When Webb City High School first year head baseball coach Andrew Doennig moved into his new role last summer, he quickly realized one key staffing decision that would be particularly advantageous to this program.
Coach Doennig knew the best person to work with Webb City’s hurlers would be his own uncle, who just happened to be long-time former minor league pitching coach Steve Luebber.
Luebber certainly had all the credentials, as a former Major League Baseball pitcher over parts of five seasons from 1971–81, who then served as pitching coach for several organizations (Florida Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, and Kansas City Royals) during a lengthy career.
Most recently, Luebber had worked with the Quad Cities River Bandits, which is a High ‘A’ farm team of the Kansas City Royals.
“When I took the job, I knew it would be hard for me to continue working with our pitching staff and everything else,” Coach Doennig reasoned. “I knew there would be a chance that ‘Lueb’ might not go back to pro ball.
“I met with him and asked if he’d be interested in being the pitching coach at Webb City. He and I discussed it for a little while. When he said, yes, I fired myself as the pitching coach immediately.”
Luebber rationalized that, “I knew when I accepted the job that the caliber of play was different than what I had experienced in the past and there were some side issues working with high school pitchers.
“But since I had dealt with all age groups for 55 years, I was sure it would mainly be a positive experience for the kids.”
“I think he’s fit in well with the rest of the coaches and kids,” Doennig assured. “He’s been around a lot of high school-aged kids in the wintertime when he gives lessons, but it’s different seeing them every day. The kids enjoy being around him.”
Doennig affirms that, “Coach Luebber’s experience and knowledge have been immeasurable. High school teams aren’t typically fortunate enough to have someone with 50-plus years of professional baseball experience. So, everything he tells someone carries weight.”
As for how Luebber has been most beneficial, Doennig assesses that, “His biggest influence with our kids has been the small things. He came in and took notes on everyone and watched the guys a few times. Then he started making some small changes.
“Whether it was with their grip, their arm stroke, the way they held their hands, or their pick off move. His ability to see a pitcher’s consistency has been big for our kids. He would notice in just one pitch whether a pitcher did something different and call immediate attention to it. It’s been great.”
Family ties aside, Doennig couldn’t have asked this partnership with his uncle to sparkle any brighter on the baseball diamond and he raves that, “For him to come in and take care of all the pitchers without me having to concern myself with it has been a blessing.
“Whenever those guys are down in the bullpen, I don’t have to worry what they are doing, or if they are getting their work done. It allowed a seamless transition between me, and him as the pitching coach.”
Luebber has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with these young men and ascertained, “Coaching this age group keeps you in touch. You hear them talk, play, work, hear the music and help them have positive outcomes, avoid possible problems and hopefully aid them in moving on to higher baseball levels and life experiences in college or even further.”
There’s no doubt that Doennig couldn’t be more thrilled at how this has worked out and he says, “What I really appreciate is how he showed up and formed great relationships with our kids. It would have been easy for him to come in and tell everyone, ‘This is what I have done, and this is who I have coached.’ But he didn’t.
“He showed up and said, ‘I am here to make you better.’ The kids have latched onto him and what he has been saying. Every day you can see the guys improve and you can see it show up in games.”
After winning a district championship on Monday, Webb City (21-13) will host Kearney (24-9) in a Class 5 quarterfinal at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Chuck Barnes Field.
Saturday’s winner will advance to the semifinals on June 2 in Ozark.
STEVE LUEBBER FAST FACTS
Spouse: Lee Ann Luebber
High School Alma Mater & Year Graduated: Joplin High School/1967 Graduate
College Alma Mater & Year Graduated: Missouri Southern, 1967–72 (Majored in PE)
Hometown: Born in Clinton, Missouri & moved to Joplin, Missouri at 5 years old
Favorite Baseball Movie: Eight Men Out
Favorite Pitching Coach: Ray Berres, Pitching Coach for the Chicago White Sox for nearly two decades and former catcher who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Bees/Braves and New York Giants
Favorite Baseball Manager: Cal Ermer, played and managed in the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins farm system for more than five different decades.