We sat down with Todd Clausen, the director of player development and founder of Inside Edge, to learn more about his philosophy for developing players as well as his vision for IE.
To start, can you explain how a kid from St. Louis ended up being the strength and conditioning coach for the LA Dodgers?
There’s really not much story to tell. A lot of hard work and a bit of good luck is all it took. I played baseball at UCM until a car accident during the fall of my freshman year ended my career. With baseball out, I focused all of my energy on my studies, and after graduating with a degree in exercise physiology, I was fortunate enough to earn an internship with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Working as a strength and conditioning coach wasn’t the same as being a player, but it got me on the ball field. I busted my hump that first year and the next year I was hired to run the minor league strength and conditioning program for the Rays organization. Two years later, I was asked to join the Dodger’s coaching staff as the strength and conditioning coach. I spent 7 years with the Dodgers and loved every minute of it.
If you loved it, why did you decide to resign your position?
Working with an MLB team is an awesome experience. There’s so much positive energy and dedication at all levels. I totally loved being a part of it. During my last year with the team, I started to realize how much I was traveling and the impact that had on my family life. I remember sitting in a hotel in Milwaukee when the thought of ending my tenure hit me. I sat there, thinking about my family and the impact of being a long-distance dad and husband. I decided then that my focus needed to shift to my family. So, I submitted my resignation and turned my attention to them. I’ve missed being with the Dodgers, but I have never regretted that decision.
What happened between the Dodgers and starting Inside Edge?
I actually started Inside Edge immediately after leaving the Dodgers. Only, then it was focused on hockey and it was located in Phoenix, Arizona, where Jen, the kids, and I lived.
How did you and Inside Edge end up in Lee’s Summit?
As the kids got older and Phoenix got bigger, Jen and I started to ask ourselves if Phoenix was really home. We loved the city and all of our friends who were there but it really wasn’t the environment we wanted for the kids. Plus, I really wanted to find a way to be more dedicated to baseball. After talking about it, Jen and I decided Lee’s Summit, which is where Jen grew up, was our best option.
Once we got here, I contacted Silvestri, Quantrill, and Gagne to discuss shifting IE’s focus to baseball. Each of them dedicated their time to help me. I owe a lot to those guys for everything they have done in helping IE grow.
It’s not easy to start a baseball academy. What would you say has made a difference for Inside Edge?
You know, I think there are a lot of different factors that had to come together. First and foremost, I had to find the right coaches. I’m huge into having strong, positive leaders as coaches, and those first-year coaches really helped to set the foundation. I met with them before our first try out to explain my philosophy and what I expected from them. Fortunately, they were in and each of those guys is still involved to this day. That group of guys really helped IE turn into the academy it is today.
Next, we had to find the right players. We needed talented kids who were focused on development. We were fortunate to have the right mix show up at that first tryout.
The parents were the next key ingredient. We needed positive parents that understood our mission. I wanted to break the mold–to focus more on development than winning, and it really takes buy-in from the parents for that to work. Thank you, parents!
Once those ingredients came together, it was a matter of time. And, as we saw last year with the 17u showcase team winning the 2016 World Series Powered by PBR, creating a positive environment where players can focus on development really works.
What was your motivation for taking that approach?
It all goes back to the major leagues. The managers, especially with the minor-league clubs, are some of the most positive and supportive people I’ve ever met. They draft players and seemingly make it their mission to help each player to succeed. The managers don’t get wrapped up on a bad play, a losing weekend, or even a negative trend. Instead, they stay focused on their mission of helping each player to develop so they can move on to the next level. I witnessed that first hand and have brought that approach with me. I like to call this approach managing from the major leagues down because we focus on the big picture.
Where do you see Inside Edge going in the coming years?
Only going up! I am so stoked for the coming years. Everybody at IE has put in a ton of hard work and it’s starting to pay off. Winning the PBR World Series last year was just a peek at all the good that’s coming our way.
Those boys winning a major event like that has brought a ton of attention to the academy. I’m capitalizing on that to ensure that every player, from 9u up, has an opportunity to realize their full potential. This year, the big showcases are giving us a serious look. That attention brings more opportunity for our showcase guys to play in front of a larger number of scouts. That ultimately trickles down to the youth teams. The younger guys may not realize it right away, but they certainly will as soon as they get to high school. Our showcase teams, from freshman through 18u, are playing on the big college fields every weekend. That’s an awesome place for a baseball player to be.
We’re making several moves to help support and sustain all the growth. We just announced our partnership with Premier Baseball. That brings additional training space and access to some of the best coaches in the Kansas City area. I can’t wait for our boys to start working with Premier.
I’m also working to add a few more teams to the academy. Several age groups have only 1 or 2 teams. I’m actively searching for coaches to help us fill those gaps. Those coaches have to meet our criteria for being strong, positive leaders, and they can join us with an established team or we’ll work with them to build the team through a tryout and recruiting.
Wow. That’s huge and exciting. To wrap up, what’s one aspect not related to baseball that you can share with everyone?
I’m a huge music fan. That’s why we often have the tunes cranked while the boys are working out. I listen to all styles of music but Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam are at the top of my favorites list. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Eddie at the Chicago Cub’s fantasy camp.