Generals' Flora makes fast climb up coaching ladder
April 10, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 10, 2013 at 11:11 p.m.
Appearances can be deceiving.
Stephen Flora may look like a player, but it would be a mistake to underestimate his coaching ability.
Flora doesn't turn 26 until June, but that didn't stop the Victoria Generals from selecting him to replace Chris Clemons as their head coach for the upcoming Texas Collegiate League season.
Flora caught Generals general manager Blake Koch's eye when he was an assistant coach at Coppell when the team won the TCL title in 2011.
"I was extremely impressed with him," Koch said. "He's a young guy, but his players respect him because of his knowledge of the game."
Flora is in his second season as the pitching coach for Wharton County Junior College.
He began his coaching career after playing a season in the independent Frontier League as a volunteer assistant at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, his alma mater, and coached a year at Texas A&M-Kingsville before moving to his present position.
"I've always kind of set myself up as a coach," Flora said before Wednesday's game against UHV at Riverside Stadium. "Even when I was a player, guys would come to me with, 'Hey, I'm struggling with this. What can you help me with?' Age has never been an issue. Guys are a little bit more comfortable telling me some of the not so good things, so it ends up working out well."
Flora was a catcher during his playing career. He had a slight inclination to become an engineer, but after deciding to coach, he used his experience behind the plate to help prepare for a career in baseball.
"You end up seeing a little bit of everything," he said. "You end up controlling a lot more than any other position, so it was a good position for me with my type of personality. It ended up being a great fit."
Flora's biggest challenge at Wharton County has been helping his pitchers make the transition from high school to college ball.
"The biggest adjustment for these guys is this is the first time they're ever facing any type of adversity," he said. "A lot of these guys are the best player on their team or one of a couple of best players. The level of competition, no matter what high school team you play for, isn't this high."
Kevin Landgrebe pitched in high school at Bay City but has made tremendous strides in his two seasons at Wharton County, and he gives much of the credit to Flora.
"He's helped big time," Landgrebe said. "I never really had a real good pitching coach before. I've learned so many things in these two years. It was surprising how much I really didn't even know about the game and how much he's helped me develop as a player."
Flora enjoyed coaching in Coppell and is looking forward to getting back to the TCL this summer.
"It's basically minor league baseball for college athletes," Flora said. "It ends up being a great scenario for these guys to go and improve their game. A lot of it is not only for these guys to get better, but they're playing different people that do a lot of different things that they don't normally get to do."
Flora understands players come to the TCL looking to improve their game, but he also wants the Generals to be successful.
"My goal is to teach these guys how to win," he said. "Part of their learning process is learning how to win. These guys want to get their 50, 60, 80 at-bats and get better that way. A huge portion of the wood bat collegiate league is for these guys to go out and learn how to win so they can go back home and prove to those guys that they know how to win."
The Generals won under Clemons, who is now a scout for the Chicago Cubs. Koch sees Flora having similar success.
"We not only want players to further their careers but also the coaches," Koch said. "We want them to have that opportunity to make a name for themselves. We know he wants to prove himself, so he's going to give it everything he can."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or mfor firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at AdvoSports.com.