Last Monday night at Hoglund Ballpark about 30 kids participated in the Kansas University baseball team's youth hitting academy. The hitting academies began back in October and run through the end of March.
The academies are divided into six groups ranging from ages 8 to 18. Each age group practices four sessions - one night a week - for two hours at a time. The hitting clinics give youth an opportunity to use KU's indoor hitting facility and receive tips from college players and coaches on how to improve their batting.
"The goal is to teach the basic fundamentals of the swing and simplify the process so they can repeat it on a consistent basis," said Kansas University assistant baseball coach Kevin Frady. "They have a great experience. The kids are learning and getting better."
One reason for the kids' improved hitting may be because the academies focus on one aspect of hitting each session. Participants perform many of the same drills as the KU baseball players do, including tee drills, toss drills and fence swing.
The fence swing is a drill where the ball is placed on a hitting-tee and the batter holds the bat up to the net before taking a swing. The confined space helps teach batters to hit the inside part of the ball and utilize body strength to hit the ball hard.
Twelve-year-old Jordan Markley is participating in the hitting academy. After only two sessions Markley has already noticed some improvements in his hitting.
"I learned a whole bunch of stuff I didn't even know before I came here," he said. "I was rolling my wrists, and they told me not roll my wrists and just keep on following through."
It seemed Markley and the other participants enjoyed getting high-fives from the KU players and coaches just as much as the tips they received to improve their hitting.
"I take great pride in knowing the kids are having fun," Frady said. "And I have just as much fun as them."
Frady said that having the opportunity to interact with kids is a refreshing experience for the KU players and coaches because the day-to-day aspects of college baseball can be such a grind. But Frady thought the enthusiasm displayed by the kids at the hitting academies is equal to their passion for baseball.
"You feed off the kids' energy," Frady said. "It's a special experience. I wish they knew how much they provide for us."