Field of Dreams
For seven years, J.K. Kolmansberger, MBA ’00, co-founder and president of business data analytics firm VisiQuate, has coached the Little League team for which his son, Braden, plays. Last year, the team captured the U.S. Championship in the Little League Baseball World Series—a win that came from years of effort and a unique set of strategies that he talks about in detail below.
Q. What strategies led to the team’s excellent performance?
A. One of the tactics we embrace is to create a lot of pressure and competitiveness within our practice environment. We coach [the players] hard and are very vocal during practice. But when game time comes, we don’t scream or overly coach them. If they make a mistake, we say, “Just flush it and move on.” So we created a ton of pressure in practice and then took it away in the games.
Baseball requires a calm demeanor, and you have to instill that in the boys so they can perform well. At Williamsport [Pennsylvania, during the Little League World Series], when you looked into the opposing team’s dugout, you could see the fear on the players’ faces. But when you looked into our dugout, our kids were dancing and having fun. They embraced the pressure and enjoyed every minute of it. So that really helped.
Q. What role did defense training play?
A. In Little League, you have short [outfield] fences between 220-225 feet. That’s not far for big kids to hit a ball. So you’ll see people put together a team of powerful hitters who will hit the ball over the fence and outscore you. That wasn’t our strategy. We worked incredibly hard on how to play proper defense. If a ball was hit into the left center gap and there was a runner on first, our kids understood where the cutoff needed to go.
We got so much press because our offense production was really good. At one point, we scored 258 runs in the series, but we also only gave up 12. Coaches were always quick to point out that our pitching and defense was always ranked at the top. That wasn’t by accident. We worked on it.
Q. How has the team’s success affected the community?
A. The team has done a lot of charitable work. We’re very involved with Four Diamonds Pediatric Cancer Foundation. We’ve raised over $50,000 for them and we do hospital visits just about every weekend. That work has been a good balance for our boys, making sure that they use this time in the spotlight to give back to the community. A local grocery store also raised $248,000 for our Red Land Little League through team T-shirt sales.
There are also more kids interested in playing baseball now. Our challenge as a league will be to find places for these kids to play. So we’re raising about $1 million to purchase land and build fields to accommodate the new demand for baseball.