STEUBENVILLE - When Tom Timmons found out Pittsburgh Pirates Pitching Coach Ray Searage was coming to the Kiwanis Club luncheon Tuesday, he searched through his baseball card collection and found a rare Searage card from his days with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He passed the card around the luncheon crowd at the YWCA during the coach's talk but warned everyone to "not fold it or get food on the card. When the Pirates win the World Series this year and next year, this card will be worth money."
Playoff fever was evident in the room as Searage shared stories about a team, "that has put the pieces together to be a contender."
TALKING BASEBALL — Pittsburgh Pirate Pitching Coach Ray Searage looks at a 1989 baseball card of himself when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Searage spoke Tuesday to the Steubenville Kiwanis Club. He also met with Aiden, left, and Simon Gray after the luncheon.
-- Dave Gossett
"We usually have a minicamp early in the year for the pitchers and catchers to check their flexibility and to give them directions and challenges. We try to make the pitchers aggressive and attack the zone. And our guys have been tremendous this year. They look at me and don't care about how much I don't know. They do care that I care about them and I care about their health and I care about making them the best they can be," Searage explained.
"I am not a guru. I am always learning new things about baseball. The pitchers want to know about hitters so I try to find every piece of information I can about the hitters on the other teams so the pitchers are acting on their instincts," continued Searage.
"It's not the numbers that matter. It's the people who matter. People watch the game on TV and think I am calm and collected. I can tell you it has been a trying season. A.J. Burnett is a true professional. James McDonald was great the first half of the season, but now I need to get my fingers into his brain and massage it a little. I am working to get JMac back on track," remarked Searage.
"We all have to remember that earlier this year the entire team was on a hot streak. The hitters got hot at the same time the pitchers were hot and the defense was hot. Now some guys are trying too hard. This is baseball. If it was easy everyone would do it," Searage declared.
Searage also noted Burnett has been a strong influence this season on the pitching staff.
"When A.J. watches the game from the dugout he makes sure the other pitchers are watching the game. He tells them to stay focused on the game and to learn from other pitchers and opposing hitters," related Searage.
Searage, a Long Island, N.Y., native first came to the Ohio Valley when high school friends enrolled at Bethany College and told him about the baseball program at then-West Liberty State College.
"I went there, checked out the school and the baseball team and was a walk-on. I met some great people there who are still friends today including Mark Stacy and Greg DeSantis. And the baseball coach got me started on the journey to where I am today," Searage said.
A normal day for the coach starts at noon when he arrives at PNC Park, prepares the bullpen pitchers' cards and watches videos of the prior game.
"I have the pitchers and catchers watch video of the opposing batters. Then I meet with the starting pitcher and catchers to review the game plan. After that the pitchers and catchers will stretch and play catch and then the starters will practice hitting. Then I put on my game attire and meet with the catchers and starting pitcher. After the game I usually go home and watch game video again," cited Searage.
He was asked about those mound conversations when he and the pitchers cover their mouths.
"Sometimes when I go out to the mound they make me laugh. And I know the one time I didn't cover my mouth was a game against the Orioles and they read my lips. I always covered my mouth after that. We had Joel Hanrahan pitching one night and he gave up a single and then walked a guy. The next two pitchers were so wide right of Rod Barajas he looked like he was playing hockey back there. I walked out and covered my mouth and asked Joel, 'What are you doing?' and he answered, 'I don't know. I told him to pitch one straight to the dish and I told Barajas to hold his glove right in the middle of the dish.
"Joel got the next two batters out and his wife told me the next day I had said exactly the right thing to her husband," laughed Searage.
"We aren't playing the way we want to right now. But we are like a motor that sputters a little. We may be sputtering a little but we will be back very soon.
"This team is full of competitors," predicted Searage.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com.)