October 2021 Newsletter

How the transfer portal has changed college recruiting

Artifact of the Month

Where Are They Now

(Courtesy of Kent State Athletics)

Eric Lauer, whose standout junior season at Kent State earned him the 2016 National Pitcher of the Year Award, served as a key piece of the Milwaukee Brewers pitching rotation for most of the season, including the team’s run through the postseason.

In fact, Lauer was the Brewers starting pitcher for Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. Lauer went 3.2 innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs. Lauer recorded a no-decision in the game.

Lauer made a statement for the Brewers, coming on strong after June and compiling a 1.74 ERA in 14 appearances, 13 of those as a starter. The start total alone was a highlight for Lauer after he made only four appearances in 2020 after tearing the capsule in his throwing shoulder.

By the end of September, Lauer had a career-best 2.93 ERA in 113.2 innings.

Talking to The Athletic, Lauer spoke of the creative names he has for his pitches — “zoom ball,” “riser,” “spin ball,” “bullet” and, of course, a change-up.

“You can’t just throw everything that everyone else throws,” Lauer told The Athletic. “You gotta have some funky names.”

Using more descriptive names for his pitches has helped Lauer work with Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook, who told The Athletic that listening to how Lauer described his body movements as he throws and what he wants to get out of certain pitches made it easier to figure out how to help him have success.

“I had to adjust my coaching plan to him,” Hook said. “He needs other ways to get to the spots of his delivery. He needs other ways to get to his spin and his pitches. And I gotta be really, really creative in getting him there. It’s a lot of fun.”

Lauer, who was drafted in the first round by the San Diego Padres in 2016, said Hook’s willingness to learn Lauer’s pitching language has been crucial in his current success.

“That was a really cool thing because there are pitching coaches that don’t really care, they’re, like, ‘This is how I explained something. This is what you should do.’ And it’s not helpful to me or to somebody else who doesn’t perceive things the same way,” Lauer told The Athletic. “So, I think it was really cool to see that he was constantly trying to learn me, constantly trying to mold to what I was doing and to what I wanted to hear and what would help me the most instead of trying to mold me into what he was trying to do.”

Inductee Spotlight

Dick Runchey, umpire

2011 National Collegiate Umpire Award* recipient

Career Highlights:

  • Collegiate umpire from 1976-98
  • Five College World Series — 1982, '83, '90, '94 and '98
  • Worked four College World Series final games on the plate: 1982, '90, '94, '98
  • 19 NCAA Division I Regionals
  • 3 MAC Championships
  • 12 Big Ten Championships
  • 1990-2013 Regional Evaluator/Advisor NCAA Baseball Umpire Program
  • NCAA Tournament Representative 2004-12
  • ABUA Hall of Fame 2002

Dick Runchey makes a call at first base during a College World Series game. Runchey umpired 48 games at five different World Series before his retirement in 1998. Now, he spends much of his time working with young umpires through clinics and organizations as well as serving as an NCAA regional umpire advisor. Photo courtesy of Dick Runchey.

Getting to know Runch:
(The following article was written for the 2011 Night of Champions yearbook.)

Dick Runchey may go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Even though he was not in one of the dugouts during a game, he was on the field constantly directing his crew throughout every inning of every game. His record is almost perfect – no wins, but no losses either.

“We have good days, and we have bad days,” Runchey said. “But we never lose.”

That’s because Runchey has been a coach of umpires for more than 40 years – both on and off the field. He is regarded as maybe the most respected umpire in the world among college and international baseball umpires, coaches and administrators. That is why he is being honored this year with the College Baseball Foundation’s inaugural National Collegiate Umpire Award.

“Wow. That’s what I told Mike (Gustafson, CBF executive director) when he called me. At first, I thought it was a prank because our peers like to pull some good stuff – umpires are a rare breed and nothing is off limits,” he said. “It was like when I got that call to go work the College World Series. I have a place in Florida and I had played golf and grabbed something to eat. My wife still works up in Michigan so it’s just me by myself.

“The phone rings, and it’s Mike. I know a lot of people around the sport, but I’ve never met this guy. So he tells me who he is and about the College Baseball Hall of Fame and now the wheels in my start spinning. I start thinking – ‘Man, this is for real. I better put on my professional hat.’ And then I started to remember the email Gene McArtor had sent out months before asking for recommendations. Then Mike told me that it was me who was going to receive this award. I got chills just like I did when I got called each time I got to do the College World Series.

“I haven’t been on the field in 12 years. But it was that same feeling. Just the sheer rush through my body made me realize – ‘This is big.’ I always thought that there should be something done to help recognize umpires, and this being my 43rd year to be involved with it, for it to be me the very first time – just unreal.”

Friends say he’s the type of guy who will feel like your best friend, father and mentor in a matter of minutes after meeting him. You not only want to take him out for a beer, but you want his respect and can learn a lifetime of knowledge from his experiences. All you have to do is look at his resume to understand that:

  • The Olympics
  • The World Championships
  • World Baseball Classic
  • The Pan-Am Games
  • Filled in for Major League Baseball umpires in 1979
  • Minor League Baseball
  • 1984 American League Playoff
  • 5 College World Series
  • 4 national championship games behind the dish (1982, 1990, 1994, 1998)
  • Instructed more than 250 clinics around the world
  • Inducted into Amateur Baseball Umpires Association Hall of Fame in 2002 and is currently serving as the ABUA Executive Director
  • Umpire Evaluator for the Collegiate Baseball Umpires Alliance2007 ABUA President
  • 2003-09 Director of Umpires for the IBAF

He has enough stories to fill a book – which he says will be written someday – but he remembers his final College World Series game and why Omaha and college baseball have always meant so much to him.

Runchey was the umpire at the plate on what has been described as one of the biggest games in College World Series history. In what might look more like the score of a Pac-12 football game, Southern California beat Arizona State, 21-14, to claim the 1998 title – its first national championship in 20 years.

But what Runchey does goes far beyond wins and losses on the field.

He left the field 12 years ago and has since been more involved on the administration side of things, overseeing numerous clinics around the world while serving on the committees to select umpires for international baseball competitions, NCAA postseason and the College World Series. It’s here where Runchey truly became a coach among umpires.

“That’s the exact philosophy I took,” Runchey said of his position with umpires now. “I love kids and I love working with kids. I wanted to coach. I coached high school for a while after I left the minor leagues. That was the passion I had.

“I didn’t have a dad growing up. My dad passed away when he was 34 so our coaches raised my brothers and I. My mother was the stronghold, but she had to work. So, in umpiring, I always took the mindset that it was coaching. So, when I was umpiring, I was coaching my team — my crewmates.

“It’s coaching and I love to do it.”

One day, when the story is finally written, there will be numerous people mentioned along the way that had a big impact on Runchey and how he came to be one of the most respected men in amateur baseball. He remembers his translators and people who assisted him in other countries, and he still keeps in contact with them today through Facebook and the internet. People who were there to help him get around, learn the culture and simply “stay out of trouble.”

“I told you – we’re a rare breed,” Runchey said with a laugh. “Baseball is a game. I learned that a long time ago. It’s a competition. Some teams win, some teams lose – that’s how we remember players. But the thing I will take away from all of this is the people I’ve met along the way from all over the world.

“One day we will all get to see each other again somewhere down the road. I can’t take the scores and games with me when it’s over, but I still have those important people I’ve met along the way.”

So when you’ve been all the places Runchey has been and accomplished so much over a lifetime dedicated to helping others, where will this achievement rank among all the accolades for the umpires’ coach?

“This is big,” Runchey said. “I guess you could say that I’ve covered the whole gamut of umpiring in baseball. So I don’t know if you call it the perfect ending or the icing on the cake – I guess it could be a number of things. But I tell you what, it’s going to look good on my tombstone.”

* Beginning in 2021, the CBF started inducting an umpire each year as part of the annual National College Baseball Hall of Fame class. Also, each umpire who already has been honored became a part of that year’s induction class instead of being recognized by a separate award.