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Tampa Bay Rays Pitching and Hitting Coaches Make Stop in Newberry

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Jim Hickey coaches the pitching technique of Colton Avara, 12, who plays for Elite Babeball. (Kiara Beard/WUFT News)
Jim Hickey coaches the pitching technique of Colton Avara, 12, who plays for Elite Babeball. (Kiara Beard/WUFT News)

It was too cold Saturday for baseball outdoors in Newberry, but that didn’t stop Jim Hickey from imparting his simple wisdom.

“Throw strikes.”

“I say that as a joke, but a joke is only funny if it’s true,” said Hickey, the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching coach.

Hickey, 54, joined Derek Shelton, 45, the Rays’ hitting coach since the 2010 season, to teach 66 players at a youth baseball camp. The 2-day camp was originally scheduled for Champions Park, but due to cold temperatures, windy weather, and even some snow, it was relocated to Elite Pro Ball Academy.

Brian Donohoe, 29, coordinated the camp and used his connection to Hickey, who taught Donohue pitching in 2002-2003.

Hickey was a minor league coach at the time and substitute teacher at St. Cloud High School in the offseason.

“To get the kind of teaching from a coach like this is really rare,” Donohoe said.

Hickey says his experience with kids has helped shape his coaching techniques in the big leagues.

“When you teach kids, you always try to break things down into their simplest form,” he said. “They make the same exact mistakes as major league pitchers do, just maybe on a little different scale.”

Shelton said he saw the day as, in part, an opportunity to expand the Ray’s fan base.

“We want everybody in Florida to be Rays fans,” he said. “If we can expand out a little bit this way, I think it’s great.”

The cost for each of the 66 attendees ages 6 to 18 was $160; the median attendance age was 11.

Donohoe said he’s not yet sure if he’ll host the camp again next year.

About Kiara Beard

Kiara is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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