Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Learning curve

July 13, 2006

It is not often a baseball trainer tells his students practicing batting to, "Watch this ball go by." But that is exactly what former Major League Baseball player Jamil Phillips tells his trainees.

"There's a certain path from the pitcher to the catcher that (a player) needs to get used to," Phillips said. "There are a variety of possible pitches, and it takes time to actually see the ball. The more you see the ball go by, you get better."

Phillips, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1993 and the Baltimore Orioles in 1996, has been individually training up-and-coming baseball players in the Douglas and Johnson County area since June, teaching patience and control.

"I think I slow down my style so my kids can feel it," Phillips said. "I teach a grass-roots method, focusing on control and patience. Instead of telling my kids to move a certain way, I teach them to feel their momentum change as they pitch and why that works."

Phillips, who lives in Paola, said his teaching method focuses on mechanics and fundamentals and understanding why things do and do not work, rather than just hitting the ball as hard as possible.

Phillips said he is not interested in teaching kids how to be flashy when they play baseball as that leads to short careers, but rather how he and his siblings, who each played for a professional or college team, were taught when they were young.

"I'm teaching them what I was taught when I was young," Phillips said. "It worked for me; my brother Brandon Phillips (of the Cincinnati Reds); my other brother Patrick Phillips (a second round draft pick by the Anaheim Angels in 2005); and my sister Porsha Phillips, who plays basketball at Louisiana State University."

Eudora High School senior Jared Reetz, is one such young baseball player who has benefited from Phillips' teaching style.

"(Phillips) has allowed me to hit for a higher average and allowed me to gain more confidence," Reetz said.

Reetz said he chose to study with Phillips over the summer to help him better prepare for his senior year and future career.

"I was up at Dick's (Sporting Goods) one day and I saw a flier that said Jamil had Major League experience, so I thought, 'why not?' and gave him a call," he said.

Reetz said under Phillips' guidance and lessons he has grown tremendously as a baseball player, but still has areas to improve upon.

"I can still improve in pitching and hitting; pretty much every aspect of the game," Reetz said.

Eudora High baseball coach Dirk Kinney said he has seen tremendous improvement in Reetz's playing.

"Jared's hitting and pitching looks considerably better," Kinney said. "I think it's great Jared's making himself a better player, and it's good to learn from numerous people."

Kinney said he likes for his baseball players to take private lessons or participate in a summer league, as it helps keep the players involved and ready to go for the high school season.

"Anytime you can get them to do more with the game of baseball, you encourage that," Kinney said.

Phillips said he prefers to coach baseball over playing baseball, and enjoys sharing his love for the game and his experiences.

"I'm better at coaching than I am at anything else," Phillips said.

Phillips said although he appreciates every aspect of coaching, he really likes the freedom of working with kids individually.

"I enjoy the freedom. It's one-on-one, so I get to bring the game to these guys," Phillips said. "When it's game time, they explode."

Phillips said he works with students as long and as often as they want, but prefers weekly hour lessons, as that offers students enough time to warm up and start building upon their abilities.

Reetz said he works with Phillips three times a week.

"We go about three times a week, for two to three hours a day," Reetz said. "We work on pitching and hitting and sometimes go and work out."

Kinney said Reetz is not the only high school player at Eudora who takes private lessons.

"Some of our guys take from coach Phil Hannon at Baker University, coach Rich Price at (Kansas University) and coach Dave Bingham, the head pitching coach at Nebraska," Kinney said.

Phillips trains individuals for $30 per half-hour and teams for $100 per hour. He can be reached at (913) 710-3211.

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