The road to Orem: New coach brings toughness, respect for the game to Brighton bBaseball.
Coach Andy Concepcion speaks to his team before their first preseason game of the year on Saturday, March 13. (Andy Concepcion/Brighton Baseball)
Brighton High’s baseball team had a tough 2016 season, but not because they were a particularly tough team to play against. In fact, they were the second worst team in 5A with a 4-21 record.
After the season, Brighton decided to move on from head coach Jonnie Knoble.
Brighton chose to replace Knoble with Andy Concepcion, a Las Vegas transplant who spent the last 20 years coaching club ball.
“I just got here,” Concepcion said. “I moved here from Las Vegas about six months ago and took over the program here at Brighton. I’ve been in Las Vegas coaching scout ball, club ball for the last, I don’t know, 20 years or so.”
One thing that makes Concepcion stand out from other coaches is his experience.
“Been coaching baseball, been around baseball my whole life,” Concepcion said.
Some of Concepcion’s most valuable baseball experiences happened in Puerto Rico where he played for a couple years as a young adult after his parents moved there during his senior year of high school so his father could umpire for and eventually manage a professional baseball team.
“I’ve been exposed to a lot of MLB guys,” Concepcion said. “(I) played baseball in Puerto Rico. I got to see a different side of the game you know. Just game awareness being around a lot of talent and the coaches that I’ve coached with.”
In Puerto Rico, Concepcion played catcher and third base in an amateur baseball league similar to American Legion or Connie Mack programs in the states.
“It was the greatest baseball I’ve ever seen in my life down there,” Concepcion said.
Playing in Puerto Rico taught Concepcion some unique lessons.
“I think (playing in Puerto Rico taught me to) respect the game,” Concepcion said. “More appreciation of the game because down there on the island that’s their way to get off the island. It’s their ticket to get out of there to go to America and be able to play, you know, and make the money they can or get a scholarship they can. Just a really big appreciation for it, you know. Because there it’s life or death down there to play.”
This same respect for the game is one of three main things that Concepcion asks of his players. The other two are hard work and discipline.
Concepcion’s players have recognized his efforts.
“Our coaches are willing to work with us and put in the time necessary to make us better,” said senior shortstop Bennett Roundy, who is one of the few players returning from last year’s team.
Concepcion has brought a new attitude to the Bengals this season.
“I’ve been excited to come to baseball,” Roundy said. “I’ve been excited to come practice and work hard.”
Concepcion doesn’t know what other teams in the state are like but said that his team is very young.
“We have a few juniors and we only have about three seniors, but they compete, they work hard, they grind out games,” Concepcion said. “They’re tough.”
The younger players are some of the players Concepcion is most excited about.
“We have a lot of top freshmen coming in and I think they’re going to compete for starting varsity spots,” Concepcion said.
To help these young players, Roundy has stepped up by teaching and leading.
“I think our team’s strength is the leadership of our shortstop — he’s been playing the game many, many years,” Concepcion said. “He’s been a great leader for the younger guys. He’s taken a couple young guys under his wing and helped them out tremendously. I think the advantage we have is that we’re young. We’re going to get this experience that you normally don’t get until your junior or senior year. So, some of these guys get exposed to playing right away.”
On March 11, the team had their first preseason game of the year and shut out their opponents 12-0.
“That’s the first time that’s happened in three years here at Brighton,” Concepcion said.
Roundy said the team played well because they played together as a team.
Concepcion was proud of his team’s play and listed several players who stood out.
“Alex Zetler pitched a great game the other day,” Concepcion said. “He’s one of our guys to watch out for. You have Austin Simpson, he’s another one of our guys that did really well. (He) dominated. Alex Hansen, he’s a sophomore. Jaeger Spencer, sophomore catcher who had tremendous game. You have our senior leader and team captain Bennett Roundy our shortstop. He’s very, very solid.”
Even though Concepcion has a young team, he wants his players to know they’re shooting for the ultimate goal of a state championship, so he’s adapted the NCAA slogan “the road to Omaha” to the “the road to Orem,” where the Utah State Baseball Championship is played.
“We have it on our T-shirts, our hashtags on Instagram,” Concepcion said. “You can follow us on Instagram at Brighton baseball. You’ll see a lot of workouts we’re doing. It’s on Facebook. It’s been pretty cool.”
Brighton is one of five 5A programs in the state to hire a new head coach this year.
Roundy said their new coaches makes this season special.
“We probably have the best coaching in the state,” Roundy said.