By: Jacob Janower
Being a pitching coach is one of the most important jobs in all of baseball.
For Jordan Tabakman, the pitching coach for the Bourne Braves, he is just getting started in his career.
Tabakman’s college baseball journey started as a player at the University of Connecticut, where he enjoyed a successful career, compiling a 3.38 ERA over four years and starting 29 games in his final two seasons.
His favorite memory was winning the Big East Championship in 2013.
Despite playing his entire college career with the Huskies, Tabakman did not originally start out with them. He had initially committed to the University of North Carolina out of high school, but it did not work out for him. He had also considered Rutgers and St John’s before deciding to transfer to UConn.
“Coach [Jim] Penders (UConn’s head coach) said he could get me playing right away and I wouldn’t have to sit out a year,” Tabakman said. “I went over there, loved it, loved Coach Penders, Coach [Joshua] Mac [Donald], Coach [Jeff] Hourigan and committed on the spot and I don’t regret anything. I had a great four years at UConn, met some incredible people and they are great guys to have in your corner.”
After talking with scouts and realizing a future as a professional baseball player wasn’t in the cards, Tabakman turned his attention towards coaching, something he had always wanted to do.
“Ever since I was in college from my freshman year at North Carolina, I always paid attention to how pitching coaches went about things from my dugout to the other dugout,” he said. “I always knew I was going to be a pitching coach so I always paid attention on what to do, what not to do, and prepared for today and when I finished playing at UConn.”
He translated his passion and desire to coach to a job with the Braves shortly after he graduated from UConn.
Braves manager Harvey Shapiro chose to hire Tabakman after losing his previous pitching coach to another job shortly before the 2015 season.
“I trusted the UConn people because of my connections there, and they mentioned Jordan as a possibility even though he had just finished pitching at UConn,” Shapiro said.”
A staunch supporter of Tabakman throughout his three years with the Braves, Shapiro realizes the difficulty that the job of a pitching coach in the Cape brings.
“Pitchers are difficult to work with because they are all in different programs, and have a different ways of doing things,” Shapiro said. “He’s adapted to that very well.”
Being a pitching coach at any level is extremely difficult. However, the CCBL brings its own set of hardships.
Tabakman has faced many of the extra challenges that the job brings head on.
“You are getting guys who are the weekend guys and closers at every top school in the country and they have pitched so much and the college season is so long,” he said. “When they come here it is a taxing season and for summer ball it is very challenging to stay in your stamina and you speak with coaches and what their limits are and you just try to work around that as best as possible.”
As for why he decided to coach on the Cape, Tabakman simply couldn’t pass up an opportunity in such a special location filled with a rich baseball history.
“Just talking to different pitchers from all over the country from different backgrounds, different schools, and different pitching coaches,” he said. “I keep a notebook, I write everything down what they tell me and I just try to get better every day as a teacher and as a coach.”
Not to mention, the Cape League is giving him a rare opportunity to coach some future major leaguers.
Over his three years coaching on the Cape, Tabakman has had plenty of successful pupils who have thrived under his tutelage.
Brendon Little- a 2016 Bourne Brave and a first-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2017- comes from a similar path as Tabakman. They both started at UNC before transferring elsewhere.
Little developed significantly during his summer with the Braves, and Tabakman’s approach towards helping him was a big reason why.
“Right off the bat coming from similar backgrounds it was easy to connect and talk with Jordan,” Little said. “From there I quickly established trust in him and always felt comfortable asking him for little tips. He never tried to change anything, rather make my delivery more repeatable, which I loved.
“The biggest thing however was just the way he showed confidence in me. Coming straight from a down year not really pitching and transferring from UNC (which he did the same) to going to the Cape he showed confidence in me that helped me know I belonged there and it ended up being a really good summer for me.”
Another pitcher that Tabakman has had a positive effect on is Braves’ closer Ryan Feltner. After two so-so years at Ohio State, Feltner has emerged as one of the top arms in the CCBL in 2017. As of July 24th, he had not allowed an earned run in 13 and 1/3 innings.
Like Little, Feltner complimented the way that Tabakman lets pitchers do their own thing.
“If you run into a little trouble, he will be there waiting to help you,” Feltner said. “I think he’s helped me a ton, I’ve been messing around with slider grips and just pitching in general and he has always been there for all the guys to talk to.”
As far as what he preaches over anything as a pitching coach, Tabakman echoed Feltner’s sentiments.
“I want to help guys when they fail,” he said. I’ve been at the lowest point you can be at in college baseball and I’ve tried to use what I’ve learned to do and what not to do in those situations. Baseball, pitching, it’s a really tough job and it’s failure almost every other day, you just don’t know what you’re going to get.”
The CCBL isn’t the only place that Tabakman is coaching. Shortly after signing on with the Braves, he took the job as the pitching coach at Amherst College, a Division III school in Massachusetts.
Amherst has a rich history of alums that work in the MLB, such as Baltimore Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette and former Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
“It’s been a different level of baseball than I’ve gotten used to,” Tabakman said. “Just from going year to year, I have learned so much in how to handle those student-athletes. It’s a different culture at Amherst. Just the baseball culture there is something else, and I’ve learned so much that I thought I would have never learned.”
While one of Tabakman’s career goals is to become a pitching coach at the Division I level, his ultimate dream resides in making the College World Series.
“I always wanted to go to Omaha as a player, and now that didn’t happen, I would like to do it as a coach.”
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