Association With Angels Proves Heavenly for Broncos Baseball Coach Mike Ashman

Association With Angels Proves Heavenly for Broncos Baseball Coach Mike Ashman
Cal Poly Pomona alumnus and Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead and Cal Poly Pomona head baseball coach Mike Ashman hold the Angels' World Series trophy.
Ashman hits fly balls to his outfielders during a recent Bronco practice.

As a batting practice pitcher for the Anaheim Angels, Cal Poly Pomona head baseball coach Mike Ashman left the 2002 World Series with a baseball bat signed by Tim Salmon, the memory of an unforgettable conversation with Hank Aaron and the promise of a championship ring and bonus. But none of it compares to the invaluable coaching lessons he learned from the title-winning team, both on and off the field.

?I spent a lot of time in the batting cage during the games and I?d hear players talk about strategy, about how guys are pitching and even complain about not playing,? says Ashman. ?There was a team that was going to win the World Series and not all 25 guys were happy with their playing time. But what separated the Angels from other athletes is that those guys were able to let it go. It was more about winning as a team than individual needs.?

Ashman says it was at that moment he realized the importance, from a coach?s perspective, in knowing how the players ? even the ones who aren?t playing ? are feeling.

Another coaching tip Ashman picked up came from Angels' Manager Mike Scioscia.

?He?s the same every day, win or lose. In San Francisco, when we got smoked up there 16 to 4, Scioscia came into the clubhouse and said, ?Hey, it still only counts as one loss. The World Series is the first team to four, not the first team to three, so just let it go?,? Ashman recalls. ?I?ve tried to remain positive as a coach, but there are times when I get a little emotional and a little loud and yell at the guys. Now I understand you?ve got to stay positive to be productive.?

For the past three years, Ashman has pitched batting practice to the Angels for $25 per game, regularly throwing to American League top batters David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, Bengie Molina and Salmon. This fall, the coach took time off from Bronco practices for professional development, allowing him to travel with the Angels during the American League Championship Series in Minnesota and the World Series in San Francisco.

During the postseason run, he would arrive at the ballpark each day four hours before game time to throw practice pitches. Come game time, he would watch the action unfold either from a tunnel behind the bullpen or in the Angels clubhouse. And after the Halos won Game 7, Ashman joined in the locker room festivities, where Salmon doused him with champagne.

Ashman?s ?coolest moment? of the World Series happened during Game 4 in San Francisco when Hank Aaron walked into the area where he was sitting.

?You?re sitting there minding your own business and one of the all-time greats walks in,? he says. ?There he is telling me how much he enjoys watching the Angels because they don?t strike out, and then he said, ?In my career, I never struck out 100 times in one season. That?s what I?m most proud of?.?

Ashman became involved with the Angels through his personal playing experience and his contact with Cal Poly Pomona alumnus and Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead.

Mead and Ashman met in 1980 when Ashman was a Cal Poly Pomona student and Mead was assistant sports information director. Ashman, now regarded as one of the top players in Cal Poly Pomona?s baseball history, was a key member of the 1980 NCAA Division II championship team.

Ashman also knew Erstad from his days as an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska, where he used to throw batting practice to the then-Cornhusker football/baseball star.

The upcoming season will mark Ashman?s eighth as the Broncos head coach, during which he has posted an overall record of 179-189-3. He has guided the team to three consecutive 30-plus win seasons for the first time in program history, with the Broncos earning CCAA conference tournament berths two of the past three years.
Ashman believes he has not yet realized the full magnitude of his experience with the Angels.

?During the course of the game, I was soft tossing or throwing to the guys just likea routine game, so I guess it still hasn?t hit me that they?re the world champions and this was the World Series.?

Still, returning to the ?real world? the day after the championship is a humbling experience, he says.

?You go back to your job and realize how fortunate you were to be a part of it,? says Ashman. ?It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to work with the top in the field at the highest level.?

Ashman has been told he will receive a bonus and a championship ring next year during the Angels? 2003 season.

?I never got to play in the big leagues. I tried to get there for a long time as a player,? Ashman says. ?Once I get my ring, it will be very special,? he says.

Ashman, 42, graduated in 1987 from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor?s in business administration, and he earned a master?s in management from National University. He lives in Chino Hills with his wife, Jill, and has two children, 11-month-old daughter, Delaney, and 11-year-old son, Zachary.