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Local baseball players get tips from the pros

Portland Sea Dogs players and coaches instruct local youngsters in the art of baseball

PORTLAND SEA DOG Matt Sheely goes over the intricacies of bunting with a group of local youngsters at The Nick last Tuesday morning. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
July 26, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Going to a Minor League or Major League ballpark to see professional baseball players ply their craft is a special treat.

Having those same players come to your field to teach you about how they play the game is in a league of its own.

However, that was the case for more than 45 local youngsters last week, as members of the AA Portland Sea Dogs organization made the trek to The Nick in Wolfeboro to provide two days of training through Kingswood Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth Leagues last Monday and Tuesday.

The four baseball fields at The Nick were transformed into stations, where youngsters went through the fundamentals of hitting, pitching, base running, fielding and throwing. The kids were sorted by age and moved through the different stations in intervals, getting a full attention at each stop from the Sea Dogs player or coach on hand.

Sea Dog players Josue Peley and Matt Sheely, along with pitching coach Bob Kipper and manager Arnie Beyeler were on hand, as was Red Sox minor league pitching coordinator Ralph Truel, who helped set up the camp with the Sea Dogs.

With the Sea Dogs playing in Manchester to open the week last week, it was a short drive to Wolfeboro. However, Monday night's game went until after midnight, making for a long day for the players and an early morning wake-up call.

"I feel really fortunate that the Portland staff was in Manchester," Truel said. "But I don't think Arnie got his game report in until about 3 a.m."

Truel noted that the camp's small groups helped to make the instruction a little more personalized, which always has a bigger impact on the kids.

The kids started in the batting cage, where Peley kept an eye on their swings as they worked off a tee. He offered them different tips about how to keep their head on the ball and keep swings level.

From there, they moved to the nearby diamond, where Kingswood Cal Ripken coaches fed a pitching machine and the kids worked on the things they had been taught in the batting cage.

The next stop was the pitching station, where Kipper worked on mechanics and the intricacies of pitching. Kipper is in his second stint as pitching coach for the Sea Dogs and brings Major League credentials to the minor league club.

Kipper previously served as the Sea Dogs' pitching coach in 2003 and 2004. After leaving the Sea Dogs in 2004, Kipper continued coaching in the Red Sox system including four years as the pitching coach for Single-A Greenville (2005-2006 and 2008-2009) and one season for Single-A Lancaster (2007). In 2009 with Greenville, the Drive pitching staff ranked third in the South Atlantic League in ERA (3.38). In 2002, Kipper served as the bullpen coach for the Red Sox. Kipper has been coaching in baseball since 1995. He joined the Red Sox organization in 1999. The lefty pitched eight seasons in the Major Leagues with the California Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins. In 271 Major League games, he posted a 27-37 record with 11 saves and a 4.34 ERA.

After taking instruction from Kipper, the kids moved on to the base running portion, where Sheely went over some of the finer points of running the bases and also discussed bunting styles and how to use the bunt in different situations.

Next up on the cycle was a stop with Beyeler, who worked on fielding with the kids. Beyeler, in his record fourth year as manager of the Sea Dogs, has extensive experience as both a manager and an instructor.

The 2010 season is Beyeler's 10th season as a minor league manager. In 2009, Beyeler led the team to a 67-74 record. In three seasons as the Sea Dogs' skipper, Beyeler has recorded a 212-212 record and led the team into the playoffs in 2007 and 2008.

Prior to joining the Sea Dogs in 2007, Beyeler served as the hitting coach in 2006 for the San Diego Padres Double-A affiliate, Mobile BayBears. In the fall of 2006 he served as a coach under former Sea Dogs manager Todd Claus with the West Oahu CaneFires in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League. He previously spent three years managing in the Texas Rangers organization, where he led the Stockton Ports to the California League playoffs in 2003 and 2004.

The 2010 season marks Beyeler's seventh season in the Red Sox organization. Previously Beyeler managed Boston's New York-Penn League team, the Lowell Spinners, in 2000 and 2001 and skippered the South Atlantic League Augusta Green Jackets in 2002. While in the Red Sox organization he managed current Red Sox players Manny Delcarmen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and Kevin Youkilis. Prior to his time with the Red Sox, Beyeler spent three years coaching in the Yankees organization including two seasons with the Eastern League Norwich Navigators (1998, 1999). From 1992-1996, he served as an area scout for the Detroit Tigers.

As a player, he was a middle infielder in the Tigers system from 1986 to 1991, reaching as high as Triple-A Toledo in 1991. In 584 minor league games over six seasons, he batted .254 with 69 stolen bases. His best season came in 1987 where he hit .285 in 127 games at Single-A Fayetteville.

Truel rounded out the rotation with a throwing station, where he worked on the fundamentals of throwing the ball correctly.

"The guys all have really good backgrounds," Truel said. "Bob has been one of the best pitching coaches in the system and Arnie's been a manager and infield coordinator.

"These are pretty good instructors for these kids," he continued.

Truel relayed a note that Sheely made during the drive to and from Manchester. The Sea Dog had done a number of clinics throughout the Portland area, but noted that the kids at The Nick were some of the most attentive he had dealt with.

"That made me feel good," Truel said.

Kingswood Cal Ripken President Chris Runnals was also quite happy with the way things went with the clinic.

"Not only dot they know their stuff, they're great with the kids," Runnals said of the Sea Dogs. "They are able to coach down to the kids' level and really teach them.

"I think they had a lot of fun," he continued.

Runnals noted that it was impressive how quickly the kids grasped what the instructors were teaching and changed their habits.

"We're trying to get them out of any bad habits," Runnals said.

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