Pirates third-base coach addresses Penn State's baseball team
January 23, 2016 12:00 AM
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Pirates third base coach Rick Sofield, left, served as the keynote speaker at Penn State baseball's annual first-pitch dinner.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Within a few weeks, Rick Sofield will switch gears and get ready for spring training, but Friday night he looked out into a crowded banquet room and delivered a message similar to the one he shares with Pirates players.
At Penn State baseball’s annual first-pitch dinner, the Pirates’ third-base coach served as the keynote speaker. He challenged manager Rob Cooper’s team to come ready with a disciplined approach so the group of 18-22-year-olds won’t end their season with regret. The Nittany Lions finished 18-30 a year ago and went 6-16 in the Big Ten Conference, but they look to continue building and traveled to Cuba on Thanksgiving break for an academic and athletic experience. The Lions open the 2016 season Feb. 19 at a tournament in Cary, N.C.
“Somebody in the Big Ten is going to have a great year, somebody in this room is going to have the best year they ever have [had],” Sofield said. “Someone in this room is going to have the most frustrating year they’ve ever had. My question to you is where do you stand on that podium when you look at each other, when you live and breath and experience academics and athletics, the social spectrum, where are you with the pain of discipline versus the pain of regret?”
Pirates third base coach Rick Sofield addressed the Penn State baseball team Friday evening at the Lions' annual first pitch dinner (Audrey Snyder/Post-Gazette).
Sofield spoke about the challenges of managing successes and failures and watching big-league ballplayers make the transition from people living ordinary lives to becoming millionaires. Cooper had Sofield address his baseball players, many of whom have the odds stacked against them as they try to advance their playing career after college, Sofield’s message had the Lions manager ready to hit the field.
“It was amazing hearing him talk,” Penn State outfielder James Coates said. “Being a senior, it really hit home for me. … As we embark on this 2016 season with this new group of guys, we have everything that we need to be successful. We have all the facilities, we have every opportunity we need, so it comes down to will we make the decision as players to put forth the effort and the work on our own to have a good season.”
Sofield’s journey to Happy Valley came during a snowstorm, and it was anything but easy. He scrambled to find a flight that made it through messy weather in Atlanta and landed in Pittsburgh. He then drove to central Pennsylvania. This former college coach who joined Clint Hurdle’s coaching staff in 2012 said he wanted to share a message from his heart.
“It’s the exact same chat I’ll have with Andrew McCutchen on Feb. 18 and Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco and Jordy Mercer,” he said. “This game is difficult, this game is a simple process that we make complex, expectations are the death of us.”
Until spring training starts, though, Sofield’s plan is simple.
“I’m going to try to stay up all night and suck every minute of the day out with my family,” he said. “That’ll go fast as this time frame has gone fast, but it’s going to be a very exciting 2016. It’s a good-looking club, Neal Huntington has done a good job putting that club together again, so I look forward to being a factor in that [National League] Central Division.”
Audrey Snyder: email@example.com and Twitter @audsnyder4.
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