Wenatchee AppleSox head coach Kyle Krustangel recently got some well-deserved time off.
After working with little time off for the better part of the last nine months, Krustangel recently got time to do something that most people take for granted during the summer: going on a vacation.
"I took my wife to Disneyland!" Krustangel said. "I wish the trip had been after a WCL dogpile but it was nice to get away with Katie and have some fun! We also went to Dodgers and Angels games. It just wouldn’t be right if baseball wasn’t included somehow."
Krustangel understandably enjoyed the downtime, no matter how short it was.
While also coaching at Yakima Valley College, Krustangel's coaching season doesn't begin in February when the first pitch of the season is thrown. Instead, he's hitting the fields in mid-September for early-season practices.
While this may seem early to most, it's crucial that Krustangel gets started as early as possible to lay down the fundamentals that could decide a game in May.
"The previous nine months were an absolute grind," Krustangel said, "so it is needed to turn the phone off and spend some quality time with family and friends. Being a college baseball coach and summer coach is extremely demanding with the amount of time spent recruiting and all the practices and games."
Whether it was working at Yakima Valley or with the AppleSox, Krustangel had his hands full.
After concluding the long stretch of work by just missing out on a West Coast League playoff berth for the second consecutive year, Krustangel has finally had some time to sit back and reflect on the past season.
Even after finishing short of the ultimate goal in 2018, Krustangel still took a lot away from this season’s team. Not every season ends with a championship, so it’s important to take a look at the positives and negatives from each campaign.
Krustangel knows this and will use what he saw this summer to help him prepare to assemble next season’s team.
"We made every league game count, we were in the playoff hunt till the bitter end," Krustangel said. "Most people thought with 20 games to go we had no shot of even being in the playoff talks, but we rattled of series win after series win and put ourselves in a spot to clinch.
"I loved the guys and they truly competed and played hard day in and day out and I was extremely proud of how they played and represented themselves and the Applesox community."
Krustangel has kept the AppleSox in playoff contention until the final weekend of the season in each of the last two summers. This year, he nearly did qualify for his first postseason spot by going 12-5 to conclude the season.
Whether it has been disagreement or confusion over the league’s playoff qualifications, the AppleSox have been kicking but have been unable to knock down the door.
Another issue that plagued the AppleSox in 2018 was the eventual roster was not full of players that Krustangel initially expected to have.
"Fans don’t realize that we lost 15 full contract players in the month of May this year," Krustangel said. "Most were due to injuries in the month of May or 5 that were hurt in NCAA regionals. Also, a bunch of those were pitchers that were banged up or pulled from their contracts to protect them. We were scrambling to find quality replacements to still be able to compete."
Krustangel looks back at that as almost a fluky incident and believes his third season at the helm will be different.
"We had good talent last year," Krustangel said, "but I want championship type of talent which to me means proven D1 players as the nucleus of our team. I am targeting the going to be seniors and juniors from big D1 programs with a great amount of playing time under their belt."
The goal is to be an older team. The Corvallis Knights, the 2018 and back-to-back-to-back WCL Champions, had a league-high nine incoming seniors on their championship roster.
While they were only three off that number, the AppleSox want to have even more experience on the 2019 squad. Krustangel is making that the focus of his recruiting.
"I am so fired up with the guys we already have committed for next summer!" Krustangel said. "It is already a clear upgrade across the board in terms of quality arms and bats."