There are some people who inherently can teach. They are few and far between, but when we encounter them we know. We see it in their countenance, in their communication and in their love of and passion for their chosen endeavor.
Two such men are these guys.
Mark Guthrie (L) and Craig Faulkner
Mark is a former major league pitcher who spent 15 years pitching for eight different teams. Included among them was my beloved Red Sox, although I think he would prefer to forget that stint. He pitched 15 games in the post season, six of those came with the World Champion Minnesota Twins in 1991.
Mark was 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA and three holds in the Twins 1991 post season.
Craig played for eight seasons in the minor leagues with the Orioles, Cardinals and Brewers. He led the New York Penn League in home runs in 1987 and the following year led the Orioles Hagerstown Suns in both home runs and RBI. Today he is the head coach of the 2012, 7A Florida State Champion Venice High School baseball team. I have written about his team a few times on this blog.
Mark and Craig have been lifelong friends. Meeting as kids, they played together in the Venice Little League, on the Venice High School team and then in college at LSU. In fact they, along with future big leaguers, Albert Belle, Jeff Reboulet and Jack Voigt were a part of the Tigers 1986 SEC Championship team under “Skip” Bertman, the team which changed the culture at LSU.
Mark was 9-2 with the ’86’ Tigers.
Jack Voigt played with Guthrie and Faulkner in the Venice Little League and at Venice High. He played six seasons in the Big Leagues.
Albert “Joey” Belle hit .354 with 21 homers and 66 RBI in 1986 with LSU’s Tigers.
Two decades ago, Guthrie, Faulkner and Voigt founded the Holiday Baseball Clinic! Aimed at the little ones, it established a baseball teaching tradition in Venice Florida which Jack Voigt and Venice alum and former major leaguer Jon Knott continue to this very day.
Left to right bottom, Pete Dombrowski, Guthrie, Faulkner, Voigt and Justin Tarro. In the back Rich Carroll, Jeff Balsar, Adam Pavkovich, Jeff Callan, Jon Knott, Blake Lynn and Josh Sinibaldi at the Holiday Baseball Clinic in 2000.
Growing families took Guthrie and Faulkner down different baseball paths. For Craig it was his vision for the Venice High School baseball program. Using Bertman’s model at LSU he set to doing just that; there was a field to build and a community to serve and he began brick by brick and player by player to construct and teach a tradition of “excellence on and off the field.”
For Mark it was travel ball and two of his boys. And like all of us who love this game and want to pass the passion onto our kids, he became entrenched in the life that is Florida travel baseball. And when his playing career came to an end, his teaching career accelerated to another level as he formed the Gulf Coast Greyhounds who traveled the state playing baseball.
Guthrie and Faulkner were never far away from each other and as Mark’s boys grew, as they have a tendency to do, there was never a doubt in his mind that when young manhood beckoned he would hand his boys off to his former teammate, his friend to learn about baseball and life under his tutelage.
With his sons both playing at Venice High, Guthrie figured his days on the travel circuit were over, but then a funny thing happened. The boys wanted more; not just his boys but the boys whom he had coached and were now about Florida’s Gulf Coast playing on various high school teams. He turned to his friend and together they gave birth to the Florida Burn. http://www.floridaburn.com/
Goodrich led Spruce Creek to the 20012 Florida 8A State Championship.
Teaming up with Spruce Creek High School coach Johnny Goodrich, the Burn attracted kids from throughout the Gulf Coast and Central Florida and the program literally exploded. Last summer they had an 18 and under team, a 17 and under team, two 16 and under teams and a freshman team. With their goal to “get these kids to college, if they have the talent to play there” the Burn made an immediate impact, not only on baseball in the state of Florida but nationally and they now have younger teams as well. http://www.floridaburn.com/
Thirty five of the ninety kids who donned the uniform of the Burn committed to colleges this past year. Of those, 25 will play at Division one schools. As for playing the game right, the sixteen and under team won two, catch that two, National Tournaments and those came against teams that were in fact a year older than the Burn’s boys. http://www.floridaburn.com/
There is a committment and focus required to baseball that indeed exposes character and when the teachers of this, the greatest of games is done by men who possess the character of the likes of Guthrie, Faulkner, Goodrich and the men they surround themselves with, than it’s the players who are the winners! And championships have little to do with it, those are simply the frosting.
The first weekend in December marked the first ever Florida Burn clinic. A total of 165 kids traveled to the Buck O’Neill complex in Sarasota Florida to showcase their skills for the two dozen college coaches and pro scouts who gathered.
Tampa Bay Rays coach Davey Martinez talks to the members of the Burn clinic about hitting.
In ever-increasing numbers college coaches have stated that there are only three places in Florida where they look for kids because they know they’re being taught the game and taught it right. “What is most gratifying about that” said Guthrie “is we’re one of them.”
And all this in one full year!
With all due respect to Mr. Guthrie, the best part about the Florida Burn is that the boys are not just being taught baseball but life……….the right way!
Burn Baby Burn!