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Two years ago I was invited to travel to Stuttgart, Germany to coach at a baseball camp from an assistant coach of mine at UNC Asheville. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so at the time but when I was asked again, I jumped at the opportunity. The coach who invited was really excited about what I and Baseball Rebellion could bring to the kids over there, especially in the hitting department. He and I had already been back and forth for years about the "best" way to swing a bat and he really took a hold of the information and used it at his high school where he coaches. Once he saw the results, he knew we would be a great fit in their camp setting. I wasn't really sure what I was getting into but I was excited to tackle a new challenge.
On Tuesday, July 31st I sat out on a trip to Stuttgart, Germany. I took a plane from Durham, NC up to Newark, New Jersey. From there I took a 6-hour flight to Dublin, Ireland. Following that flight, I hopped on another to Frankfurt, Germany. Then finally an hour-long train ride into Stuttgart, Germany. Needless to say, I was exhausted before even arriving in Germany. It was only my second time out of the country but never had I ever traveled so far or jumped into such a drastic timezone difference. I could barely see straight. All for what you might ask? To do something that I have done thousands of times before, to teach baseball and more specifically teach hitting. But this time it was a little different. This time, the families were military and the appreciation I felt that weekend as an American and from the kids was like no other experience I had ever had before.
This camp all started with two guys who met while one was working in Tallahassee as a government contractor and one was an FSU assistant baseball coach. The FSU coach was helping his son out with his swing and from that blossomed a very funny but very important relationship. What started out as a 10 player camp in Hawaii, grew to over 50 and jumped the pond over to Germany. The goal was simple: Let's get great coaches and people out in front of these kids and give them the best information possible. Perhaps for some of the players, give them the chance or guidance to play at the collegiate level.
I had never been to Europe before and this would only be my second time ever out of the country. Needless to say, I was excited to see what it was like. Once we were there, we were able to spend some time doing a few things around Stuttgart and the surrounding areas. We had arrangements to visit a few of the military bases where we had to privilege to meet some incredible men and women who have served our country for years and continue to do so. We actually got to sit down with a three-star General who gave us a rundown on their responsibilities and operations all over the world. I, unfortunately, was not allowed to take any pictures but I'll just say that those men and women are some of the coolest and most bada** people I have and probably will ever meet.
We made one stop here at Castle Solitude which belonged to Duke Charles Eugene.
Not only was the local history great, the food and hospitality were on another level. Don't worry, we were well fed! I had THE BEST tiramisu I have ever had.
The people over there were so kind and welcoming that I hope to make it back and see them again. They welcomed us like old friends and we had a wonderful time experiencing so many new things. I can not thank them enough for their hospitality and friendship.
But back to the reason why were went all that way, the kids. We sometimes forget that it's not just the unbelievable moms and dads who serve in the military that make sacrifices. These kids often times have to move to different cities, states, and countries multiple times throughout their childhood. They understand what their families are doing for their country but it has to be very difficult for them just the same. And just like a lot of kids living in the U.S., these kids love sports and love baseball. Unfortunately, the ability to just find a baseball coach or instructor in foreign countries anywhere is tough to do. There many very dedicated dads and coaches who work tirelessly to make sure these boys and girls have teams and coaches every year and they do an amazing job but the information is limited. So any time someone like myself or any of the great college and high school coaches can spend time with these kids, they are very appreciative. We had kids coming from all over Stuttgart and the various bases around the area. Families and players were coming from bases as far as two hours away.
Each day started with a great warm-up and stretch routine, followed by a very specific throwing routine.
After the warm-up and throwing program, the mornings were used primarily for defense. During the time of the day, I was able to work with all the catchers. These guys were awesome. They listening, asked question, and definitely were not afraid of getting beat up a little back there.
After we broke from lunch every day, it was time to hit! On the first day of camp, I gave a 45 min talk about hitting and how we at the Baseball Rebellion teach our students. Needless to say, most of the kids and their parents were taken aback a little bit that I hated the word "hands" and that we were going to eliminate them from our vocabulary that weekend. There were some older guys that were aware of the trend over here in the States but most still believed in some common myths about hitting. I was extremely excited to bring these new ideas to the players and see how they took it.
Once the demonstration was over I took them all to the outfield, put them in a giant circle, and got them moving. We had their bats were on elbows and the focus was on using their body's biggest and most powerful muscles. They might have been a little apprehensive at first but once they started feeling their bodies in more athletic and explosive positions, they began to really dive in. Some of the little guys were the best at it.
These guys were especially excited when we started the turn battles!
Once we got the body moving properly it was time to hit. I brought over a few of our Launch Angle Tees for the kids to have. The players and their parents thought the Launch Angle Tee was crazy but by the end of it really understood the value of it and how it worked.
In Germany and other military bases around the world, these kids get what they get. They have little leagues and high schools but the facilities, information, and the competition is limited. If they are lucky these leagues will have a dad or coach who played in high school or even sometimes beyond but that seems to be rare. They do have internet where some of them actually had seen our stuff before on Twitter, Instagram, and so forth which was really cool. Most of the time they only have dedicated parents who do their best to help out. But they often have to move a lot and usually over long distances so the consistency of information is not there. Regardless, they love baseball and want to be great just like kids here in the U.S., in some cases they want it even more.
As we do every day at the Baseball Rebellion, I know that I was able to show these kids and parents that there is a best way to use your body to swing a bat. We might not all be physically capable of the same things but we can all be the best version of yourself. More importantly, though, I wanted the kids to start believing in themselves. Without intent and belief, the swing will never work. I wanted these kids to understand like our kids do here in the states, that just making contact and putting the ball in play is flat out just not good enough. They are all better than that, and I hope that they continue to use the movements I showed them. I am looking forward to seeing a few that will actually be making a trip to see us when they come back the U.S. sometime this fall!
At the end of the day, I think every coach that made the journey last weekend would say that the mission was accomplished. We were able to show the kids new techniques and ideas. We also had a great question and answer period for any older players looking to play at the next level. Some of our college coaches that were there did a fantastic job of answering their questions to the point and truthfully. There are so many great universities at all level here in the U.S. and I think some have the ability to find their place when it's their time to decide.
I have been incredibly lucky throughout my life. Baseball has done so much for me and has taken me many places and I have made great friends along the way. I can't tell you how lucky I felt to have been on that trip and meet so many great people. The kids, parents, military personnel, and coaches I met were all fantastic and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. I hope I get the chance to go out there again next year and continue to bring the latest with me. There are so many wonderful families over there doing what they do for us. I feel very honored to have helped their children out even for just a little while and hope to do so again someday. I couldn't possibly say it enough but, Thank You.