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Baseball program begins preseason workouts

AP archives courtesy Fresno Bee

Bobby Jones spent ten years (career 1993 through 2002) in the MLB between the New York Mets and San Diego Padres.

Spring approaches and athletes prepare for their upcoming seasons playing baseball, tennis and track. Coaches and players anticipate upcoming games and practices.

After the last year’s baseball team won the first baseball valley championship in campus history, head varsity coach Noah Heinz seeks to repeat last year’s success. The team only lost two players last season, Connor Martin, ‘19, who transferred to Clovis North High and multi schooler Jorge Castro, ‘17, who graduated high school.

“The sixth graders will be playing with the junior highers this year,” Heinz said. “Most of the other schools in our Fresno Unified league do sixth through eighth grade for the junior program. They allow sixth graders to play and it’s a great opportunity for us to invest in our players here. The sooner we can get our baseball players into our program and teach them our ways, the sooner we can see fruits with the success of our baseball program.”

Junior high and high school pitchers have began preseason workouts with Fresno born and Fresno State alumnus MLB pitcher Bobby Jones (retired) to prepare their arms for the season and refine pitching mechanics. 

Head varsity coach Noah Heinz discusses Bobby Jones’ involvement in preseason workouts.

“This year we have gotten to do pitching lessons with Bobby Jones to help prepare our pitchers for their season in both the high school and the junior level,” Heinz said. “We have some players that are working out on their own with their own coaches and some are working with Bobby Jones and the pitching lessons he is doing with our group.

“I’ve known Bobby for a long time and he used to teach me when I would go to winter baseball camps in the offseason when I was our sixth graders age,” Heinz continued. “Bobby played for the Mets and the Padres and was an allstar in ‘97. His daughter, Avery (Jones) is a student at Fresno Christian. It took a while to get the entire thing going, but we found a couple of days where we found he was able to come out and teach the mechanics of pitching to our younger players.”

Sam Cross | The Feather Online

Jones is currently teaching the players the fundamentals of pitching in order to improve their skills.

Jones played in the MLB for 10 seasons as a pitcher for the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres. After retiring from professional play, Jones teaches others the proper mechanics of pitching through lessons. Jones agreed to help the campus baseball program through a 10 week pitching course.

“Most of the drills (I teach) are understanding how your body works in a pitching delivery or a throwing delivery,” Jones said. “I work with kids of all ages, but not only pitchers but also some kids who are haven’t learned to throw properly. We do a lot of balance drills to understand that we as pitchers need to get our body going in one direction towards our target which is our catcher or a shortstop so to speak. These drills are based upon moving in the right direction from point A to point B and doing it the right way to get the most out of your arm, by using your body properly.”

According to an article published the The Complete Pitcher, fundamental pitching mechanics include windup, grip, delivery, stride and pivoting. Pitchers refine their mechanics to minimize mistakes.

For some campus pitchers the practices have been a review of previously learned drills and exercises. Pitcher and third baseman, Samuel Swearengin, ‘22, hopes to make a deep run into playoffs.

“I have played baseball for almost my whole life,” Swearengin said. “The practices with Bobby Jones have pretty much been retouching on the basics, learning balance and discipline. I think we have a good chance at making the playoffs and hopefully compete for the title.”

As a professional pitcher, Jones learned to minimize mistakes on the mound pitching. Jones believes that eliminating mistakes on the mound make pitchers more successful in outings. He is thankful for the mentors who he trained under and their instructions, which he believes propelled his career to the major league level.

“I was very blessed to pitch and be taught by some of the best coaches around,” Jones said. “That is what I do now-a-days is teach kids of all levels and ages proper mechanics on pitching, throwing and how to get the most out of your body.”

Jones learned many of the drills he uses now from his time playing baseball at Fresno State under the coaching of Bob Bennett.

“I was fortunate enough to be coached by Bob Bennett, who was the man that I always have said helped my career go to the next level,” Jones said. “I was always a good player, but I wasn’t great. I wasn’t drafted out of high school, but I worked hard and when I got to Fresno State and had the opportunity to learn these drills, I did them daily. What got me to the major leagues was my command of my pitches. I wasn’t overpowering at all, but I could throw it to a spot.”

I haven’t pitched in the past, but I am eager to learn and try new things in baseball. After practicing with Bobby Jones, I have learned that there is a lot more technique to pitching than just throwing a baseball. This season I am hoping to hit another home run. — Derek DeGroot

Jones encourages new players to enjoy the sport and work hard during practices and games and learn from watching more experienced players.

Learning to pitch, Derek DeGroot hopes to grow in his abilities on the mound, and refine his mechanics.

“I haven’t pitched in the past, but I am eager to learn and try new things in baseball,” DeGroot said. “After practicing with Bobby Jones, I have learned that there is a lot more technique to pitching than just throwing a baseball. This season I am hoping to hit another home run.”

Continuing with field renovations this season, Briner and Sons Landscape Management leveled the varsity diamond and reseeded the grass. Briner and Sons laid Turface on the infield soil to improve the field’s topsoil.

Sam Cross | The Feather Online

Jones (left) watches Samuel Swearengin, ’22, during a pitching practice after school.

New coaches have been brought in to coach the two junior high teams. Assistant high school varsity coach Adam Wood parted with the team to take a head coaching opportunity at Immanuel high school. In his place, FC alumnus Austin Rurik has been recruited to fill the position. Rurik pitched and played center field on the campus team from 2008 to 2011.

Baseball preseason practices overlap with many winter sports schedules. Players who are not currently playing or committed to a winter sport will begin practice Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Heinz requests that students who are interested in playing baseball contact him or visit him before the season starts.

Coach Noah Heinz can be reached via email.

This author can be reached via Twitter and via email.

For more articles read, Nation pauses to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. For more about the baseball championship, read Varsity baseball team wins first Valley Championship.

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