Batting clinic a big hit with youth

An Allegany Playground photo
Ryan Cutter takes a practice swing at a tee as coach Jack Settle watches.

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FROSTBURG — In virtually any other circumstance, what Jeremy Rice did to Josiah Spradlin on Saturday afternoon at a Frostburg Community Park baseball field would have been quite the scandal.

Rice, a physical education teacher at Northern Middle School in neighboring Garrett County, asked Spradlin, 12, to stand in front of his peers. Then Rice clenched his first and swung towards the Mount Savage Middle School sixth-grader.

Not once. Not twice. At least three times, Rice — grinning throughout the soft-contact episode — demonstrated that if he swung and used only his upper body, the punch Spradlin would receive would be much softer than if Rice put his body into the motion.

And that was how Rice and Russell “Jack” Settle grabbed the attention of 10 eager youth baseball players at the High Octane Baseball Swing hitting clinic on Saturday morning at the armory baseball field. From 10 a.m. to noon, Settle, of Accident, and Rice, of Frostburg, did their best not to reinvent the swing but to fill in the gaps that developing players often miss when it comes time to swing a bat.

An Allegany Playground photo
A batter listens to the instructions given by coach Jack Settle: Right hand at ear level, door knuckle grip, eyes forward.

In short, power is about bat speed, Rice and Settle told the youngsters. The more speed you have, the harder the ball — in current terms, the higher the exit velocity — the ball will have as it leaves the bat. Settle said that for every 1 mile per hour increase of bat speed, the ball would go up to 8 feet further. Adding 5 miles per hour to a swing can add up to 40 feet, and Rice made sure to show the difference between a routine out in the infield and a ball that would go over, or through, a fielder.

And the more efficient the power put into the swing, the faster the bat speed. It’s physics, but Settle and Rice put the college-level subject into terms even the youngest players present could understand.

After introducing some concepts and some demonstrations, each player was able to put the package together at the plate and take some soft toss swings. When the hitters used their newly gained knowledge, the sound of the bat was, simply put, better.

An Allegany Playground photo
Coach Jeremy Rice, right, demonstrates with Josiah Spradlin how using one’s entire body, instead of only the upper body, increases power. Increased power equals increased speed.

Spradlin was among those that put the bat on the ball. In fact, four balls went over the outfield fence, including two to dead center. Never before had a ball off Spradlin’s bat gone over the fence in fair territory. The lessons carried over into Spradlin’s regular team practice later in the afternoon.

Rice and Settle gave copies of their booklet, published in January 2021, to each batter. The booklet, which is a “manual (that) explores various beneficial ways for batters to gain bat speed by incorporating physical, bio-mechanical and scientific principles,” allowed the youth to take home what they had learned on the field.

One parent remarked that Settle, a longtime coach at all levels of youth through collegiate baseball, and Rice, a local baseball coach and past president of Frostburg Little League, complemented each other well in their coaching styles and how they related to the kids. Another parent noted that Settle was just about perfect in reaching the younger kids.

An Allegany Playground photo
The kids gather around coach Jack Settle for a demonstration.

For more information, reach Rice or Settle via email.



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