Working hard is something Sawyers isn’t afraid of. A volunteer assistant coach at Purdue (2003-2004), he most recently had been the pitching coach at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
“Here, there’s more work in a lot of ways. At the same time, you’re dealing with better athletes and better players,’’ he said of the Division I level. “The pitchers are much more refined by the time they get to me.
“Here, we have more tools, do a lot of videotaping, and strength and conditioning,’’ he said in comparing the step up from junior college to NCAA Division I. “Finances, of course, are a big difference.”
Purdue, which lost to Michigan 3-2 in the Big 10 Tournament final, was 32-26 last year.
Sawyers was the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year in 1999 while at West Virginia Wesleyan, and helped pitch Allegany College to the JUCO World Series in 1997.
He has also had coaching stops at Shepherd University and Allegany College, Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley League, and Chillicothe, Ohio, in the Frontier League, where he also pitched professionally in 2000, going 4-2.
Sawyers seems to have much the same philosophy as former Orioles and Pirates coach Ray Miller, who preached, “work fast, change speeds, throw strikes.”
“You have to be able to throw your first two pitches for strikes at any count, and you have to start the batter off with a strike,’’ he said.
“First-pitch strikes. I’ve been hammering that. Eighty-seven percent of walks come with a first-pitch ball. Now, there’s no guarantee you’re not going to win the at-bats if the first pitch is a strike, but if the first pitch is a ball, the chances of losing that batter grows exponentially.
“You need to get ahead, and be ready to get the batter as quickly as you can. That keeps the defense ready and on its toes, too.”