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Los Alamos isn’t generally a stop for a Major League Baseball team, but a visitor from the Arizona Diamondbacks was on-hand Wednesday at Chamisa Elementary School.
Jeff Rodin, the Diamondbacks’ director of baseball outreach and development, gave a presentation to local baseball and softball coaches Wednesday night at the school’s media center.
There are new ways to reach younger players, Rodin reiterated throughout his 2-1/2 hour presentation, which was attended by approximately 30 youth coaches.
“A lot of people who didn’t play, or haven’t played in a long time, forget how hard of a game it is,” Rodin said.
The Diamondbacks have a very good relationship with Los Alamos County’s baseball and softball youth programs. For the past decade, White Rock and Los Alamos players have been mainstays at the Diamondbacks’ youth camps, held in Arizona during Los Alamos Public Schools’ spring break.
In 2001, White Rock Little League’s Randy Parks contacted the Diamondbacks, then a fledgling expansion team, to see if they would put a clinic for local players in the county. The Diamondbacks said no, but invited WRLL to attend their youth clinic that year.
The response was big. About 60 players from around the county attended the camp.
Since that time, the MLB franchise has had an excellent relationship with the local baseball and softball community, so much so that Rodin, who only does a handful of presentations outside the borders of Arizona, made his visit last week.
Armed with a multimedia presentation that included clips from Arizona youth camps, Major League practices and “D-back to Basics” instructional videos with former Diamondback stars like Mark Grace, Kelly Stinett and Luis Gonzales, Rodin demonstrated and talked about the importance of stressing the fundamentals to younger players.
“There are certain topics that we always focus on, but they might be updated versions, new drills, new skills,” said Rodin of his talks. “It’s definitely an evolving organism.”
The most important content, Rodin said, is emphasis on the fact that times have changed and so have coaching techniques from when today’s coaches played ball and the youth of today.
Many youth players today will start Little League, or other organized youth teams, without having any real experience with the sport, something that was all but unheard of two generations ago. The days of the lecturing, cigar-chomping coach being an effective team leader are gone.
The D-backs’ system of develop states that a more kid-centered approach is necessary if diamond sports are to continue to thrive.
“Every kid’s different, but every kid wants to be encouraged,” Rodin said. “Everyone wants to hear their name. The better you know a child, you can communicate effectively.”
One of the toughest aspects of baseball and softball, according to the presentation, is training players to deal with failure. Baseball is a game where the greatest hitters can fail more than two-thirds of the time, while players with little experience can find the simple act of playing catch a considerable challenge.
Rodin has been with the Diamondbacks since 1999. Prior to that, he held a similar position with the Chicago White Sox.
Tim Milligan of WRLL said he was grateful for Rodin’s visit and that county players will again be well represented for the Diamondbacks’ youth camp later this month — there is still room for kids interested in participating in the camp, which will be held at the Diamondbacks’ new facility in Scottsdale.
For those Little Leaguers who can’t make the trip, they can watch the training tips Rodin presented Wednesday on the Diamondbacks’ website. Even more important, Rodin said, was for kids to just get out on the field and get after it.
For coaches, their challenge is to adapt to the needs of young players today.
“I think it’s very important that there’s change, or we can’t learn more about the game,” Rodin said. “Now, it’s about the kids we’re working with.”
Camp set for March 28-April 1
White Rock Little League announced that registration for this year’s Diamondback camp is almost full. Anyone still interested in attending needs to register as soon as possible.
The camp is scheduled from March 28-April 1 in Scottsdale.
Camps are available for both baseball and softball players ages 6-18.
Campers will receive tickets to an exhibition game between the Diamondbacks and the Monterrey (Mexico) Sultanes.
For more information, go to arizona.diamondbacks.com.