04 July 2013

Baseball: Jon Graff named Tiger head coach

John Graff
Farmington athletic director Jon Summer said the pool of applicants for the vacant Tiger baseball coaching position was as deep and qualified as any he has had since his arrival in the fall of 2005.

But when all was said and done, Summer said the best person for the job was already on the staff.

Long-time assistant coach Jon Graff will head up the Tiger program starting next spring, replacing Mike Winters who held the post for the past 13 seasons.

Graff, a 1992 Northfield graduate who has served as an assistant on the Tiger staff for 11 years, has also coached at the sub-varsity level in football, basketball and soccer during his 17 years at Farmington.

Graff's baseball coaching experience goes all the way back to his high school days when he worked with the park and recreation youth programs for the City of Northfield.

He served as Northfield's interim Parks and Recreation Director before joining the Farmington High School faculty in 1997 where he now teaches United States history and Advanced Placement United States history.

Graff said he has learned  a lot from the past six seasons as Winters' varsity assistant but also feels he will bring some new ideas to the program.

"I want to bring in an arm strengthening and conditioning program," he said. "This will hopefully help guard against arm fatigue and injury while helping our pitchers throw with more velocity. It should help not only our pitching staff but also allow position players to throw with more power."

Graff also admits to being fond of the use of technology in his coaching, including videotaping players so they can better address their strengths and weaknesses 

"This allows players to really look at their swing or their pitching motion," he said. "The feedback from the kids so far has been great."

The new coach embraces the concept of baseball fundamentals, especially defensively, but also plans to stress the mental part of the game.

"Getting players to stay positive and developing a high baseball IQ, is important," he said. "Getting them to know the game and be able to anticipate what will happen next...I believe small things done well is probably the greatest secret to success. Do small things right and big things can happen."

Graff said he likes the returning players who will form the nucleus of his first team next spring and expects to be competitive in what will be Farmington's final year in the Missota Conference.The Tigers finished 7-7 in the Missota this spring.

Graff said despite a personal association with the Missota Conference for the past 26 years he is also excited about Farmington's move to the South Suburban Conference in 2014-15.

"I look forward to the challenges and opportunities it provides," he said. "Our youth programs have a lot of kids playing and they're playing teams from the South Suburban schools and they're dong a good job."

Regardless of the final won-lost record, however, Graff said he wants his coaches and players to positively represent the game of baseball.

"It's a great sport and there is a right way to play it," he said. "If we can be good ambassadors for the game, we'll have a lot to be proud of."