Sean Buchanan was hired in August as the new pitching coach for Lehigh’s baseball team.
Already, Buchanan has formed strong connections, implemented effective training methods and brought optimism and energy to the team. He inherits a pitching program that had Levi Stoudt, ‘19, drafted in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft and has future potential MLB draftees in senior Matt Svanson and juniors Mason Black and Luke Rettig.
As Lehigh’s head coach, Sean Leary is in charge of all of the new staff hires. He said he found Buchanan to be the perfect fit for the team because of his impressive recruiting and coaching histories at several other colleges, most recently with Albright College and DeSales University.
Leary also said Buchanan was hired due to his ability to connect with players.
“His strengths are in his relationship building, his ability to relate to his players,” Leary said. “He immediately established very strong rapport with these guys.”
Buchanan views the formation of these strong relationships as a fundamental part of his job description and as one of the main factors that will strengthen and guide the team to success.
“Having the opportunity to come and serve these guys, that’s my job,” Buchanan said. “I don’t ever want it to get lost that my overall mission is to serve this program, to serve these pitchers and be a servant leader every single day.”
Due to the restrictions of COVID-19, pitchers were only able to practice in small groups this fall before practices were indefinitely shut down on Sept. 29. While they usually practice as a group anyway, they missed out on the opportunity to practice as an entire team as well.
Black said, however, the small group training helped the pitchers cultivate personal bonds with the new pitching coach while they refined their skills.
“We started off this year with some individualized sessions, so we were able to kind of start building a relationship with him and start learning from him,” Black said. “It has been awesome so far, being able to just bounce ideas back and forth off one another. Like last night (Oct. 9), I had a 30-minute conversation, I was just picking his brain apart, learning everything I could.”
Buchanan said he came in not wanting to make any big changes about the way the team operates. However, with the challenges presented by social distancing and COVID-19 regulations, Buchanan’s experiences with technology have proved important thus far, giving his players a different outlet to learn and develop from. The pitchers have been relying on Buchanan’s technological savvy to improve their technique during this atypical season.
“Coach (Buchanan) is, I would say, almost like a wizard,” said sophomore pitcher Ryan Deom. “He’s been implementing some of the new technology, and then helping the whole staff refine their mechanics or find different pitches or whatever it may be, but he’s been awesome thus far.”
With the instruction of Buchanan, they have been using a device called Rapsodo, which measures the impact and spin of a pitched ball, calculating the potential trajectories, spin-axis and rate, and pitch velocity. The pitchers can use these gathered calculations and statistics to make adjustments that will improve accuracy and precision.
In addition to this technology, Buchanan has brought trust and good communication to the team during the short amount he has been at Lehigh, making his passion for baseball apparent. His dedication is appreciated by his players.
“The first thing that he said to us when he was brought on staff was, ‘Contact me whenever you want, how you want, I don’t care,’” Deom said. “I live baseball 24/7, so just hearing that from a coach is huge.”
Buchanan aims to help get Lehigh to the Patriot League Championship and back to the NCAA tournament, but said his primary goal is to help every pitcher on the team to reach their personal best.
“You’re going to get energy from me every single day,” Buchanan said.“That’s the one thing I can promise you I’ll bring, as well as I’ll bring energy and positive vibes every single day.”