It’s baseball orientation week for Roseville-area freshmen

Pitchers, catchers report early, learn how it’s done at the high school level
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Practice for high school spring sports doesn’t officially begin for another five days, but the Sac-Joaquin Section on Monday began its second year of allowing pitchers and catchers to report to their camps one week early.

At Roseville, which last spring raised its first baseball section championship banner in 28 years, the extra week provides several opportunities: getting arms into shape, introducing catchers to pitchers (and their tendencies), and introducing freshmen to the next level.

“It’s probably not so much for the varsity level but more for the JV and freshmen,” Tigers coach Hank DeMello said Monday night.

Perhaps some of these freshmen have been to Cooperstown or a national tournament on the traveling circuit. Some have been youth all-stars and played nonstop. As high schoolers, they’ll now be blessed with watching workouts involving Roseville seniors Dalton Blaser and Mark Reece. Blaser was the Sierra Foothill League co-MVP last spring, and Reece was a second-team selection.

“What’s nice is when you get a Dalton Blaser and Mark Reece out there that those kids coming into the program, they’ve seen them in the newspaper, on the news, and hey, this is what they do. This is what he does,” DeMello said. “It makes it a little easier to get the point across to the freshmen that this is what we need them to do; this is how we do it.”

Blaser and Reece are baseball-specific players. Reece was 7-2 with a 2.08 ERA as a junior. He was invited to showcases, contacted by colleges and has put in considerable work in the offseason, according to DeMello.

“Reece really found success last year,” DeMello said. “He’s been working out on his own, working out at the gym. He’s an animal when it comes to running. He puts on a backpack now with a couple of weights and will go run five, six miles.”

Reece pitched in the low 80-mph range last season, according to DeMello. Reece’s velocity probably will climb into the high 80s and low 90s this year.

“It’s maturity as well, but it also has to do with the work ethic he’s put in," DeMello said. “Dalton is the same way. He’s had success for three years.”

National youth baseball organizations have become more protective of young arms in recent years, having implemented pitch counts and mandatory rest periods. DeMello is an old-school coach, so the Tigers play a lot of long toss during opening week.

“You gotta throw; it’s a muscle,” he said, recalling that Jim Kaat attributed his career longevity to playing catch the day after he pitched. Kaat won 283 games over 25 major-league seasons. “If you get the muscle memory right, you’re not going to hurt the arm. You don’t throw as hard (the next day); you lengthen out the muscle.”

For Roseville’s freshmen, that means throwing on flat ground one day and a little long toss. DeMello said if they find their way onto the mound, they pitch from the stretch.

“You’re not going to throw as hard,” he said. “You’re not going to be tempted to rear back and throw it.”

The next time pitchers are in the bullpen, they’ll wind up at 65 to 70 percent.

Said DeMello, “I don’t care how hard you throw. I want your arm in shape.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.