Batavia baseball coach Matt Holm thinks the Bulldogs' pitching staff needs to raise its game to compete with the elite programs in the Upstate Eight Conference.
Holm thinks the Bulldogs have the right mentor in place to make it happen.
Batavia resident Bob Polinsky, a former minor league pitcher in the Yankees and White Sox organizations, is in his fourth season as an assistant in the Bulldogs' program, but first as the lead pitching coach for the entire program, working with the lower levels in addition to the varsity.
"The big reality is at some point in this conference we're going to have to get over the hump with the pitching to beat some of the top guys' pitching," Holm said. "That's been the difference."
Polinsky, who worked only with varsity pitchers in his first three years at Batavia, figures he can be more influential starting with the program's youngsters and preaching a consistent philosophy throughout their high school careers.
Polinsky spent most of his life on the East Coast before relocating to Batavia for his job in the tobacco industry in 1993, and has been a Batavia resident since.
Two of Polinsky's three daughters were taught by Holm, prompting the men to build a relationship. Polinsky offered to assist the Bulldogs but given his part-time availability then, Holm was reluctant.
"He and I have known each other for a while," Holm said. "He's got his experience in baseball and he kept asking if he could help us but he was still working. I said, it's not as if we don't want your help, but I just want somebody who's going to be here consistently so we don't get mixed messages and stuff like that."
Holm said Polinsky approached him at Batavia's Corn Boil four years ago, saying that he was now retired, and the timing was finally right.
Senior Austin Shanahan, who projects as the ace on this year's Bulldogs pitching staff, considers Polinsky a major asset.
"It's impressive that he's working with us," Shanahan said. "We're gifted to have him work with us because he's so knowledgable on the subject. He really knows his stuff. He's a great guy. He knows his stuff about pitching, he knows what to do and he can read the tendency of batters. He just has the experience. It shows."
Polinsky pitched in the minors for seven season, four at the Triple-A level, amassing a career record of 37-42 with a 3.62 ERA between 1973-79. He came to the White Sox as part of a trade with the Yankees that also brought the Sox popular pitcher LaMarr Hoyt.
Polinsky said today's high school pitchers have more sophistication about pitching than he did because of the proliferation of private instructors in recent years.
"A lot of them throw changeups now, which was pretty much unheard of when I was their age," Polinsky said. "A changeup was a No. 4 or 5 pitch. Now it's a great pitch."
While UEC River Geneva's pitching staff is expected to be dynamite this spring and St. Charles East and St. Charles North typically boast quality arms, Polinsky thinks the Bulldogs' pitching could exceed expectations.
In addition to Shanahan – who performed admirably when injuries last season bumped him up to No. 1 in the team's rotation – the Bulldogs expect junior Colby Green and senior Emilio Tenuta to blossom into quality starters. Senior Luke Horton was solid in relief last season for the Bulldogs, who are coming off a 19-17 season that included six, one-run losses.
This season, Polinsky plans to be on-hand with whichever team is at home, be it the varsity or lower-level teams. He works in partnership with longtime Batavia pitching coach Larry Gay, who has taken on a more versatile role.
Former Batavia standout Alex Beckmann, fresh off his college baseball career at Northern Illinois, also has joined Batavia's staff as an assistant.
The Bulldogs are slated to start the season Thursday at traditional opening foe Minooka. Polinsky said he loves the buildup to a baseball season, even after all these years.
"This was always it – spring training for me, I enjoyed it immensely," Polinsky said. "It brings a lot of good memories back to me. It was 10 months or 11 months out of the year I played baseball. Like I told our daughters, if you don't like what you're doing, you better find something else because you've got to do it for a long time. I was fortunate enough to do something I loved to do for a good, long time, and even was fortunate to get paid for it."