Strategy of the successor

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Photo: Reagan Martin

Quinnipiac baseball head coach John Delaney continues to instill his aggressive and hardworking qualities that he possessed as a player for the Bobcats.

It’s 6:30 in the morning. John Delaney faces his daily alarm clock, his 18-month-old son Jackson.

It’s the “first inning” of Delaney’s day and one of the only parts of his day that doesn’t revolve around the sport that he loves. The second-year manager for the Quinnipiac baseball team spends the first two hours of his day playing and laughing with his son. It is how the skipper stays grounded.

“The time I spend off the field and at home is important to me,” Delaney said. “Outside the field and especially when I am home, I am probably one of the calmest guys you could be around.”

With Delaney at the helm, the Quinnipiac baseball team is one of the most prominent teams in the MAAC.

Delaney’s first season as head coach brought Quinnipiac one of its best seasons since the program became Division I. In 2015, the team tied the program record for wins with 29, an 11-win improvement from the year prior. Within the MAAC, the Bobcats put together a 15-9 record, good for third in the conference.

For Delaney, winning and success begins with two ideas: being aggressive and being a family.

Delaney makes his way on to the Quinnipiac campus, the calm and cool demeanor quickly transitions to the aggressive mentality he practices each and every day with his players.

“Aggressive is the main focus 
each and every day,” Delaney said. “Everything (the team) does happens in aggressive mode. It’s the style of play offensively, the style of play defensively, it’s how we run the bases.”

Delaney’s aggressive demeanor spawned from sports battles between him and his brother, Jason, in their hometown of Hanson, Massachusetts.

Standing at 5-foot-10, Delaney faced a tough challenge in playing against his brother, who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs over 230 pounds.

“That’s the benefit of having an older brother. They are always going to beat you so you have to try harder and harder,” Delaney said. “He’s three years older, three years bigger, and never let up.”

During his playing days at Quinnipiac, Delaney was the leadoff hitter for a team built on power and home runs. Delaney found himself beating out throws to first and 
stealing bases, something that did not go unnoticed.

“Yeah that was me, always gritty,” Delaney said. “I was the guy that, even if a ball was hit 15 feet away from third base, and I probably can’t make the play, I’m still diving to go get it.”

In his time with the Bobcats he collected four All-NEC honors, including a first-team selection in each of his last three seasons with the Bobcats.

Delaney was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 MLB Draft. Before retiring three years later, the third baseman was one of their best prospects and was honored with the “Hardest Worker Award” at the Brewers’ 2009 spring training.

“It was just an attitude and an effort I instilled in myself,” Delaney said. “If there was any chance I could be safe out there, I was running.”

When players enter the weight room, they are pushed to reach goals that aren’t always easy to achieve. With the help from Delaney and strength and conditioning coach Jeff Moore, the team has created an environment in the gym that mimics the big leagues.

“He wants excellence,” junior shortstop Matthew Batten said. “He wants you to show up like it’s pro ball every day, because he expects you to give one hundred percent regardless of where you are.”

Photo: Reagan Martin

After an 11 a.m. lift, the team heads to the locker room. Time in the locker room is spent focusing and preparing for when the team steps on the field in 60 minutes, but it’s also reserved for team bonding.

Building a family in the clubhouse is one of Delaney’s greatest successes since taking over as manager.

“For me, there’s one thing that can always make you successful,” Delaney said. “That is having 32 guys on a ball club backing each other up regardless of what situation it is.”

Delaney looks at the team as a unit rather than a group of individuals. He thinks a player shouldn’t focus on not having a hit in four at-bats but instead focus on the quality within each of those at-bats. The quality can come from moving a runner over or getting a sacrifice fly.

“If we develop and push guys on how to play and do stuff the right ways, I think you start to create 
an environment where 32 guys are working at that together and that’s an atmosphere that creates success,” Delaney said.

Delaney and his staff have quickly become “coaches for the players” in the eyes of his team.

“He is very approachable,” pitcher Thomas Jenkins said. “The whole coaching staff is so young and so in tune with what we like and how we operate. He’s a normal guy who just gets us.”

The clock hits noon in the team locker room. Quickly, everything gets back to business for the Bobcats.

Delaney always starts team practice differently from the day before, from situational hitting and base running to fundamentals in the field.

“The whole point is, in those four days, to hit every aspect of the game offensively and defensively,” Delaney said. “When the clock hits noon, it’s strictly baseball. It’s about what we can do, and what we need to do today to get the job done.”

The practice methods, although different from the usual, are fully embraced by the players.

“He’s definitely very intense and that trickles down,” captain and relief pitcher Matthew Lorenzetti said. “He’s very demanding, but in the best way possible. If we’re throwing balls to second base, if it’s not on the front left shoulder, we are getting lip to be perfect.”

For “JD,” as his players call him, his aggressive on-field approach and more relaxed off-the-field persona has helped turn around a program that was not previously considered a conference contender.

“He wants excellence. He wants you to show up like it’s pro ball every day, because he expects you to give one hundred percent regardless of where you are.” – Matthew Batten

The team ranked second in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll and ranked as the “Team To Beat” in the MAAC by Baseball America.

After Delaney gets out of practice later in the afternoon, he holds meetings with any players that need to speak with him. After that, Delaney hops back in his car, jamming to Eric Church as he heads back home to his family.

Delaney’s day-to-day lifestyle has created a culture of winning for the Quinnipiac baseball team.

“For us it was never a question 
of talent, but rather we didn’t know how to win,” Lorenzetti said. “Now we expect to win, whether it’s against defending national champion Vanderbilt or if we’re sweeping the home series against Niagara. He just came in and set that standard so high from the very start. We have all adapted to it so well.”