10 QUESTIONS FOR CLINT

Ken Hoffman throws 10 questions to Houston's 'most successful baseball manager'

Photo courtesy of Clint Sauls

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Not to take anything away from Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, but he's won how many World Series championships? One? That's so cute. (We kid, A.J.)

Meet Clint Sauls, the most successful baseball manager in Houston history. In 10 years as manager of the West University Seniors team (ages 15 to 16, the oldest division in Little League), Sauls has won eight state titles, six regional titles, and two World Series crowns.

And we're talking an actual global World Series, including eight international teams from places like Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Australia. West U is going for another title this week in Easley, South Carolina (Full disclosure: the first base coach for West U sleeps down the hall from me).

West U, representing the U.S. Southwest, won its opening round game on July 28, beating Wilmington, Delaware (representing U.S. East), 4-2. The team plays again 3 pm Tuesday, July 30, against undefeated Hawaii.

It's a hot ticket. Every game of the tournament is streaming live on ESPN Plus. The final game of the World Series, pitting the U.S. champs vs. the international winners, airs Saturday, August 3, on ESPN 2.

I caught up with Sauls as he was figuring out his pitching rotation for this week.

CultureMap: Why did you start coaching Little League?

Sauls: After graduating from Georgia Southern University, I got into coaching. I coached two years of high school ball as an assistant, and 2001-02 at Furman University, where I was the pitching coach and recruiting guy. I made $5,000 dollars and lived on a friend's couch.

That's when I realized I needed to make a better living, so I got into sales. I met my wife, and we came to Houston. I always missed coaching. I told her I wanted to make Houston our home and get involved in the community. What better way then Little League baseball?

CM:  People may not know, but there are six different age divisions in Little League. Why did you pick the Seniors (ages 15-16) to coach?

CS: It was the most similar to the ages I had coached prior, and West U had a rule that no parents could coach after 12-year-old division. It made sense, and I love it.

CM: When you manage a team of 15- and 16-year-old boys, are you more a baseball strategist or child psychologist?

CS: Both, I think. We only get these kids for about two months so we don't ever mess with mechanical things like swings or pitching motions. It's all strategy and learning what to do in certain situation. The other part is child psychologist.

Kids at this age can still be very emotional. I try to get to know each personality and coach to that as best we can. No one gets special treatment. It just helps to know who each kid is and how to get the most out of them.

Continue on CultureMap to read about parents brawling in the stands at Little League games.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome