TERRE HAUTE —
At first glance, it would be easy to look at first-year Terre Haute Rex manager Ronnie Prettyman and expect him to have a difficult journey during his maiden voyage as a baseball manager.
Managing in the Prospect League isn’t the easiest job in the world.
Rosters change constantly, especially early in the season when players are still reporting from their college teams. The travel is arduous — a night game in far-off Quincy, Ill., could be followed by a home game, followed by a game at equally far-off Hannibal, Mo. The players have to acclimate themselves to playing every day after having played a maximum of five games a week at the college level.
Prettyman has decided to find safe harbor in his knowledge of baseball. He’s been around the sport for his entire life and has played it at nearly the highest level.
“I’m comfortable. I’m pretty confident in my baseball knowledge. The stuff I’m trying to get better at I’m working on a daily basis. There’s some new things for me. Reminding the umpires that I’m putting someone new in the game? That eludes me sometimes. There is a lot of stuff to get better at, but I’m confident in how I coach and what I do,” Prettyman said.
The son of Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman has had a lot of teachers, not the least of which is his father, who has been in sports management for several decades.
On the baseball side, Prettyman played for successful college coach George Horton — then at Cal State-Fullerton, now at Oregon — and was on the Titans’ 2004 College World Series championship team.
After he was drafted the Seattle Mariners in 2005, Prettyman played for former big leaguers Gary Thurman and Phil Plantier as he made it as far as the Triple-A level for the Mariners before injuries shortened his career.
During the last two seasons, Prettyman has been an assistant coach on Rick Heller’s staff at ISU.
So the experience is there. Now it’s a matter of applying it.
“I was fortunate enough to play for a lot of good people. Coach Heller runs a good offense and he’s aggressive. That’s how I want to do it. He’s been a good guy to watch the last couple of years. I’ve taken a lot from people my whole career,” Prettyman said.
Rex general manager Casey DeGroote noticed the baseball knowledge Prettyman possessed from the beginning, but also like the way he communicates with players. It undoubtedly helps that Prettyman was recently a player himself.
“Right from the get-go I knew Ronnie would be a good manager because he’s a good communicator and he has a lot of knowledge of all parts of the game. He knows the little things managers need to know. We were excited when he was available to do it,” DeGroote said.
Prettyman’s lone stated philosophy as a manager is his desire to run. As of this writing, Terre Haute was third in the Prospect League and second in the West Division in stolen bases.
“We’re going to be aggressive, that’s just how it’s going to be. If we get thrown out, we’ll also steal a lot of bases. That’s just how I play the game and it’s what I believe in,” Prettyman said.
One of the biggest adjustments Prettyman has to impart on the Rex players is the rhythm of playing every day. His method is to incorporate what he believes in baseballwise with the realities of the difficult Prospect League schedule.
“We keep things really basic, from our signs to our plays that we run on defense, but we do it at a high speed and we want to do things fast. It is a unique situation as we have guys coming from all over the country. They’re adapting to each other and learning how they play. Those are the adjustments you go through as a professional, but also in summer-ball settings,” Prettyman said.
DeGroote said Prettyman’s organizational skills come to the forefront when it comes to managing the time as well as the roster.
“He gives them time off. Say, for example, we’re coming back from Hannibal, we won’t have [batting practice]. Or we might show-and-go for a game at Danville. He gives them some time to rest. As much as you want to train, there’s times you need to rest. He does a good job of balancing that. He’s got it planned out. He has in his mind two weeks in advance what we do each day,” DeGroote said.
One of Prettyman’s biggest adjustments is managing the four Sycamores he has on the Rex roster — Tyler Wampler, Josh Dove, Kurt Kudrecki and Owen Conway. As most assistant coaches are, during the ISU season, he’s more of a confidant. Now he’s the boss.
“During the school season, he’s still our coach and we treat him with respect. But it is different when he’s the head coach. He’s one of those guys who respects you, but he demands respect back,” Conway said.
“It’s easy to remember he’s the boss man. You like him and you want to play hard for him. You don’t want to be the guy who disrespects coach Prettyman. He’s a laid-back guy, but he’s fun to play for. He gives his best and he wants you to give yours too,” he added.
As for the results on the field, the Rex are in a three-way race for the West Division honors with Quincy and Danville. Whatever method Prettyman is choosing to employ, something is working.
“Ronnie was hoping to be .500 after 16 to 18 games when all of the guys were able to get in. He’s done really well,” DeGroote said.