May 23rd- Paul Rozzelle
Catawba Valley Head Coach
The Dirtbags continue the college coaching interview series known as Under the Gun with a visit from Catawba Valley Community College head coach Paul Rozzelle. The 2019 campaign is his fifth season as the leader of the Red Hawks.
Take moment to reflect on your path to becoming the head coach at CVCC and share with us some of the influences that have been provided you guidance along the way.
It has been a long journey and one I started 10 years ago when Coach Frank Pait gave me the opportunity to be a volunteer assistant in the inaugural season of CVCC Baseball. I was a know nothing kid who just knew he wanted to coach and be around baseball for the rest of my life. Coach Pait gave me that opportunity and I have and continue to hang on every word he says because, for me, they do not get any better. Outside of Coach Pait and CVCC, I was at Bandys High School in 2013 and really enjoyed my time with Football Coach Randy Lowman and his sons’ Kyle and Trent. As well as being an assistant to Frank Porter and we had a great run as Conference Champions and Conference Tourney Champions. However, college baseball just felt more like a fit for me and ended up coming back to CVCC the following year in a more expanded role in terms of Recruiting Coordinator and then in 2015 became Head Coach when Coach Pait stepped down. I was honored that he entrusted me with his program and we have tried to not let it down since then.
The program has experienced quite a bit of success as member of Region X in the NJCAA. What do you consider to be a product of in light of the number of highly competitive programs in the region?
Well first off, you are exactly right. The number of high quality Junior College programs around here is staggering. As Junior College baseball has become more of a viable option to kids out of high school and recruits have started to understand the opportunities that Junior College has, we have seen many programs find a level of success. In terms of our program, we feel that we have a fantastic school that gets you an education that will transfer anywhere at a great price. We have been consistently ranked either number one or number two in the state in terms of top community colleges and so that makes that an easy sell to kids and especially the parents. I also think that our commitment to moving guys on to 4 year baseball or the draft has helped us bring in players that give us a chance to be successful. Whether it is a high school guy or a bounce back transfer guy, they see what our guys are doing here and where they are going and hopefully want to be a part of it. Everything we have ever accomplished has been because we have had great players so we try to provide an environment where players want to come and leave their own legacy here.
What are some reasons that a junior college or community college route may be a best fit for some players?
We recruit three types of players to our program. The first being draft guys. If you are guy that we feel has a chance to get drafted we want you to know our name. If professional baseball is important to you we want to be able to be that bridge for guys if they do not go where they originally thought they would in the draft. Some guys may not want to go to a 4 year school and wait till their Junior year to be eligible again for the draft so we want to be there. The next type of guy is either the small D1 offer or D2 offer guy that is getting some looks but for whatever reason hasn’t found the right fit or the right offer he or his family may need. If those guys want to bet on themselves a little bit we want you to do it here. And lastly, we go after guys that have no offers but we really like something about them and think they can turn into a decent player so if they want to chase a dream, we will give them the opportunity.
So to make a long story long, there are so many different paths and choices that Junior College brings. Whether it’s the opportunity to be draft eligible every year, to play your way into a better offer situation or just to have an opportunity to continue playing the game you love, Junior College checks all those boxes. Then you throw in the cost and it almost becomes a no brainer. We tell kids in the recruiting process that if you get the offer/opportunity from your dream school then go and have a blast! But if not, and you want to chase a dream a little bit, then come and get to work with us.
While ultimately responsible for all parts of the program as the head coach, what part of the game you enjoy coaching the most?
Hitting and Infield play have really sucked me in over the last several years. There is a rhythm and beauty to great infield play that has become extremely rewarding to watch guys understand different movement and throwing patterns and watching them execute them in games. Hitting will always be king however as learning and understanding swing mechanics and putting those together with an approach has been rewarding when guys believe and buy in and have success. I also enjoy the challenges of trying to come up with new ways for kids to understand what we want hitting wise when saying it one way or doing it one way isn’t working. We take a lot of pride of what we have been able to do here offensively in the last 5 years and even when we may struggle it is still at the top of my list of things I love about coaching our game.
We like to finish by giving coaches a chance to give some insight on the state of the game and how they see youth baseball being able to be a vehicle to keep making the game better and better. What is an area you think youth baseball may need to provide some focus or direction in order to provide the next generation of players with tools and skills necessary to perform?
There is obviously a large group of coaches in the college ranks and professional baseball that sometimes look at travel baseball as a negative but I don’t necessarily feel the same way. I love the fact that baseball is so wide spread at the younger ages and there are many different opportunities for kids to continue to play. I do however think there are some shortfalls and not acknowledging them is extremely short sighted. I think that providing opportunities for as many kids to play regardless of financial situations should be very important and needs to be addressed. I feel that coaches at every level should be 100% committed to the development of their players and not just their careers. If you are good at your job, people will notice. I wish there would be more of an emphasis placed on “Working to win” and what I mean by that is understanding the value to practice and work towards becoming a complete player who understands the game and how they can create value for their team regardless of their batting average or ERA. Lastly, I wish kids would learn to handle adversity a little better at the youth level. There are kids today that, as Coach Tony Robichaux put it, “Do not know how to work while they wait.” When kids do not perform, or like their situation, we have made it very easy to just leave. They will look to find a better opportunity where they can get what they want now rather than have to face some adversity. On the surface, that doesn’t seem that bad and may even seem like the fair thing to do at the time but it creates poor habits and when they get to college or pro ball and the game gets harder, we as coaches are having to teach kids how to deal with adversity or failure, for some, the first times in their careers. For me this process should begin earlier to help build up those mental calluses and teach kids that sometimes you aren’t good enough, sometimes your performance needs to be better and that’s OK! The solution shouldn’t be to leave, but should be to find a way to fix whatever is wrong and become a better player and in term a more battle prepared person for life. Throw out an anchor and dig your heels in and get better. Our game is the best game in the world and one that, for me, teaches some of life’s best lessons. Sometimes those lessons hurt and we have to learn as coaches and parents, that its OK to experience failure and adversity.
A huge thanks to Coach Rozzelle for stopping by and sharing with the Dirtbags. All the best to him and his program!