FSU Baseball's Drew Linder making his mark behind the scenes

Ryan S. Clark, Lead Beat Writer
Warchant

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Jeremy Esbrandt/Florida State Sports Information

Casual college baseball fans might not know much about Drew Linder, but those inside the Florida State baseball program and USA Baseball are extremely aware of who he is and the value he brings.

Linder is a bullpen catcher and student manager for the Seminoles. His primarily responsibilities include catching bullpen sessions during practices and helping pitchers warm up before entering a game. But he often does so much more than that.

Linder also spends hours creating spreadsheets so his pitchers have a scouting report of what to expect from opposing batters. His attention to detail is so precise that he's earned the trust of FSU's coaching staff and pitchers to provide instructions if a hurler's mechanics need work.

"I don't like taking a lot of credit. I like to stay behind the scenes," said the 20-year-old Linder, who is a junior at FSU. "I do everything I can to help the team out. I have a great group of guys who help me out. ... Mainly, we're there to help the pitchers out. I work real close with [Seminoles pitching coach Mike] Bell to get guys dialed in before they come into games."

How does one become a college bullpen catcher/student manager?

Linder played baseball at Ponte Vedra High near Jacksonville. He said he had a few offers to play Division-II or Division-III baseball, but one of his high school coaches called Bell about him.

Bell was told Linder had goals of either becoming a college coach or, if possible, working in the front office of a Major League Baseball franchise. He's been with the Seminoles all three years he's been at Florida State, and he has established a solid reputation with his teammates.

FSU star sophomore left-handed pitcher Tyler Holton said having Linder is "an advantage" other teams lack.

"He's always there to give you motivation and to give you pointers," Holton said of Linder. "If he sees something, he's almost like another coach. I know in the bullpen, he'll see some stuff whether it's in my delivery or the movement of a pitch. He can pick things out as a pitching coach would, and give his input on what to do.

"He's a tool not many teams have. He's another piece of the puzzle. That's the way I'd put it."

Although he's still in college, Linder takes a professional approach with everything he does; he already has established a profile on the business networking site LinkedIn. He also is branching out beyond Tallahassee.

Linder spent last summer working with Team USA's various youth programs. He spent a few months assisting USA Baseball by evaluating its options for both the U-17 and U-18 National Teams.

"His knowledge of players. He can grade out a player, and he's creative with his thoughts and can see who can play right now," said Eric Campbell, who is the general manager for USA Baseball's National Teams. "We're not in the projection business. We're more in the performance-right-now game, and he's a really good judge of talent in my opinion."

That's part of the reason Linder was selected to work this summer with Team USA's Collegiate National Team.

Linder will serve as the team's bullpen coach. He'll help the team's pitching staff as it faces competition in the Coastal Plains League, a collegiate wooden bat summer league based in North Carolina and Virginia. Team USA will then host two series against Chinese Taipei and Cuba.

Campbell, who was head coach at Air Force before working in his current role, said he recommended Linder to UCLA coach John Savage, who will manage the team.

"When John Savage was hired, he did not really have strong feelings on our bullpen coach," said Campbell, who helped Team USA win a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "I asked him to interview with Drew, and he said he had a great conversation and that it seemed like a perfect fit."

Seminoles coach Mike Martin echoed those sentiments, saying Linder was "really, really good" at what he does and that he would be a "big plus" with Team USA.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Drew Parrish can attest to Linder's credentials.

Parrish, who will start today's College World Series elimination game against Cal State Fullerton, said Linder's spreadsheets are detailed. He said each report provides specific tendencies and can tell every FSU pitcher about a hitter's traits.

"I haven't seen any other bullpen catcher do that, so, it is pretty different," Parrish said. "He really does like the game and enjoys it. He likes to look into our team and our opponents and tries to give us the best advantage we can to win."

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