Ahead in the Count

Throwing out the First Pitch

written by Ted Sullivan

This is the first post on the “Ahead in the Count” blog. It may also be the last post for all I know. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a fun and informative conversation led by a group of friends and former ballplayers who have spent a good portion of their adult lives coaching, teaching and mentoring young athletes.

So why are we writing a blog for parents of athletes?

We’re writing for a few reasons but one of them is not because we think we know everything there is to know about raising a child. (A laughable thought actually.) I suspect that up to this point, each of us has put up a very low number in the “Diapers Changed” statistical column and therefore has no idea what it is really like to raise a child. I sure don’t.

We’re writing, first and foremost, because our experiences as players and coaches have taught us that the athletic field can be a platform for learning some of life’s greatest lessons. This is why we coach. We’ve been lucky enough to deliver these lessons to thousands of young athletes and we hope that an open discussion of these experiences with parents and fellow coaches might be an effective way of impacting the lives of even more. Our primary objective is to help parents and coaches who want their young athletes to get the most out of their youth sports experience.

Secondly, we’re writing because we hope it will be smart for business. Nearly every regular contributor here makes his living through coaching or mentoring young people. (Full disclosure: I’m actually the one exception here, but I’ll discuss that in another post). We hope that connecting with and learning from our customers (parents and fellow coaches) will make us better at what we do every day.

And lastly, we’re writing because we hope it will be fun. Each of us shares a passion for working with young athletes and their families and enjoys exchanging stories of our experiences. However we’re scattered across the country (DC, New York, St. Louis, Oakland and SoCal) and the world (South Africa) and think a blog might be a fun way to stay in touch.

The Starting Lineup

I think it will be helpful to make a few introductions and explain how we all know each other.

Brendan outside Headfirst HQ in DC

Brendan outside Headfirst HQ in DC

Brendan Sullivan

Brendan is my older brother of two years and was my high school teammate at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. He pitched at Stanford and then in the San Diego Padres organization, including two years in Triple A. Brendan is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Headfirst Sports, the DC area’s largest youth coaching and mentoring organization. As you will see, Headfirst is the glue that binds all of the writers on this blog. Among many other accolades earned as a player and coach, Brendan was a Positive Coaching Alliance “National Coach of the Year” in 2004.

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John Bramlette

This year Brammy did what many lawyers only dream about. He walked away from a successful law career and became a full-time employee and youth coach for Headfirst — a truly gutsy and admirable career move. John now helps run the company’s college advising program (the Headfirst College Advisory Team) that offers guidance to high school student athletes with aspirations of playing at the next level. He was born and raised in New York City and played baseball at Haverford College. He is also an adjunct Professor of Law at George Washington University.

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Coach Spring in the DR

Coach Spring in the DR

Dan Spring

Born and raised in Washington DC, Springer was coached by Brendan and me during his days at St. Albans before staring as a pitcher at Brown University and in the minor leagues for the Detroit Tigers. Dan is the founder and director of Spring Training, a youth coaching organization in Orange County, California. On these cold, rainy November days, I think all of us wonder why we aren’t all in SoCal working for Dan.

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Matt Whitesidemattswhiteside

Whitey had the professional playing career that all of us envy. With over 400 big league innings, and 17 professional season, he’s clearly the veteran writer on this blog in terms of playing experience. Whitey and Brendan were teammates in Triple-A with the San Diego Padres’ in 1999 and 2000 and Matt has been a loyal friend and valuable member of the Headfirst family ever since. Matt has retired from baseball and now runs a youth coaching academy that he started in St. Louis called All-Star Performance. I think I speak for everyone on this blog when I say that Whitey has redefined the words, loyalty, dedication, work ethic and humility.

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Coach Alter in South Africa

Coach Alter in South Africa

Tal Alter

A Bethesda, Maryland native, Tal was a four-year starting shortstop at Haverford College. Upon graduating in 1998, Tal received all-Centennial Conference Honors, and was Haverford’s all-time leader in several categories including home runs. Tal’s involvement in sports did not end with his college baseball career. For two summers, Tal was a seminal staff member at SportsChallenge, a nationally recognized leadership camp for high-achieving student-athletes. In 1999, Tal coached professionally in The Hague. Upon his return to the U.S., began working for the Positive Coaching Alliance where he personally trained thousands of parents and coaches on the power of positive reinforcement and redefining what it means to “win” in youth sports. Currently, Tal works in South Africa with Peace Players International, a non-for-profit company that operates camps where the mission involves bridging cultural divides through sport. In addition to the South Africa location, Peace Players operates sites in Northern Ireland, Israel, Cyprus and Louisiana.

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Brendan (left) and I in the DR.

Brendan (left), Ted and friends in the DR.

And a bit about me…

During my career as pitcher at Duke and in the minor leagues for the Cleveland Indians I spent my off-seasons in Washington DC building Headfirst with Brendan, Springer and Flik and our friend Rob Elwood (also a founder and Executive Director of Headfirst). As mentioned above, I’m the only contributor to this blog who doesn’t currently make his living coaching or mentoring young people. Since being released by the Indians, I worked for a couple start-up companies and got my MBA from Harvard Business School. I now live in New York City and have coached in Tribeca’s Downtown Little League for the previous three seasons. I plan to get back into youth athletics full time through a start-up business I’m currently working on. More about that in another post.

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November 11, 2008 - Posted by | Overview / Background, written by Ted Sullivan


  1. Ted, Brenden, John, Dan, Sean, Matt & Tal-

    I came across your blog while looking for people who help promote positivity in youth, and thought you may be interested in sharing a great opportunity with your readers.

    I work for Mr Youth, a marketing company that has partnered with Nike to get people talking about http://www.NikeBackYourBlock.com. It’s a site Nike launched to accept grant applications for up to $5000 in cash and Nike products to help support organizations and schools with programs in sports, education, advocacy and/or mentoring.

    I think your blog may be a great venue to spread awareness about this campaign and to get additional groups involved.

    There are two ways to share the message about NikeBackYourBlock.com. You can encourage the youth-focused organizations you know to apply, OR you can support current applicants by sharing the site with your readers and challenging them to vote.

    Collaboration with people like you will help spread the word about this program and help get organizations the support they deserve.

    I could find an email contact on this site, but I’d be happy to send you some additional information about the program, and please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    All the best,

    Courtney Clarkson
    Mr Youth LLC

    Comment by Courtney Clarkson | July 16, 2009

  2. […] 14 months ago, in last line of the first post on this blog, I mentioned that I was getting back into amateur sports full-time through a startup […]

    Pingback by Changing the Game « Ahead in the Count | January 4, 2010

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