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Athletic Coaching Education graduate heads up USA Baseball

Donnie Platt, ACE master’s graduate, serves as director of operations for USA Baseball 15U national team. “My role consists of running one of the largest baseball events in the country, the National Team Championships,” said Platt.

According to Platt, he oversees staffing for more than 200 employees, meals, travel, scheduling, awards, media and creating a Scout Task Force, among other operational responsibilities. Read more about Donnie and USA Baseball in the following CPASS Q&A series.

How has your master's degree in Athletic Coaching Education helped you advance in your career? 

My ACE Master’s degree opened my eyes by showing me that I could be a part of the solution, not just a bystander. I learned that I did not have to do things just because “that’s the way they’ve been done” or “it’s how I did it growing up.” It showed me that I could be an active part of the solution through research and communication with others.

This ability to separate from standard expectations and envision a solution has helped succeed. It provided the educational foundation that continues to fuel my passion for knowledge. Through the program, I learned how to build a team and to maximize their individual potential that leads to gains and progress for the sport world as a whole. The ACE program gave me the knowledge and ability to speak the language across a broad spectrum of personalities and responsibilities in the baseball world.

It is a completely different communication style when you speak to an athlete compared to a parent, or a coach, an administrator, or an athletic trainer or grounds crewmember. Understanding how to speak the language of different individuals is a big reason for my career path. It started with the programming and mentorship through the WVU ACE program.

How did CPASS and WVU provide you with the necessary tools to ease the transition from a student to an employee?

The biggest piece was the confidence to know that I had the experience and knowledge to go into a career and create an immediate impact. We were pushed in a way the reflected the reality of the workplace and provided opportunities to gain experience on projects alongside our professors. The education was about real life and real world issues; we were tasked with finding solutions. There is no better preparation in my mind.

The opportunity and experiences came together in true moments of teaching and learning. This culmination of experiences would not have been the same without the mentoring I received through the ACE program. Dr. Dieffenbach was always there to answer questions, provide advice and steer my academic and professional desires in the right direction.

As CPASS students, faculty expected us to push ourselves. It felt ok to make a mistake in the name of creating a better environment for our sport, and, as coaches, to grow.

What was your favorite part about working as the director of baseball operations and co-camp coordinator for WVU baseball? 

The people were my favorite part. I was fortunate to meet wonderful individuals who shared the same passion for West Virginia that I do. The support staff works countless hours behind the scenes. We do it because of the people and, mainly, the players. There is a bond created between people when they go through the grind together. I will never forget that; the reason we did it was for the players.

Operations provided a platform to work with different departments inside WVU and individuals from other schools and organizations. I cannot thank all the people who helped me grow and mature in my time at WVU. Coach Mazey, Keli Zinn and Matt Wells were great mentors. They took pride in providing me the chance to become a professional and be a small part in the success of Mountaineer Athletics.

I enjoyed the camp coordinator role. It provided a chance to connect with local athletes of all ages. Being around youth players ignites the spark and passion for the simplicities and foundations of the game. It was fulfilling seeing kids get better from week to week and year to year. You get to know the same groups of kids who come to camp and the games to support the Mountaineers.

What is different about working for WVU Baseball compared to USA Baseball?

Through working with WVU Baseball, I dealt with the same athletes from year to year, getting them as they came in as freshman and being with them through the rest of their playing time at WVU. It was a little more intimate for longer periods.

My role with USA Baseball lends a different experience. I am continually looking for the best 15-year-old players in the country; that group changes each year. We do not have the team in training year round as we do at the collegiate level. Instead, these young players are going to school and playing other sports. We get them for a small amount of time to train before our international competition.

It is challenging and rewarding to determine how to provide the “glue” for a team to bond. They have to play as a team in a matter of a few weeks. At the collegiate level, we create a culture and maintain it through an entire year of training and competition.

Describe your role as the director of baseball operations for the 15U National Team.

My role consists of running one of the largest baseball events in the country, our National Team Championships. This is an annual event consisting of two separate tournaments, one in Phoenix, AZ and one in Palm Beach County, FL. These events host more than 400 teams across four age groups (14U through 17U). These events are the main identification opportunities for our 14U, 16U, and 17U National Team Development Program and for our 15U National Team Trials.

With these activities, I am responsible for all facets, from recruiting and registration to facility operations and tournament director. This includes staffing more than 200 employees, meals, travel, scheduling, awards, media and creating a Scout Task Force among many other operational responsibilities.

My favorite part of the job is interacting with the scouts, coaches and players; everyone I interact with is in the top tier of talent and experience at their level. Their baseball knowledge is on another level; it is a great experience to listen and soak it in.

This year we went to Cartagena, Colombia for a World Qualifier event where we played through some tough experiences and ended up winning the Gold Medal and getting a bid to the World Championship in 2018.

That experience was exceptional as we watched a group of 20 young athletes become brothers in a matter of weeks and play for each other and their country. It was amazing to see a young group of kids understand and take pride in wearing the Red, White and Blue across their chest, a chance so few athletes get to experience.  

What are some of the challenges that come with working for USA Baseball?

The biggest challenge is the variety of issues that come up in the course of one day, especially in the event. I know I must be organized and prepared ahead of time. I have back up plans in place so when something does go wrong, there is an established plan to fix it.

Another factor is that we must provide great customer service and experience. We are USA Baseball, the governing body of amateur baseball; we have to provide the best experience possible. That is a challenge when your customers can gain a perspective from many different people and staff members. Ultimately, I am responsible for that person’s interactions with a USA Baseball representative.

How has working for USA baseball helped you in your career? 

Working with USA Baseball has given me an opportunity to learn about the sport of baseball on a bigger scale. My work now spans across the U.S. and the globe, which pushes my skill sets to be the best across a variety of domains. The continued challenge of being the person responsible for bringing individual pieces together to create the bigger picture is one I have truly enjoyed.

What upcoming events or tournaments will your 15U team be playing in?

We will create the 15U National Team through our National Team Championships this June and July. They will then travel to Cary, NC for final selections and training in late July or August at our National Training Complex. Once completed with training, we will travel to the World Championships held by the World Baseball/Softball Confederation. The WBSC still needs to select the dates and location.