Sherard Clinkscales has joined the Notre Dame basebal staff, after being a high draft pick out of Purdue and later spending 10 seasons involved in the top levels of Major League scouting.

Getting To Know Sherard Clinkscales

Aug. 19, 2006

The newest member of the Notre Dame baseball staff, assistant coach Sherard Clinkscales, recently took a few moments to visit with Notre Dame baseball SID Pete LaFleur and share his thoughts on baseball while also discussing his unique experiences within the game. A full transcript of the commnents from coach Clinksclaes – in question-and-answer-format – follows below, as will a link to a similar Q&A with new Irish head coach Dave Schrage (plus additional ND baseball links from the past few weeks).

Q: Welcome to Notre Dame. You have been on board now for the past few days. It’s obvious from visiting with you that you are very excited about this opportunity. Can you discuss what attracted you to the Notre Dame program?

A: “Getting into college coaching was something that I have been kicking around for several years. And this certainly was an opportunity that presented itself that was worthwhile to pursue. The reason that Notre Dame was so intriguing was, number one, because of Dave Schrage and, number two, because Notre Dame speaks for itself. It also was as an opportunity to make a difference with young men and help them reach their goals, academically as well as their baseball pursuits. Lastly, my family played a big part in this decision. It was a blessing that this opportunity came along.”


Q: You mentioned coach Schrage. One of his pitchers at Northern Iowa, Scott Sobkowiack, was a player that you scouted back in 1999 and your team the Braves ended up drafting him and he went on to the big leagues. Having scouted so much in the Midwest, what did you learn about coach Schrage during those years?

A: “Dave has been awesome. He has no ego but has a lot of pride and a drive to win. He has integrity and is the type of coach I want to work for. I’m just very excited to be a part of the Notre Dame family.

“Coach Schrage sets the tone for us and the other coaches have the same energy. We all mirror one another and want to sign kids that are Notre Dame type of players and have the ability to compete at this level. There is a coming together of energy, we all are pulling in the same direction and it’s just going to be fun to work on a staff where we all are going to be going for the same thing, and that is winning the World Series.

“Dave took a chance in hiring a professional guy for the position and I appreciate that confidence he has in me. Dave knew me and believes in my ability to communicate and help our pitchers and help in recruiting, and I will be forever indebted to him for that.”


Q: Growing up in Indianapolis and playing at Purdue, how did you come to appreciate the Notre Dame tradition?

A: “The history is great at Notre Dame. They remember their past and really grasp onto their future, and I like that. You can’t really recognize where you’ve going until you understand where you’ve been and Notre Dame does a better job with that than any university.

“The student-athlete is just not a term, it’s a way of life here at Notre Dame and it’s the way that I was raised. Being a student is about developing your personal skills, being able to adapt and adjust to different life lessons – so certainly Notre Dame offers the opportunity to young people not only to develop academic and professionally, but also to become quality human beings and make a difference in society. There’s no other school in the country that is going to be able to do that better than Notre Dame.

“It’s just a privilege to be involved with the baseball program at Notre Dame and I know that I will be under the microscope and have to do it the right way. The integrity of Notre Dame will not be compromised.”


Q: And you actually had a strong desire when you were growing up to be a basketball player at Notre Dame?

A: “Yes, I was fortunate enough to be a pretty good player in both baseball and basketball. But I wanted to go to Notre Dame and play basketball for Digger Phelps. There were other guys from the Indianapolis area – Scott Hicks and Ken Barlow – who both played at Cathedral High School and then went on to Notre Dame. I never was a huge football fan, but I suppose that all will change now.”


Q: Coach Schrage feels that you will be able to provide tremendous perspective and guidance to the players, based on your experience as a top prospect and then also because of nearly 10 years in scouting. What type of knowledge do you hope to pass on to the players?

A: “Having the ability that I had was a blessing in that it allowed me to separate myself athletically but it also was a curse, in that it was a difficult process to harness it. And I think from that experience and from being a scout, I can take those lessons and impart knowledge on the players so they can reach their potential. Potential is one of the scariest words unless you can reach it.

“Although I was very successful, I didn’t reach my ultimate goal. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the ability, it was because of some of the confidence factors and injury problems that I had. I’m going to be able to instill in the players the importance of mental makeup, work ethic, conditioning and most importantly believing in their God-given ability to be successful.

“Deep down, every player wants to be a big-league ballplayer. But the part that scouting brings is that you actually can see the things that it takes to be successful. And it’s not that much different than what it takes to be a quality student-athlete. It all comes back to makeup. It goes back to the individual believing in his ability and that he is going to be successful. The intangibles are the things that allow a young man to reach his potential. And as a scout, other than grading out tools, that was paramount to my job. As a pitching coach, I am going to be able to recognize those things with the pitching staff and be able to facilitate those things. And as a recruiter, I will be able to scout those type of things and be able to get feedback to the rest of the staff about the mental makeup. The intangibles are what make championship-caliber clubs.”


Q: Can you discuss how you see your role developing as a pitching coach?

A: “The big thing as a pitching coach, I am a tool for their success by helping him believe in his ability. I won’t try to reinvent them. A pitcher’s psyche is most important. I will share my experience with them because I know a lot about success and failure – but you have to be strong mentally through all of it.

“Whatever we need to work on, whether it’s a finetuned delivery or dealing with a breaking ball versus a slider, or how to throw a changeup – those are things certainly that we are going to work on. But the big thing is that baseball is a game of failure and you have to be mentally strong and believe in your ability. That’s the part that I am going to bring to Notre Dame, to communicate and foster confidence in our pitching staff. In order to be successful, they have to believe in their stuff.”


Q: You have an interesting take on how to use the concepts of scouting in developing your pitchers. Can you discuss that?

A: “When I was a player, I always thought that keeping the pitching charts was busy work and that it took away from my concentration – but it ended up being just the opposite. When I was scouting, one of my first assignments was to cover the Baltimore Orioles and I saw Scott Kamieniecki pitch. I saw what kind of stuff he had and I realized that earlier in my own career I had the ability to get to the big leagues. That is when I realized that how hard you throw does not matter, but rather consistency and unrelenting belief in your ability are the tickets to the big leagues.

“Well, as a scout, I saw those type of success stories and wished I could have done things in reverse, by being a scout and then playing, because then I would have recognized the innate ability that I had. Scouting is an excellent tool for pitchers to learn strengths and weaknesses of hitters by evaluating things such as bat speed, pitch recognition, plate coverage and power. They are not only evaluating hitting ability, but also how they can use their stuff to get hitters out.

So, with our pitchers, I want them to be able to scout our own hitters and scout other pitchers and be able to see where they are and be able to recognize that – `Wow, I am pretty good. I can throw a tight slider to get this guy out or a fastball in to get this guy out.’ Once they start believing that, it’s going to perpetuate itself and continue to foster a lot of confidence and success.”


Q: You also plan to be very focused on developing a cohesive and team-oriented staff.

A: “Yes, well, one of the things that you have to remembers is that I had my chance and did not fulfill my God-given ability, so I’m going to lead the pitchers into getting the most out of their ability and not being up-and-down. It will be a bunker mentality and we all will be in it together.

“I am going to stick to my pitchers. If they give the effort that they are supposed to, I will stick with them thick and thin. That’s how Dave Schrage operates and that’s how I am going to be with the pitchers.”


Q: How does your background in the Midwest prepare you for this position?

A: “Being from the Midwest, you have to deal with the elements but I think that is the beginning of being able to deal with adversity and being able to adjust and adapt. I always understood that I had to be mentally prepared to go out there and compete no matter what the conditions may be, so that certainly helped me.

“From an evaluation standpoint, when you are looking at a kid from the Midwest, there are a lot of gems and recently a lot of schools from around the country have begun to realize that. But we always will look at the kids in the Midwest, as well as from all over the country.

“I owe a lot to people in the Midwest. The former coach at Purdue, Dave Alexander, I own everything to him. He gave me a chance and stuck by me.”


Q: Tell us about your family and how they have impacted your career.

A: “Well, for starters, my dad Lester Clinkscales grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, and ended up playing 11 years in the White Sox organization. He ended up in triple-A and that’s how our family settled in Indianapolis, where he was playing at the time. My mom Anne is a nurse and I have younger sister, Kristie Clinckscales Ward, who is a nurse practitioner.

“My parents always gave me great guidance and they knew that I needed to go to college first, that I was not physically or mentally ready for pro ball.

“My wife Trisha is a graduate of Ball State with a degree in finance. I met her at our church in Indianapolis and we were married in 1995. Our son Alex Sherard Clinkscales was both in 1998 and our daughter Tara in Braendton, Florida, in 2000. Alex is a pretty smart young man and active in baseball, soccer and basketball while Tara is interested in music.

“I think I was on the road 122 days over the past two years, in a condensed time period. So we all obviously are looking forward to me being able to spend more time with the family, around a great college setting as well. “


Q: Finally, what impact has baseball had on your life?

A: “Growing up, I always tried to distance myself form being just an athlete. I wanted to be different and not thought of as just a jock. But baseball has given me a tremendous opportunity. I never knew baseball would afford me as many opportunities as it has. I’m so grateful and indebted to baseball and want to be able to preserve and continue to be an ambassador to the game and be able to carry it on.

“I’ve met some wonderful people in baseball and always stayed attached to the kids I signed, whether they made it to the big leagues or not. A scout is a friend, mentor, coach, etc., and signing a player is just the beginning”