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Verrado baseball coach moving on

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Mark Flatten steps down to take pro job

For two seasons, Mark Flatten did great things with the Verrado baseball program. Now, he’ll look to do the same for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Flatten stepped down as Verrado baseball coach to take a job with the Pirates’ organization as a scout for the Arizona Rookie League.

I have a buddy who is pretty high up with the Pirates, and he’s been trying to get me to do stuff with them,” Flatten said. “I’m not going to move to Florida — I can’t be gone for six to eight months out of the year — so they came up with a spot they thought I couldn’t turn down, and they were pretty much right.”

As a scout for the Arizona League, Flatten doesn’t have to relocate. That was important to him so that he can spend more time with his family.

I don’t travel, there’s no overnights, I’m home during the day with my kids,” Flatten said. “It’s pretty much like being on summer vacation from school, except I go to work in the evenings.”

Flatten has worked in professional baseball before, spending time with the Toronto Blue Jays as an amateur scout from 2009 to 2010. He’s also worked part time for both the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers in player development.

It’s basically coaching,” Flatten said of player development. “I was like a fourth coach on the Arizona Rookie League staff for both teams. It’s lots of BP (batting practice), lots of fungos, lots of early work. I wouldn’t call it grunt work, it’s kind of like you’re adding a helping hand.”

Working in player development was great for Flatten on multiple fronts, he said.

I got to coach high school, be with the kids, do a lot of stuff I really love to do, but also kind of kept my foot in the mix at the highest level, and not only enjoyed what I was doing, but got to learn and bring that information back to our kids,” Flatten said. “It was kind of a win-win for me.”

Keeping his foot in the door with the pros helped land Flatten the scouting job, where his responsibilities include keeping tabs on players from around the Arizona Rookie League that the Pirates may someday want to invest in.

That would be the ultimate part of it, trades and deals,” Flatten said. “Some of it, at some point, could be: here’s a big-time player in an organization, not necessarily a trade piece, but they want information on him from the time he gets into professional baseball, and as they travel up the ranks, things will happen at each step, but there might be a reason someone comes back to three or four years ago and says, ‘Oh, we’ll look at that,’ or, ‘Here’s the information we had then.’”

Flatten said the information he provides could also be used by the team to put a red flag on somebody, or the team might like a player, but wants to see how the player changes as he gets older. The team also looks to see if someone could potentially benefit from a change in scenery.

Maybe he’s struggling in an organization, but as a scout with your organization, you might think, ‘Hey, within our organization, I think this guy could reach his potential we thought he might have,’” Flatten said. “All that stuff is kept, so that could be three, four years down the road when another organization might give up on the guy.”

The Pirates don’t have a team in the Arizona Rookie League, since it’s based off of spring training clubs and the Pirates train in Florida, but that’s part of the reason it was a win-win situation for Flatten, he said.

The Pirates wanted a lot of information, as much as they could get, so they wanted someone full time,” Flatten said. “They didn’t have to move somebody here, relocate someone, and for me, I’m doing a job I’m capable of handling.”

Flatten creates his own schedule for which teams he visits and when, he said. Last week, he spent five days covering the Cleveland Indians’ Arizona Rookie League affiliate.

Then, I’ll move however I want to set up my schedule, go through every team, and then circle back at the other end for the two and a half months the season runs.”

Coaching at Verrado

Flatten leaves Verrado after two seasons and a 48-16 record. He led the Vipers to the playoffs in consecutive years, each time earning a first-round bye, but they were unable to advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament.

My experience was great,” Flatten said of Verrado. “If I was able to get a teaching job on campus right away, I think things may have been a little bit different, but the stress of running such a high profile program, or in our world, how hard we work at making it a great place for the kids and trying to do all the right things — and having your time split because of teaching somewhere else — in that aspect, it kind of felt like five years instead of two.”

Flatten taught at Surprise Valley Vista while coaching for Verrado. Splitting time between the two places wore him out, he said.

However, from a program standpoint, Flatten said he feels like he and his staff took Verrado up another notch.

We took it from a place where there was a bunch of good players that were capable of winning baseball games over the course of the year, to building a program that not only had high end, top quality kids, but pushed our middle to average guys up a level, and it’s giving them an opportunity to not only be successful at the high school level, but have a chance to move on and play college sports at the next level,” Flatten said. “That part is probably the biggest thing about the program.”

Flatten’s new job is currently full time, but after the Arizona Rookie League season ends, he could opt out if he wants, he said.

I’m not positive I want everything that goes with working in professional sports, because it’s definitely tough on the family,” Flatten said. “Right now, it’s awesome because I have a sweet gig, but they can send you into anything they want with you. So, you’re only guaranteed that one sweet gig for that year, until something changes.

I kind of wanted to find out what their plan would be, could this be a long-term thing, or if I have more value to them in certain areas. There are certain things I would like to do in professional baseball, but I am not, in any way, at this moment, ready to give up the opportunity to spend the time with my family that I want.”

 

Casey Pritchard can be reached at caseypritchard@westvalleyview.com
or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.

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