Dorman 'in full Beaver mode' as new pitching coach
The long drive was about half over, and Rich Dorman seemed to be holding up well.
Phoenix to Corvallis is roughly 18 hours by car, and Oregon State's new pitching coach wasn't planning to make it a two-day affair.
"I left at 2:30 a.m., and I'm going to get it done today," Dorman said Wednesday via Bluetooth as he spun through Nevada on his way to the Oregon border. "I'm behind the 8-ball. We have to get stuff set up. I'm excited to get to Corvallis and get this thing started."
This was a solo trip for Dorman, 40, who left wife Cathy and their two children, Alexa (9) and Blake (6), home in Phoenix. The kids have started school, and Cathy teaches kindergarten.
She'll wait for the school to hire her replacement, put the house up for sale and hopefully make it to Corvallis with the kids sometime in October.
"But I had a two-page 'honey do' list before I left," Dorman said with a laugh. "I had to check a lot of boxes."
Five days after being named the successor to Nate Yeskie — who left to become associate head coach and pitching coach at Arizona — Dorman is eager to sink his teeth into a new job under head coach Mitch Canham. Dorman interviewed via telephone, speaking also to assistant coaches Pat Bailey and Ryan Gipson.
"I feel prepared," Dorman said. "It's a great opportunity to work with great people. I've had talks with 'Bailes' and 'Gippy,' and Mitch is just a great human being. Everything worked out perfectly."
Canham and Dorman go back to the 2016 season, when Canham was in his first year as a manager in the Seattle organization. Canham was manager of the Single-A Clinton (Iowa) Lumberjacks and Dorman — in his eighth year in the Mariners' system — was pitching coach.
Dorman left after the season to become pitching coach at Grand Canyon, which has transitioned to Division I ball and is a member of the Western Athletic Conference. With two young children, Dorman felt college ball was better for his family. In recent years, the Dormans had lived in Phoenix, Rich leaving the family behind for the baseball season.
"Being gone for six months is a tough sell to the wife," he said. "She has to raise kids by herself. It's just tough. You come home after the season and your kids are four inches taller and they don't recognize you.
"It worked out. I love college baseball. It's different than the pro game. You wear a lot of hats, but I love every hat you wear."
Dorman is plenty familiar with the Northwest, and not just because he was with the Mariners so long. He was a three-sport athlete at North Medford High, a catcher in baseball who went on to play the position for two years at Chemeketa Community College. Dorman then signed with Pat Casey at Oregon State. But playing in a collegiate wood-bat league that summer, Dorman pitched a game — and caught the eye of a major-league scout.
"He asked me if I was interested in being a pitcher," Dorman said. "I said, 'I'm a catcher, and I'm going to Oregon State.' It had always been my dream to be a Beaver."
The Beavers had catchers, and Casey gave Dorman the option — catcher or pitcher.
"I went with pitching," he said. "In hindsight, maybe I should have chosen catching."
Dorman broke a hamate bone in a hand and was in a cast through fall ball, which put him behind. He pitched in three games for the Beavers during that (1999) season, then asked Casey for his release and transferred for his senior year to Western Baptist (now Corban).
"At that point, I was just trying to figure it out," Dorman said. "I realized pitching is a lot harder than it looks. I worked really hard, but I needed to develop. I didn't have a pitcher's mind at all. I was just a thrower. I needed to learn how to pitch."
Dorman enjoyed his season playing for Casey.
"He is an incredible leader," Dorman said. "I just watched and learned. How he presents his teaching is important. He was really good at that.
"He's intense, but there is purpose behind it. There are some coaches who just yell, and it doesn't do anything. Other coaches are totally the other way. 'Case' was a great mix. He cared about the people around him as much as he cared about the work."
Working under pitching coach Larry Casian, Dorman had a fine senior season at Western Baptist and was chosen in the 13th round of the 2000 draft by Tampa Bay. The 6-2, 210-pound right-hander wound up pitching for 12 teams through nine minor-league seasons — mostly as a starter — ending with Tacoma in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2008.
"Pitching is one of the hardest things to do in baseball," Dorman said. "You can hide in right field. There's no place to hide on the mound. If you're not good enough, you're going to get exposed. It took me awhile. I finally became a compete pitcher, and I loved it."
An arm injury ended Dorman's playing career, and he stepped right into a pitching coach position with the Mariners' Rookie League team in Everett, Washington. Over the next eight years, he served with several teams in the Seattle chain, working with such pitchers as Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Pablo Lopez.
"I learned through all of my experiences (in the Mariners organization)," he said. "I met some incredible coaches. I was able to take a little bit from everybody. It's so important to be a good communicator. It's how you deliver your message and how a kid is going to respond."
Dorman said his coaching philosophy is simple: "Coach the individual. It's important for me to identify each guy's strengths. It's like, how can I tweak a good player to make him great?"
Grand Canyon was a good program during Dorman's time there, going 98-73 overall and 57-18 in WAC play and claiming regular-season league championships in 2017 and '18. The Lopes didn't make it to the NCAA tournament, however. Expectations will be higher in Corvallis.
"My expectation is for the guys to compete at the highest level," he said. "Every time you take the mound, get after it. Be more prepared than the opponent and compete with passion every time out. If we do that, good stuff is going to happen."
Dorman already has reached out by phone to most of the OSU pitchers. He was on the road recruiting for Grand Canyon when he got the job with Oregon State.
"I said my goodbyes to our (Grand Canyon) coaches and some players," he said. "Amazing people. I formed some great relationships. But I'm in full Beaver mode now. Can't wait to get up there and get started with my guys."
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