Doing good in the 'hood

SEBRING - Baseball proteges got a chance to play pitch and catch with their high school heroes last weekend at the Max Long Complex. New Sebring High School baseball coach Jasone DeWitt held a free clinic for kids aged 4-10 on Saturday, and close to 80 youngsters came out to learn some basic fundamentals of the game.

"We wanted to come back and give to the community," DeWitt said. "All of my players learned how to play the game here. So they wanted to come back and show the excitement they still have for the game, but also teach these kids how to play the game the right way while also having some fun."

The co-ed camp was separated by age groups, with the 6 and under kids on one field and the 7 and up on another. Both sides worked on all aspects of the game. About the only difference was that the 6 and under age group practiced with tennis balls.

"We wanted to teach these kids the small things that make you a great player," DeWitt said. "We had an infield and outfield group. We had a hitting group. And we had proper throwing and catching practice as well."

Butt DeWitt's clinic wasn't limited to the baseball diamond. He and his Blue Streaks staff also held a coaching clinic in for Dixie Youth coaches.

"We basically just had a round table where we discussed a lot of things," DeWitt said. "I told them they're the guys that make my job easier. They make these kids ready to play in high school. We just wanted to help them work with elevating their kids' play to the next level."

An Avon Park native, DeWitt said that the a primary reason for holding a clinic stemmed from his own childhood experiences with baseball.

"I wanted to get these guys involved," he said. "I know when I was 6 years old that I would've loved to be hanging around high school players. Just to be around those guys and get the opportunity to learn from them would be great."

DeWitt said he was fortunate enough to know some high school players who helped him with his game. He added that he's hoping to make this clinic an annual event. Plans are in the works to hold a clinic for the older, 11-15 year old players.

"We want to hold this kind of camp every year for the kids signed up with Dixie Youth Baseball," DeWitt said. "The older kids deserve this opportunity too."

DeWitt will coach his first game as the Streaks skipper on Tuesday, when Sebring plays Brandon's Faith Baptist Christian School at 8 p.m. at Firemen's Field. DeWitt was previously the head coach at Lake Wales High School before taking the Sebring job in July.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to be the Sebring High baseball coach," DeWitt said. "This is a great community that supports baseball and coaching at Sebring allows me to be closer and with my family more and still be able to do what I love."

DeWitt is a 1991 graduate of Avon Park High School, where he was a standout for the Red Devils baseball team. He played college baseball at South Florida Community College, Polk Community College and Embry-Riddle University before joining the Independent Frontier League.

When his career ended, DeWitt went into coaching, serving as an assistant at Sebring in 1997-1998 and at SFCC from 1998-2002. He was an associate scout for the Colorado Rockies and took the head coaching job at Lake Wales in 2002.