League leaders from the 2016 season shared what they did physically and mentally to excel this summer.
Natural Baseball Academy outfielder Jack Pauley was the league leader in home runs (7), RBIs (28) and slugging percentage (.721).
“I believe that staying positive is a huge part of being successful,” he said. “I found out you can’t play angry and have success.
“I believe that a key to good hitting is just to be comfortable at the plate, get your timing down and don’t think too much when you are in the box.”
And he has taken some advice from his dad.
“My dad has always said that if you hit you can play,” he said. “I have always made it a priority to get my work done in the cages.”
Pauley will be at the University of Northern Colorado this fall.
Milgram Mustangs right-handed pitcher Dakota Graham was the leader in victories (6), second in ERA (1.30) and strikeouts (44) and fourth in WHIP (1.19).
“One of the secrets of my pitching success is my ability to get ahead of the hitter and the ability to use all of my pitches at any point in an at bat,” he said. “It really helps when you can throw whatever pitch you want in whatever count to keep the hitter off balance.”
“I think when I’m on the hill, I just have the mindset that I’m not going to give into the hitter,” he added. “If he beats me then he beats me but he’s going to know that I tried my hardest to get him.”
And where does the first name of Dakota come from?
“I would like to say that there is some crazy story to it,” he said. “I just figured that my parents really liked the name Dakota so they just went for it.”
Graham will be in Lamoni, Iowa at Graceland University where he will be finishing up his degree in sports management.
Regal Plastic right-handed pitcher Jake Slocum led the league in strikeouts (47) , third in opponent batting average (.194) and 10th in ERA (2.66).
“I don’t think I have one secret to success,” he said. “It was a combination of things for me this summer. One key thing for me was my pre-and-post game routines. I get ready in advance physically and mentally when I know I am pitching. Whether it is drills, workouts, stretching or just mentally preparing my self with what I want to focus on.
“After games I do my best to try and get my body healed up and ready to go for my next outing. That can be hard during the summer.”
And what is his major focus?
“The things I focus on the most are consistency, composure and mechanics,” he said. “All of which are things I have struggled with in the past, and are all big factors when it comes to pitching.”
And the right-hander isn’t sure what he will be doing this fall.
“I plan to pursue playing independent baseball somewhere, but as of now it’s still up in the air,” he said. “I will be going to a tryout for the Arizona Fall League, so it could possibly be there.”
NKC Apts. Giants right-handed pitcher Aurelio Bacling was the leader in ERA (0.81), WHIP (0.96) and opponent batting average (.169).
“Confidence is everything,” he said. “Every time you’re on the field you have to believe you have the best stuff. Even if your stuff isn’t on that day you have to know that you are better than every batter you face.”
How did Bacling end up in Kansas City from California?
“The summer after my senior year, I attended a tryout held by Coach (Daryl) Cronk (Avila coach),” he said. “After throwing my bullpen in front of him and the pitching coach, he offered me a baseball scholarship that I couldn’t turn down.”
And yes, baseball players are superstitious.
“I tend to be pretty superstitious,” he said. “One of these is eating the same meal before a game as long as I am pitching well. This summer I ate two Mcdoubles and a large Coke before every game.”
This fall he will be back at Avila University for his last season of collegiate pitching.