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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Interview Part 5: Ed Nottle, Ballfield Rat

Brockton Rox coach Ed Nottle talks with players before the game Aug. 13, 2011

Part 1: Stayed in Baseball | Part 2: Best Thing | Part 3: Snapped One Up | Part 4: Two Things | Part 5: Ballfield Rat | Player Stories

As the topic turns to coaching, more specifically, the over-coaching Ed Nottle sees as a mainstay in affiliated ball, Nottle really gets going.

Nottle has spent more than a decade managing AA and AAA ball. He's spent much of the last two managing and coaching in the independent leagues.

What he doesn't understand is when a team signs a good young hitter, then the instructor switches him all around - "they over-do that (stuff)."

"That's what I like about independent ball," Nottle told The Greatest 21 Days recently. "You can learn from other guys. You can learn from opponents. And nobody's afraid of their job.

"You do that in organized ball, you're in AA, you better pitch the way your AA traveling hitting instructor tells you to, whoever that (idiot) is."

Nottle has experience life without such overcoaching since 1993, when he joined the independent Sioux City Explorers as manager. He's managed or coached in independent ball since.

Nottle spoke with The Greatest 21 Days in August, serving as a coach for the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League. His Rox, managed by Bill Buckner, start their playoff run tonight (Sept. 7, 2011) at Quebec.

Throughout his run, Nottle has been doling out his own brand of coaching, a brand that can only come with decades of experience in professional baseball - 51 years and counting since he first signed as a pitcher with the White Sox in 1960.

A particular problem with the coaching in affiliated ball, Nottle said, is the changeover. One year an instructor has players do short sprints. When that instructor is fired, the next has them "running around the Empire State Building."

"Don't tell me that's right, bulls---," the plain-spoken 71-year-old said.

Aside from the coaching atmosphere, there's also a different atmosphere on the field, Nottle said.

Ed Nottle, jacket, back on the bench of a professional team, serving as coach for independent Brockton in 2011.

In affiliated ball, it's all about development. That's not the case on the independent circuit.

"My job now isn't player development," Nottle said. "My job is to help them create an atmosphere for them to want to come to the ballpark every day and play up to their capabilities. Then it's their job to make the next move.

"What I love about independent ball is it's the only pro league, outside of the big leagues, where you just come to park every day to win."

Then there's the hustle. When players don't hustle, that bothers Nottle. The way Nottle sees it, playing baseball is a gift. They could be roofing a house, but they're getting paid to play baseball.

For Nottle, baseball has been a gift, especially for a man who admits he has limited other skills. He can sing, he can coach baseball, but that's about it.

This year was to be Nottle's first year out of baseball in many years. He was in the unfamiliar situation of being back home in Evansville, Ind., with his wife, during baseball season.

Brockton, though, called him back mid-year. Nottle said he couldn't get there fast enough. He offered to hitch-hike, the team sent a plane ticket. His wife joked she'd give him back his belt and shoelaces.

He quickly picked up where he left off.

"I still throw BP every day. I still work hard as I can. I still coach third every night," Nottle said. I'll be 72, I don't know too many other people that do that. But, again, this thing keeps you young."

"Like (Pete) Maravich was a gym rat, I'm a ballfield rat," Nottle said a short time later. "That's all there is to it."

Go To Ed Nottle's Player Stories

Part 1: Stayed in Baseball | Part 2: Best Thing | Part 3: Snapped One Up | Part 4: Two Things | Part 5: Ballfield Rat | Player Stories

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