By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The St. Louis Cardinals were able to ride a young pitching staff to the National League pennant. Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha were rookies, and Joe Kelly was in his second season.
On their way to the majors, their development was overseen by Brent Strom, who was the Cardinals’ minor league pitching instructor for four seasons and minor league pitching coordinator for two.
The Cardinals owe much of their success to Strom’s knowledge. Next month, baseball coaches will have their chance to reap the benefits in southern West Virginia.
Strom will be in Beckley as part of a three-day coaching symposium held by Upper Deck Training Center and the West Virginia Miners. The event will be held Jan. 24-26 at a site to be determined. Tim Epling, owner of Upper Deck and manager of the Miners, said a venue will be finalized within the next week.
The Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center and the Country Inn and Suites conference center are possibilities.
Epling and Strom have been friends since 2002, when they met at a coaching symposium in Houston. The two have worked at boot camps at Ron Wolforth’s Baseball Ranch, also in Houston.
“He was with the Montreal Expos at the time,” Epling said. “Through the years we have become good friends. We see each other one or two times a year.”
Strom was hired by the Houston Astros in October to be their pitching coach. It will be his second tour with the Astros, serving in the same capacity in 1996.
He was also the pitching coach in Kansas City in 2000 and 2001.
Epling has used much of what he has learned from Strom in his four seasons as Miners manager. Those philosophies have helped West Virginia to the last two Prospect League championships.
“When you are a college coach (Epling spent seven seasons at WVU Tech), it’s a little different. You’re with the (same) kids three to four years,” Epling said. “The West Virginia Miners are more like professional baseball. You’re dealing with kids from different programs with different styles. I have learned from him how to deal with the pitchers, how to deal with pitch counts and that sort of thing.
“When he was with the Cardinals organization those six years, that speaks for itself. All that experience that he has, we have talked about how to set up hitters and things to look for. ... I would not be where I am if not for Brent.”
Epling is excited for the opportunity local coaches will have by hearing Strom’s expertise.
“We’re going to be getting this information out to college coaches, to high school coaches, Little League coaches, travel coaches — it’s not for just a select group,” he said. “Anybody who coach’s baseball has this opportunity. We will speak on different topics. We’ll talk about hitting, we’ll talk about how to move a position player who has to pitch — if he pitches today, what do you do with him tomorrow? We’ll speak about how to not get them hurt and have the maximum benefit from them.”
Epling said there will also be a question-and-answer session with Strom and other speakers.
All details, including site, cost and additional speakers, should be finalized in the coming days.
For more information, call Epling at 304-673-2519. Information will also be posted soon on the Upper Deck website, www.upperdeckwv.com.
— E-mail: gfauber
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