Andover Baseball Head Coach Kevin Graber is MLB Bound

Coach Graber presenting at the 2022 ABCA Convention.

Coach Graber is commonly refered to by students as ‘KG.’

After thirteen seasons as Head Coach of Andover Baseball, Kevin Graber will be joining the Chicago Cubs as a Complex Coordinator.

According to Jared Banner, Vice-President of Player Development at the Chicago Cubs, Graber will be coordinating and coaching the team’s rookie players at its training facility in Mesa, Arizona. Previously coached by Graber at Amherst College, Banner believes Graber’s vast experiences make him fit for his new position.

“I think the reason he’s such a perfect fit is because he’s a teacher first…And what that means is he does a great job of connecting with young people, as evidenced by all the work that he’s done at Andover. So between that and all his life experiences, I don’t know how much you know, Kevin, but he’s beaten cancer. He’s been an SIP. He’s been a college coach. He’s been a high school coach, he’s been an Associate Dean of Admissions, he’s just done so much in his life, outside of his ability on the field, that he feels like a perfect fit to help our guys grow as baseball players and as young men,” said Banner. 

Current Andover Baseball player Cole Mascott ’23, who is committed to Northwestern University through Graber’s support, shares similar sentiments to Banner, specifically highlighting Graber’s baseball experience. Although disheartened to lose Graber, players credit him for the program’s extensive scope and longtime success.

“He’s more than deserving. He has one of the greatest baseball minds, probably the best I’ve been around. He just knows the game so well. He’s played since he was just a young kid and he’s been around the game his whole life. He has [played] pro ball. He has played Division One baseball. He has played multiple levels of college baseball. He lives the game, he loves the game, and I wish the best for him, and he’s going to do great with his new position,” said Mascott. 

For Graber, the most important aspect of coaching at Andover has not been baseball itself. Rather, he emphasizes the well-being of his players, providing as many resources and opportunities as possible in order for them to succeed as students beyond the sport. 

“No one cares how much I know, unless they know how much I care…I take an interest in how they’re doing in the classroom, or taking an interest in how they’re doing it in the dorms. I tried to have breakfast with a different student every morning. We have a text group for baseball playing kids, and very few of the texts are about baseball…It’s a lot of reminders about some of the things that make students successful here at Phillips Academy. It’s also constant reminders that it’s [time to] break free of your comfort zone,” said Graber. 

Since 2012, 64 of Graber’s players are either playing or have committed to playing at the college level. Mascott expressed gratitude for Graber’s assistance throughout his recruiting process and ultimate landing at Northwestern, in addition to Graber seeing Mascott’s true potential in the sport. 

“I came in my freshman year and super underdeveloped. Not [a] very impressive player, I guess. Then he kind of saw me sophomore year as more of a pitcher… So then he saw me that summer and during my junior year, off-season, he saw me pitching and…he was very impressed with me. Over that process, I got to know him more and more. Especially last year, I got much closer with him. He kind of bought into me as a player. He went out there and threw me in big spots and games. He even went as far as helping me on the recruiting side of things and calling coaches for me. And I owe him everything for that,” said Mascott. 

Graber has led Andover to 12 consecutive Central New England Preparatory School Baseball League (CNEPSBL) Final Four appearances. During practices, Graber is consistently engaged with the team, oftentimes running drills and hitting alongside his players. 

“I especially like turning double plays with the middle infielders and the shortstop and the second baseman. I like getting in hitting groups, sometimes swinging the bat and hitting some baseballs. And I think it’s been helpful that I can demonstrate techniques. I can sort of show rather than just tell. And that’s been really, really effective. as a teaching tool with our guys,” said Graber.

At the 2022 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) National Convention, Graber presented the fundamental principle of Andover Baseball: “Systematic Chaos.” Graber values giving his players creative freedom, while still maintaining order within the team.  

“I developed this system that we call ‘Systematic Chaos,’ because I love creating chaos on the baseball field with pace running. But at the same time, I’m a bit of a control freak. So I systemized how to make that happen for teams and for players. And so one example is in our program, every player has the green light to steal third base when they’re on second [base] anytime they want. They don’t need to wait for a sign for me. I call it ‘Backyard Baseball,’ just like if you were playing in your backyard, [as if] I wasn’t even there. But three things have to fall into place: timing, distance, and anticipation,” said Graber. 

Further, Graber values making baseball a consistently high intensity game. One where the players control the rhythm of the game and take authority of the field.

“I like baseball, [but it] can be coached in a way that’s really boring. Like one person hitting and 18 people standing around waiting for their chance to hit. You know, I like baseball to have a certain rhythm and pace and vibe to it. I like, ‘Go, go, go.’ I like, “Move, move, move.’ I like, ‘Let’s do stuff. Let’s have fun. Let’s make plays.’ I hate the thought of waiting around for a team to string three or four or five base hits in a row together to score a run. I’m like, ‘Let’s get our base any way we can, and let’s do a bunch of paces and let’s force the action. Let’s control the tempo. We control the tempo, not our opponents,’” continued Graber. 

After sharing this principle with over 6000 coaches at the ABCA National Convention, Graber was called to Wrigley Field to present in front of the Cubs’ staff. Receiving an unexpected job offer a few weeks later, Graber reflected back on his roles at Andover outside of just being a coach. 

“I’ll miss the stir fry for sure…I mean, for me, it’s all about relationships. You know, every day, I just want to wake up and see who needs help and who can I help, and that’s how I’m going to sort of approach my new job. But it is baseball, baseball, baseball. And I think what I’ll miss is, again, I’ll miss the fact that I get to help kids in a lot of different ways here at Andover. You know, through admissions, in the EBI classroom, and advising in the dorm,” said Graber.

Graber looks to the future of the program. Though not up to his discretion, Graber hopes Andover Baseball’s new Head Coach will be involved in the Andover community in other ways than just baseball, similar to Graber prior to his resignation. 

“[The new coach is] really in the hands of our Athletic Director Lisa Joel and Human Resources to be quite honest with you. I certainly don’t have the authority or the power to hand the baton off to somebody, [but] they’re going to make a great decision. I think what I would hope is that it’s someone who’s entrenched in our community. It’s someone who is not just a coach and comes in coaches and then goes home. It’s someone who’s here, who’s someone who provides other responsibilities. Someone who is an advisor and a teacher and  someone who supports students in other ways besides just baseball. And I think that’s the best way to get to know this place and get to know our students,” said Graber.