experience.

ML: What has the school and the University meant to you personally, as a coach, teacher and adviser?

SW: It’s meant, professionally, really everything that my profession has become. I think my whole approach and philosophy has been allowed to evolve here and in large part, refined here.

ML: What is the biggest thing you try to emphasize with your players with the game of baseball?

SW: I think having them recognize that baseball is an avenue where we can accelerate life’s learning curve. We can get practicum when dealing with the many different emotions you will feel in your lifetime. I try and get that across all of the time.

ML: What is the biggest misconception you think people have about you as the head coach of a college baseball team?

SW: I think the biggest misconception for people on the outside is how easy it appears when they come and watch a game. It’s very difficult in today’s day and age; the recruiting process is very difficult to attract players. The discipline they see on Saturday afternoons is a result of much, much practice by the players. I think for people that are close but not on the inside of our team, people around the community, I think the one misconception is how strict and demanding that we seem to be and in reality, I don’t think that’s the case.

ML: What is something that your players and coaches would be surprised to find out about you?

SW: I think they’d probably be surprised to find out about some of things I do off the field, the ways I relax with my family and some of the things that I’m into.

ML: And what are some of your hobbies outside of baseball?

SW: I like woodworking. I like fishing and doing things with my family, anything with my family really, traveling. I think most kids would be surprised to find out that I’m not just totally engrossed with baseball 24 hours a day.

ML: This season, the team fell a little short of winning a SCIAC title. What will it take for future teams to win conference titles like in 2004 and 2005?

SW: The obvious answer is to win more games than the other teams in the conference. I just think it’s going to continually take a quality effort on everybody’s behalf. I think it’s the most important thing; the way that we define our success here is by the level of buy-in that our players have. I think it’s been my experience in my 20-plus years not just here but at another place that I coached, it’s been my experience that when the level of buy-in is high, it correlates to success on the field.

ML: You have had a number of quality scholar-athletes come through your program, what do you look for when recruiting potential Leopards?

SW: I look for first and foremost, we look for a good ball player that is a proven student.
Once we get that, we are really paying attention in the recruiting process to coachability. Does a guy look you in the eye when you’re talking to him? Does he seem to be receptive to what you’re telling him? Does it look like you can predict that he’s going to be coachable and listen to the people around him? Does it look like he’s going to be a great teammate? Those are things that are critical to the success of our program. Those are the guys we usually recruit.

ML: What major league manager, past or present, do you admire and why?

SW: Currently I like Mike Scioscia. When I watch his team play I have a great respect for what I’m seeing. I know that they’re well coached. He teaches them to do what other major league baseball players aren’t willing to do. I feel like I can relate to that kind of philosophy. They’re trying to create an environment of success that they define. I was a Dodger fan growing up, and Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda were longtime Dodger managers. Both of them had long tenures and are two totally different people. But I appreciated how both of them instilled their philosophy the Dodger way. I take a lot of that with me when I’m coaching. Two examples to me of people who are totally completely different in their approach but they’re trying to teach the same things, the same values.

ML: What are the challenges that come with being the head coach of a Division III college baseball team?

SW: The challenge first and foremost is time. Time getting everybody together at the same time everyday is really difficult. Everybody’s schedule seems to be a little different. You gotta be able to work around guys’ classes and work around projects and assignments that they have to complete. That’s probably one of our biggest challenges. The other challenge that we have is recruiting. Trying to satisfy all the needs that we have from ear to ear is an ongoing challenge that never ends.

ML: What is the best part about being a head coach at ULV?

SW: I think the freedom and the support from my colleagues. Here you have a real opportunity to implement a philosophy and work it. The support of our colleagues just really allows that to happen. It doesn’t seem like there is a big pressure to be somebody that they want you to be. It’s almost like coaching a team. You’re a member of the team, they relish you for your strengths. It’s a pretty special thing.

ML: What is the biggest thing you try to instill in every player that comes through your program each season?

SW: I think it comes back to being a great teammate. I think that more than anything else is the backbone of our program: being a great teammate. When you’re a great teammate, so many positive things happen as a result of that.

ML: Have you ever played a practical joke on a team or group of players during your time here or have you witnessed anything interesting?

SW: Yeah, I’ve played several practical jokes. I’m kind of a practical joker at heart. I remember one year we had everybody put on the wrong pair of pants for a game and we had them change five minutes before the game started. That was kind of messing with them a little bit. But we play practical jokes all the time like hiding stuff from guys, shaving cream in somebody’s mitt, and lots of fun stuff. As long as it’s in good taste and good humor it’s acceptable here.

ML: Do you ever collaborate with other coaches here in the department or support the other athletic teams at ULV?

SW: It would be hard to think of anyone I haven’t consulted. Since I’ve been here, I’ve talked to every coach in the department. Whether they know that they’re helping me or not, they’re helping me. I ask questions of everybody. I try and go to something just about every week if I can. Spring time, it gets a little tougher for spring sports. I don’t usually make it to a track meet even though I’d like to. I go to some basketball games, both men’s and women’s. I always go to a couple soccer games both women’s and men’s. I pretty much make all of the home football games. I’d like to be at more but softball usually plays the same days we do so spring sports are a little tough.

ML: As a kid, did you always want to be a coach or did you just have aspirations to play during your lifetime?

SW:I think as I look back I could see myself coaching when I was a kid. All my coaches told me that was what I was doing on the team anyways. I was like nine-years-old and 10-years-old and I always had a knack for knowing what the coaches wanted and was able to help them. I think I had that knack at a young age.

ML: Do you have any superstitions before games or during season?

SW: I have really curbed that over the years. I probably had a lot more when I was younger but not really. I try to create some during the year to keep it fun. We have a rule that guys have to shave during the season but we might tell them hey if we win you can grow a goatee as long as we’re winning you can grow it or we’ll wear high pants. Superstitiously I might go with something that’s a little bit more fun to create excitement versus going with the same pair of socks. I really don’t do too much of that stuff anymore.

ML: What do you want to leave as your legacy when your time at La Verne is done? What do you plan on doing after?

SW: I can always see myself both in the business world somehow and somehow connected to baseball. I think that’s what I’ll probably try and always keep my hand in somewhere. On what level I’m not sure, but I can always seem myself doing that. I would like to leave a mark on the players and the people I have come in contact with at the University of La Verne. A positive mark. That might mean something different for each guy but I want it to be a positive mark that somehow I was a part of something that was good.

ML: You have a lot of young players on your team, how optimistic are you for next season?

SW: We have a lot of young players but the older that guys that are leaving played a lot of key roles for us. Anytime you have to fill the shoes of some of the older guys that carried the load like Kyle (Johnson), Brad (Licher), Daniel (Talbot), Mark (Simmons), the likes of those guys. You’re hoping that someone can step up into those roles and fulfill them but we’re pretty optimistic. We’re having a pretty good recruiting year. With so many guys coming back that now know our style, our philosophy, they’re more gelled together. They know what to expect coming into the fall. I expect us to be better next year, a lot better.

ML: What were your goals when you first came to La Verne? What are your goals now? Have they changed? How?

SW: I don’t think they’ve changed that much. I think my philosophy in life, my goals in life really haven’t changed. I have some short term goals that revolve around whatever the current situation is so if we need to get better in certain areas or if I need to improve professionally in certain areas, I think I look at that as a short term every year like what can I do to be better. In terms of long term goals, my mentality has always been I just do the best I can right now and the road will lead me somewhere and I don’t know where that will be. I’m happy here. I came here to be a head coach at the university level and do a good job and if that was something that was going to take 30 years than so be it or if it was going to take three years so be it. I’m living it. I’m living those goals every day. I think they’re sound and it keeps it pretty simple for me.

ML: Do you think your dialogue with the umpires help or hurt your team in game situations?

SW: I would like to think any dialogue I have helps. Otherwise I don’t have dialogue. I try to not have dialogue if I think it’s going to be detrimental to the current situation and the future situation. I try to only have dialogue if I think it’s going to be helpful.

ML: Where do you see the program in the next five years?

SW:I think we’re considered successful in the current state. We’re probably considered a top 25 team in the country pretty much year in and year out. I’d like to move that into obviously being a top 10 or top five team in the country in the future if we can do that.

ML: If you were President of the University, what would you do differently?

SW: The president of the University has so many issues to deal with that I don’t understand so I’m going to have to take the fifth on that one. I don’t know. He has so many issues to deal with. I would do what he does. I would just try to take a look each situation and make the best decision for everybody involved.

Marilee Lorusso can be reached at mlorusso@ulv.edu.

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