Paving the way for success

Rochester College baseball coach aims to teach more than just fundamentals of the game to his players

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published April 22, 2014

 Pictured are members of Rochester College’s baseball team.

Pictured are members of Rochester College’s baseball team.

Photo courtesy of Rochester College athletics

Rochester College head baseball coach Ryan Chipka said his players are “blessed” to have the opportunity to play college baseball.

It is a chance not everyone will get, and instead of merely spending their times as student-athletes, Chipka said he wants his players to invest their time.

On the field, qualifying for the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) conference tournament and making a trip to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) World Series could go a long way toward players coming away from the program with some positive, long-lasting memories.

While on-field success would be a bonus, it is not the primary criteria by which Chipka, who is in his first season as the Warriors’ head coach, plans to measure the success of his program.

“People have asked me, ‘How good is your team this year?'” he said. “The answer to that question is, ‘I don’t know.’ The true testament is when I get to get to meet with these guys 10, 15, 20 years down the road and I can see what kind of husbands, fathers and sons that they have become. Yes, baseball’s a big part of our lives here, and it’s something we dedicate ourselves to, but at the same time, it’s just a game. It’s something we look to build and reveal character through — to, hopefully, make us successful human beings. That’s a big focus of our program.”

The process Chipka thinks it takes for his players to attain success on the field is the same one that can also apply to their everyday lives.

“The standard we’re trying to set here is compete at a high level in everything that we do,” he said. “Talk about playing every pitch like it has a life and history of its own. Play as hard as we can for that single pitch, and as soon as it’s over, that’s exactly what it is — over. There’s nothing we can do to change it; we can just go from there. We really feel like if we buckle down and focus on taking care of the small things, and doing things the right way on a daily basis, the big things, teamwise, will take care of themselves.

“So we try and focus on preparing their minds, as well as their bodies, talking through decisions and how to choose the best course of action in anything, whether it’s your 9 a.m. class on a Thursday morning, a decision you need to make after college, or a decision you need to make on the ballfield. We think all those little things in every facet of life will help lead to success on the ball diamond.”

Prior to accepting the position of head coach, Chipka spent four seasons as a player at Rochester College and was an assistant coach with the program last year. In other words, he is invested into the Warriors’ baseball program.

“The Rochester College baseball family and the entire Rochester College community — I really can’t put into words all that it’s done for me,” said Chipka, who is also the Sports Information Director at the school. “I have a tremendous amount of love for my job. It definitely makes it easy for me to wake up and get after it every single day with these guys, because I have such a huge passion for this school and this program.”

Chipka expressed optimism about Rochester College’s baseball program moving forward.

“We’re working hard,” said Chipka, who cited the team’s attitude, enthusiasm and effort as keys to achieving goals he has for the program. “The guys still aren’t exactly sure of everything that we see and what we expect on a daily basis, but with that being said, they are working hard and getting better. We’ve played at a high level for quite a few games this season, but at the same time, we look back at the end of the day and see a lot of things we can do better, and that we will do better. It’s just a matter of how fast we can make those changes and how fast we can get everybody on board.”

At press time, Rochester College had a record of 13-13.

The warriors are scheduled to play at 4 p.m. April 25 in a road game against Madonna University.

Players who attended local high schools on the Warriors’ roster are Scott Kunert (ClintonTownship Chippewa Valley High School), Tom Verdura (Macomb Dakota), Dominic Raona (Madison Heights Lamphere), Alex Riopelle (Troy Athens), Blake German (Royal Oak), Ron Carter (Royal Oak), Nicholas White (St. Clair Shores Lakeview), Anthony Incarnati (Fraser), Luke Strobl (St. Clair Shores Lakeview), Tim Murphy (Chippewa Valley), Anthony Sarkis (Grosse Pointe North), Jon Stiner (Utica), Jake Buzonowski (Walled Lake Central) and Ryan Rosati (Harrison Township L’Ance Creuse).