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As Jeff Potter sees it, in many respects baseball has lost its way. Mottoes like ‘me first’ or ‘win at all costs’, as well as overzealous parents and coaches, have long been chipping away the joy which kids take away from playing baseball. With this in mind, Potter penned his book “Whatever Happened To Baseball?” (which ties baseball played the right way to a life lived the right way) back in 2008. Yet this book was just the start, and for the last few years Potter has been taking to the road – accompanied by a team of young ballplayers who embody the best of what the game can be – under the banner of Potter Baseball Tours to visit communities like ours to celebrate playing the game the way it was meant to be played.
The Potter Baseball Tour will be a guest of the Twin Valley Little League on Saturday, July 28, at James Umble Memorial Park (173 Suplee Rd., Honey Brook) and hold a baseball clinic which will double as a fundraiser for the host.
The clinic, which at 9 a.m., will be for boys and girls ages 6-12, and feature a series of challenges and exercises that will be led by Potter’s traveling team of 13-14 year old standout ballplayers. Potter said the clinic will revolve around the Three F’s - fun, focus, and frequency.
“We want to get the community involved,” said Potter, who grew up as a devotee of the game and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers out of high school 1972, “bringing a community together through the fun of baseball is behind everything we do.”
Although an injury derailed his career as a pro ballplayer, Potter went on to be a long-time youth coach who taught kids to play with passion, hard work, respect, and selflessness.
His tour team is made up of 13-14 year-olds who come from the very same places they tour.
“My kids help run the clinic, they are very involved,” Potter explained, “We make the activities fast… …and also have fun with elimination style (skills competitions). We will have the clinic for a couple of hours, and both boys and girls are encouraged to participate because the fundamentals are the same whether it is softball or baseball.”
The clinic consists of skill stations involving fast paced rotations. The stations involve the mechanics of baseball’s core competencies, but the real focus is on the intangibles.
“It does not take talent to hustle or to have the right attitude. We want to show them that if you work hard and love the game (and learn to) control the things you can control that you will succeed. We will show you how to build that base… …to be smart, to understand how to play the game and understand situations.”
Potter caught wind of the Twin Valley Little League program – whose u10 boys team captured a sectional title last season – through a colleague of league coach Tracy Phillips. The Potter Baseball Tour has been visiting FirstEnergy Stadium (the home of the Reading Phillies) as part of their tour, so once Phillips and Potter connected they were easily able to scope out a visit to Twin Valley. Phillips, in turn, contacted Heidi Norton, one of the VP’s at Twin Valley Little League.
“Tracy is a vivacious and energetic person and she thought that it would be a good idea for the Little League to get involved with the tour,” said Norton.
“We talked with them about it and (added Twin Valley) to the tour because it is a win-win for everyone,” said Potter.
Potter and company also participate in fundraising and community service during their visits as a projection of selflessness beyond the field. This offers organizations such as Twin Valley Little League a chance to raise much needed funds.
“We have done some improvements to the Little League and would use the funds raised from the clinic for equipment and uniforms,” said Norton, “It is $25 to participate in the clinic, and participants get a t-shirt. Participation is not limited to Twin Valley Little League members. We are trying to spread the joy of the game and get more kids playing, so we want anyone form the public to come out. We will also have the snack bar set up. We want everyone to get involved and enjoy the day!”
Following the morning clinic there will be games for attendees to play - including as a home run derby and a hitting game where home plate is set up further out in the field allowing for the younger kids to get a chance to enjoy the feeling of hitting the ball over the fence.
Then, following lunch, the Potter Tour Team will take the field in a game against the Twin Valley Little League girls 12u All Stars team.
As the day draws to a close, Potters team and many others will then head out to Mill General Store in Morgantown for dinner, ice cream, and some socialization.
“We will also have a few speakers there to talk about baseball and equate it to fun and community,” said Potter.
Kids can even approach Potter about joining the tour as a player.
“My goal is to get kids from as many places as possible to be a part of the tour. If a kid wants to be a part of the tour I will be happy to meet with their family and talk about what it takes. You do not have to be a great athlete – we just want kids who will set a good example. If someone has average ability, but is a great kid, they can typically be part of the team,” he said. “Kids love the idea of a traveling team, they all want to do it, but the tough part is convincing the parents and the coaches to give up their kids for the tour… …no one wants to lose good ballplayers!”
Registration in advance is encouraged, to download or print a copy of the form visit http://tinyurl.com/bu8xezd
Any parties, as well as coaches interested in participating in the clinic, can contact Jeff Potter by phone at 410-562-4463 or by email at email@example.com
Visit Potter Baseball online at www.potterbaseball.com
Visit the Twin Valley Little League online at www.twinvalleylittleleague.com
Follow the Tri County Record on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tricountyrecord