A Dugout Visit with Pitching Coach Mike Zirelli
By Brandon Rebboah '13
Santa Clara, Calif.- Entering his ninth season on the Mission Campus, baseball pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Zirelli(MZ) has the pitchers working hard for the upcoming season. A successful pitcher in his own right, Zirelli has turned his collegiate and professional experience into success in the dugout. SantaClaraBronco.com recently(SCB) caught up with the Bronco baseball assistant to talk about coaching at SCU and the upcoming season.
SCB: What do you think the biggest difference is coaching at Santa Clara rather than other schools?
MZ: Santa Clara is a tremendous academic school. I think one difference is our players put a lot of time and effort into their education- they are not just here to play baseball. We have some kids that are going to be very successful in life after their playing days are over.
SCB: You were a very successful collegiate pitcher at Cal Poly, how does that correlate to coaching?
MZ:I went through the college grind and was successful as a pitcher, so I think that helps some guys buy into the throwing and conditioning aspect of pitching. I threw like 450 innings in college. I was always healthy and have implemented a lot of the stuff I used to do to stay healthy. I was strictly a starting pitcher in college, but I mainly was used out of the bullpen in pro ball, so it helps to have experience to give to all of our pitchers on how to prepare- starters and relievers.
SCB: In terms of advice you give to your new pitchers, what is the number one priority?
MZ: Get better each and every day. Pick out one or two things to improve on each day and having a feeling of satisfaction when the day is over. Our guys have done a great job of this so far this year.
SCB: This will be your ninth year at Santa Clara, what do you value about your tenure at Santa Clara?
MZ: I work with great people. O'B (Head Coach Mark O'Brien) is a very close friend of mine and has been a great mentor to me in so many ways. I am also very close with Baumer (assistant coach Chad Baum) and B.L (assistant coach Brett Lindgren). They are two great people who would give you the shirt off their back and are very loyal. I look forward to coming to work every day.
SCB: Looking at the upcoming season, what are you most excited about?
MZ:Just to watch us compete against another team. We have a scrappy blue-collar group this year. I think we are mentally tough and preparing for the season the right way. We will be prepared when opening day hits.
SCB:As both pitching coach/recruiting coordinator how significant do you think it was that you were able to add some left-handed pitching to the 2011 roster?
MZ: It was a priority for us. That is the biggest thing about recruiting- identify what you need and go out and get it. We also wanted to get more athletic on the position player side and I believe we accomplished that.
SCB: What does it mean to you to as a Bay Area native to coach at Santa Clara?
MZ: It is awesome. I constantly have friends and family at games, which is great. After games, to see my wife with our two boys and my parents is a cool feeling. I am also familiar with a lot of the high school and JC programs up here and have built relationships over the years.
SCB: You have professional experience, how does that help you as both a pitching coach/recruiting coordinator?
MZ: On the pitching side, I was able to work with some great coaches during my career, so just passing that information along to our players. As far as the recruiting side, trying to identify some players with up-side. You see a lot of players that are not fully developed but may have a loose arm and/or a projectable body, so you can see them taking a big jump down the road. I played with a lot of guys who did that
In less than one month, Zirelli and the rest of the Bronco baseball team will travel to Columbia, South Carolina to open up their 2011 season on Feb. 18.