Little Leaguers improve their games at Hoover

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — With a target in sight, Jakob Grubb aimed to hit it with pinpoint accuracy.

After fielding fly balls in center field at Hoover High during a defensive drill at the second annual Tornadoes Baseball Camp, Grubb, 12, then fired the ball into a gray garbage can near third base serving as a make-believe cut-off man. On two occasions, Grubb hit the target perfectly.

"If it's an accurate throw, then you can get the guy out in a game," said Grubb, a seventh-grader at Toll Middle School who played second base and outfield for Glendale Dyrness Automotive in the Tri-Cities Little League. "It's a great drill because you learn to catch the ball with two hands and then make a good throw.

"I play football and baseball, but I love baseball because it's slower paced. I want to be out here doing everything I can to get better for next season."

Grubb certainly wasn't alone.

The camp, geared for ages 6-13 and broken down into four one-week sessions that will run through Friday, provides area residents the opportunity to learn about hitting, pitching, defense and running. It also features intrasquad games and chances to ask Hoover baseball Coach Joe Cotti, who spearheaded the event, and his current cast of Hoover players questions pertaining to the sport.

Cotti, who guided Hoover to an appearance in the CIF playoffs in May, looked around the diamond at the campers completing each drill.

"You get enough kids here and you try to break them up and make it fun by having them learn different things," Cotti said. "The kids have just completed their season and there's a little down time for them to come here and improve and these are drills that they can also do at home and keep practicing them to help them get better.

"We don't just concentrate on one thing. We try to sprinkle a lot of things in so that everybody walks away feeling they can figure it all out. We are trying to grow [the Hoover High baseball team] and hopefully something like this attracts the kids here."

Nick Ziccardi, 13, attended the event for the second week in a row. Ziccardi, who played shortstop and pitched for the Jewel City Lions, wasn't content with having idle time before beginning school in the fall.

"I came to the camp last year and I got some things out of it," Ziccardi said. "I played fall ball and that helped me warm up for the season and I had a pretty good season.

"I came back to work on my batting and pitching drills. Coach Cotti has taught me a lot about both kinds of drills."

Fellow Jewel City teammate Lauren Warshaw, a second baseman, also made her second appearance to the camp.

Warshaw, 12, wanted additional instruction with her hitting.

"I had been struggling with my hitting during the season," Warshaw said. "My swing was fine, but it was something to do with my timing.

"I liked the camp and I just love baseball and that's why I wanted to come back."

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