You can take the coach out of the dugout, but you can never take the drive to coach out of the man.
Chris Calciano, clad in a Red Sox jersey with his name on the back, stood ready behind shortstop, glove in hand, last week at the Lewes Little League. It was the second day of his camp – a warm and sunny day, perfect for baseball.
After a youngster makes a mistake in the infield during a scrimmage, Calciano pauses the game to show him what he did wrong and how to do it right. He does it all with a reassuring, friendly and positive attitude.
“We take enormous pleasure and enjoyment out of seeing these kids start to pick up things,” said Calciano, sitting on a set of bleachers behind the first base dugout.
Learning how to field, hit and play the game the correct way is important to development, he said, so it's always rewarding when young players begin to recognize when they are doing something right or wrong.
“They have to be able to learn how to self coach,” he said. “What we're trying to accomplish is to let them feel what it is to do things the right way, and hopefully they'll understand when they do have flaws.”
Calciano lives baseball, he always has. The former All-American college player transitioned from a successful coaching career to the Mid-Atlantic scout for the Boston Red Sox. When he traded in his cleats for a notebook, he just couldn't leave the instructional part behind.
Calciano, who now lives in the Bethany Beach area, and a few close friends hosted a three-day baseball camp at Lewes Little League. The camp included one-on-one instruction on hitting, fielding and fundamentals as well as group discussions, drills and scrimmages. The goal, he said, is to kick start the development of the Cape Region's young players.
He recognizes kids learn in different ways. For the more visual learners, he incorporated a video component into his instruction. He also used a radar gun to clock players' exit speed off the tee, so they can see their development.
The camp drew 24 players in its inaugural year. Players hailed from Rehoboth, Lewes, Milton, Milford and Camden. If the interest is there, he said, he is interested in offering another camp in the future.
“As we start to grow and word gets out about a quality instructional-based camp, I think we'll start to see some growth and get to include more kids and begin to help develop more players in the region and in the community,” he said.
Following the camp's final day, Calciano immediately jumped back into his role as a professional scout. He headed north to Syracuse, N.Y., July 30 through Aug. 2, for the 2014 East Coast Professional Showcase, an event expected to draw some of the country's top talent, all vying for a spot in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft.
Calciano has been a scout in the Red Sox organization for the last eight years. His work takes him from high schools and junior colleges to top-tier university and professional games. He covers Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
“It's been awesome,” he said. “I work for a first-class organization that values player development, values the scouting process and really values scouts' opinions and gut.”
The spring is mostly dedicated to scouting high school, junior college and and collegiate players. By summer, he moves into pro coverage, which is watching and reporting on professional players in competing organizations, such as the Philadelphia Phillies and the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
Before accepting a position with the Red Sox in 2007, Calciano had become a widely successful collegiate coach. After cutting his teeth as an assistant at Drexel University, he won the head coaching job at Division II's West Chester University in 2000. Following four successful years that saw the Golden Rams go 120-77-3, he accepted a job at Georgia College & State University in the Peach Belt Conference of Division II. He again found quick success, building a 132-48 record in three seasons with the Bobcats.
Ultimately, the distance from home was too much, and he started looking for work back in the Mid-Atlantic. Originally from Philadelphia, he attended and played ball at Eastern University. After two seasons in the Frontier independent baseball league, he got his master's in sports administration from Eastern Kentucky University.
When it was time to come home, he knew he could tap friends in professional baseball.
“There wasn't really a coaching opportunity that presented itself, but I had developed some really good relationships with some scouting directors and some people who were in professional baseball through my time as a coach,” he said. “An opportunity in the Mid-Atlantic opened up with the Red Sox, and I jumped at it and threw my name in.”
The Red Sox liked what they saw and invited Calciano up to Fenway Park in Boston for an interview.
“I think they liked some of the things I had done as a coach in terms of organization, in terms of the process and maybe being a little thorough, which are all important traits and characteristics of a scout,” he said.
The coaching bug still hasn't worked its way out of Calciano's system. While very different from his professional job of evaluating talent and projecting a player's growth and professional potential, he said, he still loves getting back to his roots as a coach, developing kids into better players.
He's talked with coaches and parents in the area about offering private instruction and more hitting and coaching clinics, and he may pursue that in the future. He said he wants to offer what best serves the community.
“A big component of what we're trying to accomplish here is that the kids leave here with a good feeling, a good experience about the game and they want to continue to move on in their baseball development,” he said.
With the staff at his most recent camp in Lewes, he said he believes he accomplished just that.
“They are very detail oriented, very structure-based, and they motivate and are positive,” he said. “We want the kids around that type of environment to help make them better.”