Getting ready for the spring baseball season doesn’t happen a few weeks before opening game for the South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association Tigers.
Players in the midget program started their preparation early last month with winter ball sessions three times a week in the Penticton Community Centre gymnasium and Uplands Elementary School.
“You can’t just turn it on three weeks before our season starts,” said midget coach Junior Deleon. “The ability to break down swings over the winter is huge as well. During the year you don’t really get a whole lot of time to break apart swings. Right now you do stuff like one-hand drills, soft toss, hitting off tees. More focusing on the little aspects, the footwork, hand-eye co-ordination. Throughout the year you just don’t have a chance to do that.”
In stations the players work on those aspects and Deleon emphasized the importance of players pitching early.
Ryan Konno, entering his second season of midget, said the sessions have been fun, though a lot of hard work with running and cardio.
“I want to improve my velocity while I’m pitching,” he said.
The development of Konno and other players stays on track as Deleon is quick to point out if the players are doing something wrong.
“Junior is good with this stuff. He just makes it fun for us,” said Treven Stetsko, entering his final season in the midget program.
Stetsko is determined to improve his hitting. And after getting silver in provincials last year, Stetsko wants to help the Tigers win provincials this season.
Deleon said a lot of the work done is repetition. While the Tigers have multi-sport athletes, he said those that want to be baseball players need to work on their skills throughout winter.
On Jan. 24, Okanagan College Coyotes coaches Geoff White and Jared Johnson made the trip from Kelowna. Deleon said having them help out gives the players exposure.
“Just getting the instruction that you would get at the next level,” said Deleon. “It helps them in the long run as well.”
Tiger notes: Collins enters his second season with the Coyotes after an impressive rookie season. The Coyotes website profiled the Tiger graduate. Last spring Collins led the Coyotes with 42.2 innings, finishing 5-1 record, including two complete games, with a team high 47 strikeouts in six appearance. The Penticton native compiled a 2.10 earned run average allowing just 10 earned runs and 28 hits. Opponents had a .185 batting average against him.