Clinic Features Former Pros, Maness
The first annual Winter Pitching/Catching Clinic scheduled to be held at Pinecrest High School on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2-3, provides an opportunity for local youth to learn from former major leaguers.
Pinecrest baseball coach Jeff Hewitt will direct the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday sessions. They are open to everyone from age 9 to high school seniors. The cost is $110 with a discount to all teams of five or more players.
The distinguished group of instructors include former Pinecrest stars James Baldwin and Seth Maness, and former big leaguers Paul Shuey and JD Closser.
"I've been in Moore County 15 years and this may be the best staff ever put together," Hewitt said. "One of the things I constantly hear from our community is we need a pitcher-catcher camp. Through my years with USA Baseball I've been able to meet some people that want to give back."
Baldwin, who spent most of his 11-year big-league career pitching for the White Sox, was the winning pitcher in the 2000 All-Star Game. The resident of Southern Pines has served as the pitching coach at his alma mater for several years.
Hewitt got to know Shuey and Closser through his work with USA Baseball. Hewitt was the head coach of the 14-and-under team that won the gold medal at the COPABE Pan American Championship in Venezuela during the summer of 2011. He continues to coach in the organizations 14-and-under development program.
Shuey spent most of his 10-year major league career with the Cleveland Indians as a relief pitcher. His best season was 1999, when he pitched in 72 games, compiling a record of 8-5. The Clayton resident was the second overall pick in the 1992 draft after earning All-ACC and freshman All-American honors at UNC. Closser, a catcher, was drafted in the fifth round in 1995 by the Arizona Diamondbacks and spent the 2004-2006 seasons with the Colorado Rockies.
Maness is a step closer to becoming a big leaguer after an impressive second professional season in the St. Louis Cardinal organization.
He was recently named its 2012 minor league pitcher of the year after going a combined 14-4 with the Palm Beach (Fla.) and Springfield (Mo.) farm teams last season.
The right-hander was 21-2 in his career at Pinecrest and 38-11 in college at East Carolina.
Hewitt recently talked about the unique qualities each brings to the clinic.
"Paul Shuey was a hard-throwing right-hander and lived on his velocity. He talks about how to throw hard - here's what has to happen to throw hard. Then he turns it over to someone like James Baldwin, who teaches mechanics. In terms of being able to speak to kids in terms they understand, I've never found anybody like James Baldwin."
Hewitt is anxious for youngsters to get a window into the pitching style of Maness, who walked only 10 batters in 169 innings last season.
"We've got somebody like Seth who is going to teach you about competing and controlling the strike zone," Hewitt said.
Closser is going to be able to teach the finer points of catching that are not readily available to youngsters.
"As a pitcher, I've always had a passion for catchers," Hewitt said. "From the proper mechanics of throwing and blocking, to the mental side, umpire relations, how to call a game, there are so many things to learn. JD did an unbelievable job teaching our kids at USA Baseball."
Partnering in the clinic is The Hack Shack sports facility located in West End. Pinecrest players are among those that go there for batting practice and other training.
The clinic instruction is oriented for the serious player interested in improving their baseball skill set. It will be tailored to players across all ability levels. Participants are urged to bring warm clothing along with a hat, glove, cleats and sneakers. Catchers should bring their full gear.
Contact Hewitt at (910) 585-0853 for more information. Registrations may also be dropped off at The Hack Shack, located at 2066 Juniper Lake Road, West End. The camp staff will also include Dan Coles, Adam Friede, Charley Spivey and Tommy Atkinson.
"My thing is I want to take my experience and bring it back to the community," Hewitt said. "With a two-day camp you are really going to be able to perfect your position. In some of the all-skills camps the learning can be diluted.
"Our pitchers and catchers will attend to get their juices going and take it right into the season."
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