MOOSIC — This spring will mark the start of a new era for the MMI Prep baseball program.
First-year head coach Ryan Jastremsky will be taking over.
Facing new challenges in his first year heading a varsity ship, Jastremsky is looking for anything and everything to put himself on level ground with some of the more experienced coaches in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Even if that means driving on some snow-covered roads to make a coaching clinic like he did Saturday morning.
The MMI Prep coach made the trek from Freeland to Moosic to sit in on the RailRiders University Coaches Clinic. In doing so, Jastremsky has the opportunity to listen to some of baseball’s brightest minds in northeastern Pennsylvania, including RailRiders coach Doug Davis, local minor leaguers Max Kranick and Joe McCarthy, former RailRiders Russ Canzler and Eddy Rodriguez, Miami Marlins scout Phil Rossi and longtime MLB pitching coach Gary Ruby.
“It wasn’t great travel, but opportunities like this don’t present themselves too often. Pretty much a ‘can’t miss’ event,” Jastremsky said. “You want to keep getting better as coaches. Don’t get satisfied. There’s always new things out there, something to be learned. Let’s do things upfront and first, and then the weeks to come, months to come, years to come.”
Coaches like Jastremsky are why Canzler, a Hazleton Area grad and former major leaguer, loves the free coaches clinic the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders offer each winter.
Now working in the RailRiders front office, Canzler feels that it would be selfish to not share the wealth of knowledge he’s absorb throughout his professional baseball career to the area that’s given him so much over the years.
“I can remember that it wasn’t too long ago that I was playing in Hazleton and had hopes and dreams and aspirations, and I can see that same kind of glare in kids eyes from around here,” Canzler said. “I think when you have players like myself and Joe McCarthy and Jake McCarthy and the Biasi brothers from down in Hazleton and Max Kranick and these guys see this and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is a real possibility for me if I put my heart and soul into it.’ If we can help kind of be a guiding beacon to these guys and their coaches, it’s awesome. I get fulfillment out of that, I get enjoyment out of that and we get to help these kids along the way.”
Rodriguez was back at PNC Field, his home for the last three seasons, once again on Saturday.
Even though he’s now the RailRiders’ former catcher and not current catcher, he couldn’t have been happier than to make a trip up from his warm home in Florida to the 20-degree weather up in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I think just like any presenter or any speaker, you want to get your thoughts and beliefs out there,” Rodriguez said. “I also want to make sure that people understand my thoughts are not quite finished. They’re thoughts and they’re ideas, and I’ve done extensive research on it, but at the end of the day, the one thing I wanted everyone to leave here with was, ‘Hey, just question yourself about what it is that you’re doing. Don’t necessarily listen to me because of my resume, listen to me because I’m willing to go out and find the answer for any question.’”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle