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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Clinic offers tips on infield improvement

January 31, 2007

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Saturday at the Turnin' Two infielders baseball clinic at Lawrence High, nearly 40 local youth got the chance to learn about the game of baseball from players and coaches who have performed at high levels. Kevin Hooper, an infielder with the Detroit Tigers and Lawrence native, and Richie Price, a former Kansas University baseball player currently in the Mets organization, took time out as they do every offseason to help conduct various camps and clinics. "They're awesome," Price said. "It keeps me busy and we're around the game of baseball, so it's really enjoyable." The clinic got underway with the players doing some warm-up tosses and stretches. The ballplayers then broke off into groups according to age, giving them the chance to interact with coaches one-on-one. "I learned a lot about footwork, especially with double-plays," Daniel Parker, Lawrence High senior shortstop, said. Parker and LHS sophomore third baseman Clint Pinnick watched as Hooper advised the campers to be as versatile as they could because they may have to switch positions at some point in their careers. Hooper told them that when turning the double-play at second base, it was best to keep one foot squarely on the middle of the base, because should a bad throw come in, it was the same distance to cover each side of the base, making it easier to get to the ball. "Always expect the bad throw," Hooper told the group. He also advised them that when throwing to any base, always move their feet and shoulders toward the target. And to throw the ball on an up- hill trajectory because of the long distance from base to base. But the key, Hooper said, to strong accurate throws wasn't in the arm. It was in the legs. "That's what I try to preach to them," Hooper said. "Use your legs and your lower half. That's where it all comes from. It's alignment of your body and shoulders. It's going to save on your arm and the ordinary Joe doesn't understand that, so that's good for them to hear." Price instructed his groups to keep their gloves in front of their feet and their fingertips on the ground when they were in fielding position. Price later told the kids when playing shortstop to follow through on the flip to second and then clear, meaning move the glove to the chest area so the second baseman could see the ball clearly as it neared the bag. Parker said some of the tips the coaches talked about during the clinic was information he had already learned through years of playing baseball. But one drill he had never performed was the "A-Rod drill," named after New York Yankees star Alex Rodriquez. Like A-Rod, the campers had to practice fielding ground balls barehanded, and then do so with one hand behind their backs. "I've never done that drill before, but I liked that drill," Parker said. "It gets you working, you got to be quick." For Parker, it was the third time he has attended the clinic, and he said each time it has been a hit. "It's a lot of fun because all my friends are here," Parker said. "We're learning. You always have to pick up things you didn't know. It makes it that much better." And getting the chance to learn from two professional baseball players was something Parker thought would certainly improve his game. "It's always nice to be hanging around them," Parker said. "Take all the advice you can get from them. It was pretty cool." Pinnick attended the camp for the first time Sunday and said the thing he took most was how much Hooper and Price valued the game of baseball. "They have a respect for the game," Pinnick said. "It was really nice." And giving back to the kids was something Price and Hooper did regularly, whether on the diamond or signing autographs. "I love kids," Price said. "That was me 10 years ago, so I'm trying to do whatever I can to help these guys fulfill their dreams."

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