Impact Baseball will conduct weekly "In the Dugout" interviews with some of the top High School baseball coaches in North Carolina. To kick off the season, we decided to travel to 3A powerhouse North Buncombe and interview Head Coach, Wesley King. King is one of the bright young minds in North Carolina and provides a unique skill set and perspective of the game.
Name: Wesley King
North Buncombe Head Baseball Coach
Number of years at North Buncombe: 4 years
Location: Weaverville, NC
How did you get into the life of being a coach?
I was asked by my high school coach Jim Hyatt in 1999 to help coach the first season of the Henderson County Legion program. Once I got involved with helping coach that year and working with players, I knew that coaching the game of baseball was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After a few more years I got started full time at West Henderson in 2003-2004 as the Head JV/Assistant Varsity Coach.
What are your hobbies outside of baseball?
It has to be spending quality time with my wife and my two young boys Sawyer and Cason. As most baseball coaches know we spend a whole lot of time away from our families, so when I get that time to be with my family it is extremely special to me.
What are you expectations at North Buncombe this year?
We try not to set to many expectations with our guys, because we want them to enjoy working and getting better each day on the journey. We talk a lot about our preparation and what we can control to be a better team each day. This current team has worked harder, smarter, and has been more focused than any team I have ever had. Our guys are ready to play another team and see how much we have grown since June of last year.
Every year you always have very good clubs, what is your secret?
For us it has to be our Summer development program in which we play 35-40 games a summer with our guys. Most of these games take place with our upcoming 9th-10th graders, because we have a lot of our other older players playing on elite travel organizations such as the Dirtbags. This setup has allowed most of our young guys to get quality reps during the summer earlier against varsity level competition. Another one of the things that helps us continually grow, is that I have a great coaching staff that works tirelessly all year with our players to help put them into a great position to be successful.
What is your most memorable game while coaching at North Buncombe?
It would have to be the game against McDowell High School in conference play in 2011. We were down 5-0 heading into the bottom half of the seventh at home. We were outplayed all day by them but then we got a couple of walks and a couple of hits then it was 5-2, and then we got the bases loaded and Sam Rector hits a walk off grand slam. It was an unbelievable moment and it was one of those moments that I felt helped propel us to the conference championship and our playoff run that year.
What is your favorite infield drill for your players?
The extended box drill--Set your players up into a box about 30-35 feet apart on the dirt part of your infield. You always roll the ball to the left and then the player fields the ball and always throws diagonally across the box. You can do any ground ball, short hops, etc. that you want. We do this drill a ton early in the season when we are in the gym because you can incorporate so much with it.
What is your favorite hitting drill?
My favorite would have to be the home run drill that I picked up a few years back watching Robinson Cano take BP at Yankee Stadium. You set a screen across the middle of home plate or whatever you have that will split the plate in half. We make our guys put the knob of their bat into their belly and then stick the end of the bat into the net. Then you bring your BP "L" screen up to about 15 feet away and you set it up for front toss. The object is to front toss on the inner half of the plate. To perform this drill they will have to stay short and have a very good hand and bat both to do this drill successfully, if not they will be hitting the net and dragging their hands through the zone. This is a staple for us that we do every single day at our practice in our offensive session.
What is a typical "game day" like for you?
I am usually finishing up our offensive, defensive, and pitching charts for the opponent we are playing that day, so that our guys can study some of this in pre-game. We try to give our guys an edge by giving them strengths and weaknesses of the opponent so at least they can have an idea going into the game. Then my coaches and I are usually finishing up the field by giving it our game day mow, lining the field off, watering the infield dirt twice, and then preparing the press box for the game.
Who is the best player you have ever coached?
Matthew Pruett; I coached Matthew when I was an assistant at West Henderson. I just was in awe of his whole game and how he carried himself with such a calm demeanor all the time. He could get on the mound and throw 88-90 and shut a team down, and then he could get in the batter's box and hit a baseball out of sight, and then also play as good of a defensive shortstop as I have ever seen. He was the total package.
If you had a chance to pick the brain of any coach out there, who would it be and why?
Coach Andy Lopez of the University of Arizona. I would want to sit and talk with him about how he prepares his guys day in and day out, and also talk with him about pitching. They seem to be on the cutting edge in terms of pitching, so I would want to pick his brain about some of the concepts they incorporate on a daily basis.
Impact Baseball would like to sincerely thank Coach King for his "In The Dugout" interview. Please stay tuned all season long for more interviews with North Carolina high school baseball coaches.