It may be December, and there is snow on the ground, but it’s time to think baseball for some local players.
The University of Saint Mary hosted a hitting clinic for kindergartners through high school seniors Friday, Saturday and Monday.
Leavenworth High School senior Sam Miller, Basehor-Linwood High School senior Avery Fliger and Piper High School junior Mark Stimach were participants for the high school group.
The kindergarten through eighth-grade group was closer to a dozen players.
“The small group does not bother us,” USM assistant baseball coach Tony Hurla said. “It gives you more one-on-one attention. It lets us really get in-depth with guys and make sure we can really improve their swings.”
Sam Miller, who is USM head coach Rob Miller’s son, attends the clinic every year. He said he learns something new each time.
“This year, hand speed is very important,” he said. “I need to work on that. Keeping my hips inside. Other than that, just working on the extra fundamental things to make sure that I’ve got everything in-tune so I’m ready to play in the spring.”
Sam Miller said fewer clinic participants benefited players who did participate.
“It makes sure you’re not overlooking anything,” he said. “Because if a coach has too many people, you’ll be watching film with a coach and you wouldn’t have as long to dissect the swing or get the help with it. With a little group of people, you get more reps in. You’ll have a lot more time to hit.”
Stimach said he’s participated in the clinic at least a few years and has experienced the change from being in the younger group to the high school group.
“When you are younger, it’s more about the fundamentals,” he said. “That’s what it’s basically about here, but it’s like working on bat speed and seeing the ball all the way through. Making decent contact so you can hit the off-speed and the fast pitches.”
The first thing Stimach did Monday was watch video of his swing and talk with coach Miller.
“He’s just got to relax,” Miller said of Stimach. “He’s a little too stiff. He’s got to loosen up a little bit.”
Stimach said he’s working on techniques to make his swing faster.
“I’ve been working on a wider stance so I can have quicker bat speed,” he said. “I used to have my elbow up like Sam. Now, I’m trying to relax it, so that way my bat speed is even faster and I can make more contact with the ball.”
This year was Fliger’s first at the USM hitting clinic. He said watching video of his swing helps him fix bad habits.
“Being able to see it is a big part of being able to change the little things,” he said. “When you are swinging, you don’t really know what you are doing. You are just using instincts.”
Sam Miller said the biggest difference between the clinic and practicing on his own is making sure he is practicing the correct way.
“It’s awesome to get hits in, but if your swing is not correct, then all that time would have been wasted,” he said.