Talented pitchers lead winter baseball camp in Seymour


Don’t let the calendar fool you.

It may be December, but the boys of summer were ready to play ball last week during the Seymour Baseball Winter Pitching Drills Camp.

The camp — in its fourth year — drew more than 100 participants between second and eighth grades.

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For the first time, the camp was organized outside the Seymour High School auxiliary gymnasium. The team opted instead for the city’s newest baseball facility, Blu Crew Academy.

The facility at 105 S. O’Brien St. boasts tunnels, turf and space for the camp.

If an upgrade in facilities wasn’t enough, the camp used Milwaukee Brewers prospect Zack Brown to help lead the camp along with Elvis Hernandez.

Hernandez is Seymour’s pitching coach, and he played in the St. Louis Cardinals organization from 2005 to 2009 before an injury ended his career.

Owls coach Jeremy Richey said while that talent draws those eager to learn pitching, the skills they learn from them is key to their development.

“You can learn a lot just by how they do things and the joy they get from hearing it from these two,” he said. “Hopefully, they come out of here with something, but they will definitely come out with memories they can take with them.”

Brown taught groups different pitching drills he has learned as he has pitched at the University of Kentucky and in professional ball.

“I’m still learning pitching myself,” he said. “If I can pass along a few things I’ve learned, they will know it by the time they go to high school.”

Brown said it was fun working with everyone who attended the camp. Interacting with the kids is just as much fun as showing them what they need to learn in baseball, he said.

“It’s fun because everyone has a different personality, but every one of them is really energetic,” he said. “I’m just trying to ball up that energy to do something useful and with a purpose. Everything we do here has to have a purpose.”

Hernandez focused on mechanics, showing those who attended the craft of pitching and the movement of the body through each pitch.

“I want them to have great mechanics,” he said. “I hope by the time they reach high school that there isn’t a mechanics issue.”

Richey said that is a good balance of learning drills but also the correct way to do them. Since Hernandez is the team’s pitching coach, it also allows the team to share their expectations with kids early. Familiar expectations could help the team as the kids grow up and join in high school.

“It helps get these kids at a young age and see how we do things,” he said. “If we have to fix things by the time they get to us, they’re familiar with our terminology.”

Brown said he and Richey talk often, but they always touch base in the summer to begin discussions on when the pitching camp will take place.

Brown said he enjoys helping the program he came up through.

“It’s good to come home and know I can contribute in some way to kids who are striving to do what I have done so far,” he said. “To see these guys here learning and having something like this is great. It’s great to see these guys throwing in December.”

As Seymour’s baseball head coach, Richey was excited to see the number of kids throwing in December, too.

“We have 100 in Seymour, Indiana, that are thinking baseball tonight,” he said. “That’s a good feeling.”

Richey said he feels the reason so many showed up was because of the caliber of talent the camp offers in Brown and Hernandez.

“That gets these kids in the door, and when they’re here, there’s respect that comes with it because these guys have done it before,” he said.

Brown wrapped up a successful year in Double-A ball. He is ranked as the fifth top prospect in the Brewers organization. He also was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the entire organization.

Brown has spent the offseason working out in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was part of a successful pitching staff at the University of Kentucky.

In mid-February, he will depart for Phoenix, Arizona for spring training. He has not been told whether he will be in the minor league camp or major league camp.

“I’m just focused on getting in better shape, like always,” he said.

He has put an expectation on himself to pitch for the San Antonio Missions for the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate.

“Whether that happens or not, that’s my goal,” he said. “I just have to prove myself performance-wise.”

That would be the final step before entering the major leagues.

Despite having the status of a top prospect, Brown maintains his down-to-earth style.

“You can make the major leagues without ever appearing on a prospects list,” he said. “The organization knows who you are, and you know who you are, so you have to go out there and just compete.”

Playing in an organization that was only one game away from advancing to the 2018 World Series was exciting.

“It was awesome to watch,” he said. “Obviously, your goal is to be at that stage. Hopefully, that happens sooner or later.”

Hernandez has faced some legendary hitters, including Albert Pujols, when he was in spring training in the Cardinals organization. Facing the power hitter was difficult.

“It was hard,” Hernandez said. “He was hot the years I faced him.”

He once threw a two-seam fastball and got Pujols to pop up.

“I was so happy,” Hernandez said.

But Pujols is a wonderful person, Hernandez said.

“He took care of us,” he said.

Richey said the 2019 Owls are getting started with workouts and team meetings. They will use the Blu Crew Academy this offseason to do different workouts. That’s something that has not been available to them before.

“I’m excited about the team. They’re great kids who work hard,” he said. “We lost a great senior class last year, but I expect the kids who have played before to step up. We have to play at a high level every day, and we can’t have ups and downs. We’re working on that this winter, and I think it’s going to be another successful season for us.”

Hernandez agreed and said the pitching will be good.

“I know we have kids that can throw,” he said. “I’ve known most of these kids for a long time. I think we will be decent.”

And with a potential pipeline of young pitchers learning from professionals like Brown and Hernandez, that may be the case each year for a long time.

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