“Baseball is a game of adjustments. If you can be successful at baseball, you can do anything.”
Baseball is a hard game and any player that plays it needs to understand it’s obstacles, and be mentally tough. Through practice, hard work and development, along with motivation and nurturing from coaches, players can not only develop into great players, but terrific individuals. The suggestion is, hard work in little league, can not only provide a stable environment for that player, but that discipline, routine and determination will also make you a successful person.
Enter Jack Winters. If the name sounds familiar, it is. Jack Winters played baseball in the Oradell Little League program and played on the same fields as you. He learned a lot, but loved every minute of it. But baseball didn’t end for Jack in Oradell. He went on to become a star pitcher for River Dell High School, pitched for Rutgers University-Newark as well as the University of Redlands in California. He even went on to play in summer collegiate leagues in Wyoming, Colorado, and Connecticut.
Jack even pitched a few season of independent professional ball in the southwestern part of the country. These days, he’s not only an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction, but is the pitching coach at Centenary University and the Head Coach with the Chillicothe Mudcats in the MINK League. Baseball is in Jack’s blood, and much of it stems from our wonderful Oradell Little League program. If you motivate a child to love this game, there are no limits of success. You will find a child will not only fall in love with the game, but fall in love with life.
This profile is very special to me because I’m proud to not only call Jack my friend, but an inspiration for Little Leaguers everywhere. Thanks for the grind Jack, you’re doing great things.
OLL: What's your earliest memory of Oradell Little League and who was that one coach that, in your early stages, be it Tee-ball, Farm or National league that you remember most? You know, who was the coach who really gave you that positive push to fall in love with the game and what was the moment for you?
Jack Winters: Many OLL moments are still clear in my memory. I can remember as far back as T-ball at Grant Field, but very briefly. The most vivid early memory I have is when I was part of a groundball 6-4-3 double play in a Farm League game.
The Oradell Rec. League, especially at the National and American levels, in my day, was very competitive. The overall talent level was very high and the parents created a competitive, but safe atmosphere. Thinking closely, I can recall dozens of memories in National and American league recreation games at Muehleck Field. Of course, the most memorable are is our team, Maximum Benefit Insurance and our championship wins.
My father was the coach who taught me the game. He taught me the fundamentals at a very young age, and as I got older, he taught me how to be a pitcher. At all stages of OLL my Dad and I spent a lot of extra hours practicing; most memorably at Hoffman Field, fielding groundballs, taking BP, and throwing bullpens. This is where I fell in love with the game. Without his support and effort throughout OLL I would have not fallen in love with the game and perhaps never discovered my passion.
OLL: As a player, you are challenged all the time in baseball. What can you say about why it's important to never get discouraged in this game?
Jack Winters: Baseball isn’t an individual sport. One player can’t beat an entire team like in other sports. Case in point: After Babe Ruth hit, eight other batters had to hit before he could come to the plate again. Even if a kid strikes out three times and grounds out his fourth time, that groundball may have been a productive out. It may have moved a runner from 2nd to 3rd who would eventually score as the go-ahead run. Kids get discouraged because they think they failed. Baseball is a funny game in that an individual moment of failure may actually be a good thing for the team’s chances of wining. It is the coaches’ job to make clear to each player that for a baseball team to be competitive, everybody has to contribute. Some contributions may be larger than others on any given day, but all contributions, nonetheless, are needed for the team to do well. As long as each player recognizes and understands that they contributed to the team’s success, their discouragements carry less-burden.
OLL: What did you think when you stood on a 60x90 diamond for the first time?
Jack Winters: The first time I played 60-90 was with Oradell Travel as a call-up. I can remember playing 60-90 when I was 12 as a substitute for the 13u travel team at a game in Bergenfield. What I remember most is how far the baselines were. I remember hitting a ground ball to short stop and having to run what felt like a double on the smaller field just to get to 1st base.
I had spent plenty of time with my Dad at field OPS 60-90 field, so I didn’t have any doubts about the longer throw from the field or from the mound.
OLL: There are several types of coaching styles in this game. There’s that nurturing coach and there’s that ‘tough love’ type coach. What worked for you best, and a follow-up… Who was the coach in your career that gave you the best advice? What was it and do you still take that advice today?
Jack Winters: The best pieces of advice I received was conveyed to me via coach-to-coach relationship rather than coach-to-player. Doug Cinnella and Steve Hayward at Professional Baseball Instruction (PBI). They are also 2 former minor league ballplayers with incredible knowledge of the game. They taught me how to connect with a player. The advice they has given me on how to coach and how to make an impact with a player has been invaluable towards my professional development
OLL: In your first varsity start for the River Dell High School team, you pitched a no-hitter. That was followed by coaching 4 no-hitters. Tell our players about that first varsity outing. Were you thinking about the no-hitter? How were you feeling physically? Mentally?
Jack Winters: It was the first game of the 2005 season. I was not the scheduled starter going in to the day. The coach made the decision to start me that day, right before the bus left school for the game in Park Ridge. I didn’t know I was pitching a 4 or 4:15pm game until about 2:30 or 3pm. At first I was a bit nervous, but once I got warmed up I was fine. My mindset was just to get outs and avoid the big inning, nothing more. I didn’t think much back then. I just went out and threw. I didn’t realize I had a no-hitter until there were only a few outs to go. The seniors had noticed and challenged me in the dugout to finish it off.
OLL: You pitched for Rutgers University-Newark and the University of Redlands (CA) in college as well as in summer collegiate leagues in Wyoming, Colorado, and Connecticut. After that you played a few seasons of independent professional baseball in the southwestern US. This is important for our audience. While your talent and work ethic helped in these major achievements, tell our players about the importance of team comradery and how vital it is to work together to accomplish a solid team.
Jack Winters: Being a part of team comradery and being a team-player is very important. In the short-term, your teammates will remember the big hits, plays, or pitches you made. In the long-term, they’ll remember you. Your reputation as a member of team will be longstanding. Learning how to be a member of team is an invaluable skill for LL players as they move on to different stages baseball as well as life.
OLL: What was the scariest moment about playing on the west coast and in the southwest, a few thousand miles from Oradell where it all began?
Jack Winters: The scariest part about the west coast is no pizza, no bagels, and no delis!
OLL: Did going pro ever cross your mind and was it always dream of yours?
Jack Winters: It always was a dream, from Day 1.
OLL: You are still very active in baseball, working as an instructor for Professional Baseball Instruction, but you’re also the pitching coach at Centenary University and the Head Coach with the Chillicothe Mudcats in the MINK League. I didn’t think anyone liked that much baseball. Why is it so important to you to be an instructor and coach?
Jack Winters: Being an instructor keeps me in touch with local baseball. It gives me a chance to keep-current with new trends at the LL and HS levels in our area. It also gives me a chance to pass along knowledge and experiences of my own to local up-and-comers.
OLL: Players today take extra lessons, play on club teams and are playing baseball year round. What’s one important piece of advice you can offer?
Jack Winters: You don’t need to practice once or twice a week for 60 minutes with a former pro. That may help, but putting down the tablet, controller, or smart phone and being active everyday is key.
OLL: Jack, you are an inspiration to our players and we appreciate you taking the time to speak to them. You have always stayed true to your craft from your early playing days. You have developed a pretty significant resume because you have a true passion for the game. I’ve often said that baseball is very similar to life with stepping stones and character and confidence building along the way.
Jack Winters: Baseball is a game of adjustments. If you can be successful at baseball, you can do anything. If the batter is crowding the plate, you throw inside. If the pitcher throws fast, you move back in box or choke up. If the umpire is calling them outside, protect the outside corner, or if you’re the pitcher, locate your fastball there. Baseball players observe the situation, and then make the adjustment to be competitive. Applying the same “make the adjustment” concept to other facets of life will bring success.
OLL: What is one piece of advice you can offer our players as we embark on a brand new season of Oradell Little League?
Jack Winters: Beat River Edge!