Baseball star remembers his roots
By J.E. Espino
HORTONVILLE – Major League baseball pitcher Dave Gassner didn’t want the young athletes registered in his clinic Saturday to walk away with just new mechanics.He wanted to ensure that these athletes had as positive an experience as he did when he attended similar clinics while growing up.
This was the third year he and his family put on the Hortonville holiday pitching/catching clinic for students in grades 4-12 at the high school. The younger students work side-by-side with high school students they can look up to, and it’s under the guidance of professional athletes.
“I love coming back home and doing this,” said Gassner, who was reminded of how much he enjoyed camps he attended while a student in the district.
Gassner led Hortonville to the WIAA Division 2 state baseball championship in 1997. He completed the 2006 season having played for three minor league teams in the Minnesota Twins’ organization. In 2005, he made two regular-season starts for the Twins and had his first Major League win against Cleveland.
The three-hour clinic got off to a start without a hitch.
“It’s going a lot smoother,” said Gassner. He and his wife, Jenny and 10 other coaches from colleges across the state, Fox Valley high schools and the Anaheim Angels provided offered pointers to some 50 baseball pitchers and catchers.
Everyone was assured some personal instruction during the drills.
“It’s not just basics,” said Laureen Miller, a Greenville parent. “They’re also learning fundamentals about staying fit.”
She and Jane Hameister, a Shiocton parent, stood by at gym as their sons, Ben, 10, and Kyle, 11, respectively, moved from station to station.
The boys were learning drills they could do at home, such as practicing the motions of a pitch using a towel and exercises for agility and balance.
“It’s helped me a lot with blocking, throwing to second base. It’s been really good,” said Matt Larsen, a Menasha High School sophomore who plays catcher.
Nick Ebben, a 10-year-old catcher, said he was learning how to get rid of the ball faster. He was also learning how to best handle steals and groundballs.
Another parent, David Zeise of Seymour, said he appreciated the coaches showing pitchers how to avoid arm injuries.
“Most kids (would) just get up and throw the ball,” he said.
His son, Nathaniel, 11, dreams of becoming a professional baseball pitcher, he said.
“Baseball is still one of the few (sports) that every kid – no matter their size – has a chance to become a player,” Zeise said. “It’s the sport for the average man.”