“Go hard and go fast.”
In a few words, that’s how Al Cantwell sums up his coaching philosophy.
It’s also the brand of baseball the 32-year-old head coach expects to see from the 2011 edition of the West Coast League’s Kelowna Falcons.
“You want to speed the game up for the other team, make it difficult on them,” said Cantwell who, as a former player, had a penchant for stealing bases and causing havoc for opposing pitchers.
“Don’t leave the field leaving an extra step, air on the side of aggression, and when you go home, win or lose, you know you gave it your best fight. If you do that, you’re going to win more times than not.”
Born in New Brunswick and raised in Calgary, this will be Cantwell’s second summer in the Okanagan. He was an outfielder with the Kelowna Grizzlies back in 1999.
Cantwell also played at the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge and another two seasons at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. After five years on the coaching staff at LSUS, he has spent the last four seasons as the head man at C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport.
Cantwell knew Falcons GM Mark Nonis when the two played college baseball in Louisiana and was excited when the opportunity came up to return to Kelowna.
“Ultimately, I want to get back coaching at the college level and this is a good step for me,” said Cantwell, who takes over the reins from Kevin Frady. “I’m excited to work with these players, excited to work for Mark Nonis, I know what a competitor he is, I know his expectations and I’m excited to work with him and try and make this go where he wants it to go.”
As is the case every year for the club’s head coach, Cantwell’s biggest challenge just might be his ability to bring together a roster of players from all parts of North America and mold them into a cohesive unit.
Also high on his list of priorities is ensuring the players have a positive experience in Kelowna and, last but not least, entertaining the fans and winning games.
“You come here and you want to do a good job obviously for the organization and put out a good product, fans want to see a winning team,” said Cantwell. “But also what these players are going to understand is that I’m here for them and they’re here for me. They’re going to be our resume when they go back home. We want them to go home and tell their friends and all the best players: ‘Hey this is where you want to be.'”
“The winning is going to take care of itself,” he added. “We’re going establish that identity of going hard every night.”
Cantwell, who arrived in Kelowna this week, left his family behind in Louisiana to take on the new coaching job for the summer. But he will get a chance to see his wife and 2 1/2-year-old child as the two plan to come to the Okanagan for a three-week visit in July.
Cantwell will be assisted this season by pitching coach Lloyd Gage from Murray State College in Oklahoma.