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For more than two decades, the perch in the home dugout at Veterans Field was occupied by John Schiffner. From that spot, the newly inducted Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Famer became the winningest manager in league history, leading the Anglers to two league championships in 1996 and 1998, six division titles and 15 playoff appearances.
But Schiffner, widely known as “Schiff”, was adored for more than his winning record and longevity. His approach -- a “player first” mentality -- was embraced by the hundreds of Anglers players, host families, and others affiliated with the team throughout his tenure. Winning was never his top priority. Rather, he aimed to ensure each Angler enjoyed his summer, and, more importantly, bettered themselves as players to increase their chances of reaching the major leagues.
“To me, John Schiffner is Cape Cod League baseball,” Jamie Shevchik, manager of the Brewster Whitecaps, told the Boston Globe in July 2017.
At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, a new era will begin. Tom Holliday, who spent 40 consecutive seasons coaching Division I collegiate baseball, including 26 years at Oklahoma State, will be the first to manage the Anglers other than “Schiff” since 1993. Alongside Holliday is a brand new coaching staff: assistant coaches Daylon Monette and Randy Whisler, pitching coach Dennis Cook and bullpen catcher Blake Logan.
Holliday and Schiffner share a common goal: player development. The former Oklahoma State head coach wants to do so with caution, however, as he does not want to contradict certain things his players have learned from their college coaches, Holliday said. “My coaching philosophy would be to find out in a hurry a player's strength, find out his weakness, then work on his weakness and hold onto his strength,” Holliday said.
Along with an emphasis on enhancing each player’s ability, Holliday intends to combine such development with the desire to win, something Schiffner did not prioritize. While Schiffner stressed having fun as much as he did winning, Holliday plans to take action if his players get too lackadaisical, he said, and poor effort will result in their benching.
The need for players to always give maximum effort is more so for themselves than the coaches, Holliday said. With major league scouts in and around Cape Cod throughout the summer, it is necessary for players to consistently put their best product on display. The key to getting the best out of players is effective communication, Holliday said.
“My job, my philosophy, is to try to bring the best out of all of them,” Holliday said. “You do that by being a really sound communicator and that's my philosophy. I'm gonna communicate with them.”
While the people of Chatham and the players on this year’s roster may be unfamiliar with Holliday’s persona and managerial style, the rest of the coaching staff became accustomed to the first-year manager’s ways long before they arrived in the Cape.
Both assistant coaches -- Monette and Whisler -- played under Holliday at Oklahoma State, while Logan was first exposed to him when Holliday was a pitching coach at Auburn in 2015. Each vouched for Holliday’s extensive baseball knowledge along with his ability to get the best out of his players.
“That guy wants players. He doesn't care what they look like,” Monette said. “As long as they have the heart, they want to be here, play hard, and they have some ability, he is going to be able to find a way to put them on the field and put them in a position to be successful.”
Chatham will never forget “Schiff”. His impact on the town, as well as the entire Cape League, is one that will forever be admired by all those affiliated with the league, young and old. But as a new chapter in Anglers history prepares to unfold, the thousands of supporters around the country should look forward to the dawn of the Tom Holliday era.