Watt-Akin lead by example
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 20, 2008 2:01 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive head baseball coach Carl Lancaster refuses to accept sole credit for his 700-plus victories.
He never swung a bat, fielded a ground ball or threw a pitch.
Lancaster attributes his success to former players, assistant coaches and two men he has on staff now -- Rob Watt and Aaron Akin.
Watt, in his fourth season with the Trojans, serves in a variety of capacities. He instructs hitters, coaches third base during games, assists in recruiting and oversee the team's weight program.
Watt spent three seasons at his alma mater, Wayne State, before coming to Mount Olive. He also served as head coach of the Martinsville (Va.) Mustangs in the wooden-bat, Coastal Plain League for three summers.
The Trojans have benefited from his tutoring. Mount Olive entered the South Atlantic Regional averaging nine runs a game with every batter averaging .300 or higher at the plate.
"Coach Watt has really done a fabulous job with his hitters," said Lancaster. "A lot of our offense I contribute to his program in the weight room. When our guys get results out of it after the first spring they look forward to it the next year.
"He's a very good baseball man all the way around and a great recruiter."
Watt implemented a metabolic weight program at MOC. It's helped the players gain weight, increase their speed and gain confidence in their respective abilities.
"It's a metabolic circuit, so the whole object of the workout is to make our muscles big," said Watt. "I know it sounds very elementary, but it's like the initial part of our workout. We want to make our muscles as big as they can get so when we get to the explosive part of it, the muscles are already big so we can lift more weight.
"Guys tend to put on quite a bit of muscle in the six weeks that we do it."
Just ask shortstop David Cooper and second baseman Anthony Williams. Unarguably one of the nation's top middle infield combination, each has put on roughly 30 pounds under Watt's watchful eye.
"I came into college at about 130 pounds," said Williams. "I'll probably leave college about 160. I was weak and I couldn't swing the bat well at all. I was strictly a defensive guy ... at least I tried to be.
"It gives you discipline and it helps you do things you thought you couldn't do. Coach Watt instills in you mental toughness."
Akin, a former first-round draft pick of the Florida Marlins, has handled pitching duties for five seasons at MOC. The former All-American at Missouri, Akin helped guide Cowley (Kan.) Community College to a National Junior College Athletic Association championship.
Akin has had both a mental and mechanical impact on the Trojans' pitching staff. Mount Olive's hurlers entered the regional with a 3.05 earned run average.
"He's helped a lot with my confidence," said Ryan Schlecht, the Conference Carolinas pitcher of the year. "I wasn't very confident in myself last season. He'll come out for a mound visit or say something in between innings and I can just get right back in the routine.
"He's helped me so much mechanically and mentally."
Akin's teaching principles are simple, yet practical. For example, if pitchers locate their fastball well, each additional pitch in their respective arsenal becomes more effective.
"Fastball command is what I teach," said Akin. "We throw a lot of fastballs and make our pitchers have to command down in the zone, and in and out and up. It's almost more than one pitch if you can hit your spots."
Watt and Akin each have aspirations of becoming a head coach.
Could one become the future leader at MOC?
That's not their focus right now. The duo, along with Lancaster, have one goal in mind -- turning the nation's best-kept secret into a national champion.
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