Patrick Conroy Taking Major Steps in Coaching Career
Pacifics Pitcher Takes the Reigns of Varsity Program at Terra Linda High School
By Vinnie Longo
After his second season as a starting pitcher for the San Rafael Pacifics, Marin County native Patrick Conroy was recently named the Head Coach of the varsity baseball team at Terra Linda High School.
“When I got the call, I was incredibly excited that I’d be fortunate enough to have this opportunity,” said Conroy. “I’m thrilled that I’ve been given the chance to run a program that is basically in my back yard.”
Conroy’s impressive career includes winning MCAL Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and being voted First Team All MCAL two other times as a pitcher and an infielder at Sir Francis Drake High School. After being named to the Northern California All American Team in his freshman year at College of Marin (COM) and putting up a stingy 1.81 ERA in his sophomore campaign, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 32nd round of the 2012 MLB draft.
Two years later, he was named the 2014 Pitcher of the Year in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs when he tied a league-record by winning nine games for the Pacifics.
Conroy also served as an assistant coach for College of Marin’s reputable baseball program.
Conroy took some time out of his busy coaching schedule with his own Conroy Baseball Academy to discuss his professional career as a player and his new career as a high school coach.
Conroy takes the helm of a varsity program that hasn’t seen a winning season in over a decade. They’ve won more than ten games just twice since the 2005 season, and are coming off of a 5-19 campaign in 2015. But Conroy isn’t discouraged.
“There’s going to be a building process for a new coach, whether you’re taking over the Yankees or Terra Linda High School. So there’s going to be an adjustment period,” said Conroy. “That said, I think there’s enough talent at this school that we’re ready to start winning right away. I can’t predict how many wins, nobody can, but I can say that I feel we’ll win more ballgames than we did last year.”
Terra Linda graduated only two seniors in 2015, which Conroy feels will give his team a good presence on the field.
“Right off the bat, the catcher, who is a junior, is the younger brother of one of my players at COM, so I’m already familiar with how his older brother plays and they seem to be similar. Both of them are great athletes. We have two senior pitchers amongst other seniors who have played on varsity, and we have some guys who have put in time at the varsity level who aren’t even upperclassmen yet, so on paper this team looks like it’ll stand a good chance.”
For the majority of his time at College of Marin, Conroy served under COM’s current Interim Athletic Director Steve Berringer. Berringer taught Conroy the importance of giving everyone a chance to shine, which has worked out to COM’s advantage with their three straight division titles. Conroy feels that giving every player an opportunity is even more critical at the high school level, and it’s a culture that he wants to bring to Terra Linda and foster during his tenure as head coach.
Coaching Influences Start at Home
Conroy’s journey to becoming a head coach has not been linear. He began his coaching career right after he received his driver’s license, giving his first lesson to a family friend and growing his network from there.
But the steadying influence in his coaching life was always his father, Ken Conroy, who himself was a pitcher in high school and learned his bread-and-butter curveball from Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll.
“My dad used to be a pitcher, but he considered himself more of a hockey guy, and when I was younger he had some trouble teaching me. But he exposed me to private lessons and he would always stick around to catch or watch so that he could absorb what the instructors were telling me.”
By the time Conroy turned 13, his father started his own travel team. Then Ken became president of the San Anselmo Baseball Association and later ended up as the Head Coach of the freshman team for Drake High School when Patrick was a freshman.
“My dad made an incredible transition from a guy who needed a refresher on the fundamentals to a coach who was helping my teams win tournament games that, on paper, we shouldn’t have won. It speaks to who he is character wise, but also who he is as a manager and a coach. I’ve always looked up to him in terms of how to manage as well as the off the field aspects of managing.”
In congruence with his coaching position at COM, Conroy founded his own business, the Conroy Baseball Academy. Conroy and many of his former teammates from COM, who are now playing either affiliated or independent professional baseball, put on camps and clinics for local youth in the offseason.
In its second year, the Conroy Baseball Academy (which just launched a new website at conroybaseballacademy.com) runs clinics for players of all ages. It’s a program that Conroy says will help him hone his coaching skills for the tough task of taking the helm of a varsity baseball team in the highly competitive MCAL division.
Transitioning from Player to Coach
Conroy has served as COM’s assistant coach for two years, but the leap from assistant to head coach is a large one, and it will come with challenges.
“I’m definitely going to learn a lot about myself this year,” said Conroy. “I’m interested to see how I’m going to react in certain situations as a head coach. As a head coach, I’ll need to work on the fundamentals with players, but at the same time I need to be watching everything. It’s as much about paying attention to the next guy up as the previous play.”
But Conroy is in a unique position for many varsity head coaches: he’s still fulfilling an active role as a professional baseball player. It’s a connection that he feels will help him connect with his players on multiple levels.
“I definitely think that I’ll be able to use some of the tools I have as a player to help the team understand the game, help them see what we can accomplish as a team and how we can win games,” said Conroy. “I think that my active work as a player will help my team understand why I’m telling my team to swing or pitch a certain way.”
Summer 2015 brought about some unique challenges for Conroy. For the first time in his career he had injury issues. It started in late June when his back stiffened prior to a Sunday matinee game. Conroy worked through it with help from the team chiropractor and pitched an eight inning gem against Pittsburg, tossing six no-hit innings before surrendering only a solo-homer in the seventh. A matter of weeks later, Conroy began experiencing shoulder pain, and later learned that a bone deformity in his shoulder left him limited options to keep his career alive.
After about three weeks of rest, he dropped his arm angle down to a slinging sidearm motion, taking the pressure off of the bone and allowing him to pitch pain free. His ability to work through that kind of adversity makes Conroy feel confident that, “… if I come across a player who has some kind of conflict, or does get injured, I’ll be able to relate to [him] better to overcome that struggle.”
A positive mental approach is critical to a baseball team’s success. In many ways, a team’s confidence level and strength of character begins and ends with the head coach. It’s Conroy’s duty to foster such an atmosphere at a program that has seen three head coaches come and go in the last ten years. But Conroy is up to the challenge.
“On the baseball field, everybody needs to buy in to the team’s goals for the team to be successful,” said Conroy. “I’ve always done that as a player, and I think that the measure of a good coach is whether he can get his team to follow that pattern. I believe that I can bring that culture to Terra Linda.