John Miller, head coach of the Brussels Kangaroos and a reporter for a major American newspaper, is chronicling his team’s 2008 season in a column that will appear every Monday on mister-baseball.com. It is the first of several Mister-Baseball Blogs this year.
One of the joys of lifetime commitment to baseball is following the paths of teammates past and present. The game offers so many adventures — through teams, seasons, slumps, streaks, positions, ups and downs.
Look at Jean-Michel Depasse, one of our veteran outfielders. He’s in his mid-30s, but still madly in love with baseball. Like the others who founded the club decades ago, he started baseball late, and has spent years working on his game, helping the Kangaroos climb aboard and stay in the first division.
On Saturday, in an 8-4 win against the Antwerp Eagles, “Jean-Mi” tripped in a hole, tracking down a flyball in left field. He didn’t get up. The batter rounded the bases for an inside-the-park homerun. X-rays on his injured knee were inconclusive. He’ll have an MRI done in a week, but faces the possibility of being out for the season. He’ll bounce back, though. He loves the game too much. When he does, we will celebrate.
I was touched by words from another former teammate late last week. My freshman year in college, our shortstop, Jaime Cevallos hit under .200. A stocky, solid hitter, he began fine-tuning his technique with the dedication of a World Word Two scientist working on the atomic bomb.
He hit plastic golf balls with a stick in libraries and studied mountains of books about hitting. He compiled video of hitters from Ruth to Rodriguez. All along, he maintained a grueling regimen of workouts. At our college, Mount Saint Mary’s, there is a series of steps – at least 200 – leading up to a Catholic shrine. One Sunday morning, we ran up those steps six times.
The next year, Jaime hit well over .350 (the accomplice on many of his workouts, my accomplishment was to go from zero regular seasons at-bats to one) and was named all-conference shortstop in the Northeastern Conference.
After college, from what I’ve gathered from occasional phone calls and letters, Jaime has worked as a real estate agent, country music singer and golf caddy — while continuing to study hitting.
He now runs an instructional business in Nashville, Tennessee, called The Swing Mechanic. (See www.theswingmechanic.com). His innovation — as far as my midget baseball brain understands – is an emphasis on what he calls “positional hitting”. The approach is based on getting the hitter to groove his swing into the elementary positions all great hitters share. For example, bat cocked at angle x, hands end at this position, etc. Jaime’s also an expert in video training. Send him your video, and he’ll make you better. Pro and college hitters he’s worked with are thriving, and swear by him.
We talked on the phone last week.
“Hey I’m just leaving practice,” I said.
“I have a game in two hours,” he answered.
“Still living the dream,” I said.
He laughed. He knows. The game can be pure in its delights.
The virtual dugout door remains wide open at firstname.lastname@example.org