La Jolla Youth Baseball focuses on player development, training clinics in March

March can be a frenetic month for La Jolla Youth Baseball (LJYB) players who attend clinics, seminars and extra practices to boost their skills in the front end of the season.

The highlight for most players was the fifth annual La Jolla High School Vikings Baseball Clinic for Mustang, Bronco and Pony players March 8, 2015.

Varsity head coach Gary Frank, assistant coaches Jake Grosz, Steve Booth, Justin Martin, and the entire varsity team hosted more than 75 LJYB players at the Ronnie Spelman Field on Muirlands campus. The attendance was double over prior years, which underscores the growing relationship between the league and the Vikings baseball program. There were numerous stations set up for players to move around in small groups, picking up tips for fielding, hitting, pitching, running bases and game strategies. Regardless of age or experience, there was a lot to learn and the players showed their appreciation by listening closely, trying their best and having great attitudes.

The following week, former Atlanta Braves player Ryan Lehr of The Pure Swing hosted a hitting clinic attended by 30 players and a number of coaches. Lehr is known for his expertise in the mechanics and analytics of hitting, and he’s generous with his time helping LJYB kids become better hitters.

Around the league, March is all about applying what you learn from practices and clinics in game settings. Coaches are encouraged to move players around so they play as many positions as possible — including pitcher and catcher. Each division requires players to play at least two innings of infield and outfield every game to prevent them from being “parked” at shortstop or right field. The scoreboard and standings become more important after spring break.

Here is a snapshot of each division:

Pony division has three teams from La Jolla joined by eight teams from neighboring leagues to form the SD Pony Interleague. Morgan Stanley has a 4-2 record followed by Pharmatek at 5-3. Seaside Fence has only played four games due to scheduling conflicts with other leagues. Home runs have been hit by Trevor Ace, Carsten Fehlan, Austin Schroeder and Arman Sanchez-Mohit (grand slam!)

Bronco division has five teams led by Science of Sport at 5-2, followed by Sector 9 (4-3), Mitch’s Surf Shop (4-3), Baxter Foundation (2-4) and Rotary Club (1-4). Tyler Blackburn leads LJYB with three home runs including a 3-run walk-off on Opening Day and a grand slam on Friday the 13th (bad luck for that pitcher.) Diego Solis, Peyton Wallace, Connor Hobbs and Jake Bold have all gone yard before spring break.

In addition to the five La Jolla teams, Bronco also schedules home and away games with Tecolote and Mission Bay teams.

• Of the eight Mustang teams, only two have winning records: Retirement Benefits Group is 6-2 and Syntergy is 4-3. The remaining teams are bunched together within a game or two including MedImpact, Garden Communities, Voices for Children, La Jolla Community Foundation, Las Patronas and Willis Allen. John Hartford, TJ Bibler and Kevin Steel have hit a few home runs.

These records indicate parity within the division, as well as coaches playing to gain experience for their developing players instead of winning games.

Pinto division has 10 teams, yet very few scores have been recorded. This early, it’s more important for the kids to experience playing full six-inning games without worrying about the scores. Many first year Pinto players are still learning the rules and there is plenty of time for recording wins and losses when they return from spring break.

• The 10 Shetland teams do not keep or report scores.

La Jolla Youth Baseball Night at UCSD Tritons Baseball: 6 p.m. Thursday, April 2, 2015. Free admission for LJYB players/family members. The Tritons play league division rival Cal Poly Pomona as they vie for first place in their NCAA Division II league.

For information about La Jolla Youth Baseball, visit ljyb.org

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