Local pitchers were treated to a last-minute briefing from one of Trail’s all-time great baseball products.
New York Yankees draft pick, Daryl Craig, returned to B.C. this week for a wedding, and on his last day in Trail, his former teacher and baseball coach Luigi Derosa seized the opportunity to organize a pitching clinic.
“I emailed him and he didn’t answer until yesterday (Wednesday), he phoned me in the morning and said, ‘Yeah, I’d be interested in doing it,’ because today’s his last day here,” said Derosa, who quickly rounded up 13 pitchers to participate in the one day camp at Butler Park, Thursday.
Craig is currently a high school baseball coach and academic advisor at the University of Illinois, in Normal, Ill. but was born and raised in the Silver City playing Little League and Babe Ruth baseball under Andy Bilesky and Derosa – so when Derosa asked, Craig responded.
“Lou’s done a lot for the community so even after he’s retired from coaching and teaching, he still stays involved,” said Craig. “He helped so many people before me and my age growing up – you know (for me) it’s just giving back a little bit.”
Craig recently coached his high-school team to the Illinois ‘AA’ state championship, thanks in part to a definite “Bileskian” approach to his own coaching methods.
“I guess I kind of describe myself as an old-school guy,” said Craig. “Andy was a strong disciplinarian, and you knew what you had to do. If you had two hours of practice, you were practicing for two hours, no joking around, and that definitely plays into the way I coach now.”
While at the clinic, Craig had limited one-on-one time with pitchers ranging from Little League All Stars Colton Miracle, Brendan Makay, and Derek Green to AM Ford Orioles’ Garrett Kucher and Kyle Paulson, the most important thing he wanted to impart was a solid work ethic.
“There’s no one simple solution for each of these kids, but if I can teach them one thing that they can pick up on, that they can use – the biggest thing with pitching is being able to work hard on your own away from the limelight, so to speak. Kids can go to camps all the time and try to learn from somebody, but if they don’t work on their own they’re not going to develop.”
Baseball culture is historically strong in Trail, producing no less than nine players drafted by Major League Baseball teams, but it doesn’t quite compare to the intense fascination with the sport south of the border.
“The community here (Trail) in general is so sports related and we had coaches who were very dedicated, but with us, in the States right now, with our high-school teams, we play and practice six days a week.”
Baseball is to the U.S. what hockey is to Canadians. Hockey season goes from September to April, but baseball in smaller communities are often challenged by a short season and long distances to travel, says Craig.
“The kids here are on the field two months a year maybe three months a year so just with that structure it’s very shortened, so it inherently makes it more important to work on the off-season on your own. The (Willi Krause) field house is a wonderful resource, not every place in Canada has that, not every place in the U.S. has it.”
While Craig is satisfied with the progress of baseball in Canada at the elite level, epitomized by the recent induction of Trail’s Chris Kissock and Team Canada into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (a result of gold and bronze medal performances at the 2011 Pan Am Games and IBAF World Championships), he is concerned about the state of the game.
“I think the national program at the high level is much improved, but at the grass-roots level its tough, especially for these kids here. You’re driving three and four hours to get to competition, it’s harder in Trail than the coast . . . but one thing unique in Trail is there’s always support for it and always a push to play more games, get into better tournaments, and with us so close to the border, it obviously helps.”
Having key people like Derosa and Craig share their knowledge with young talent doesn’t hurt either.