Jason Kipnis: Mentor Baseball League U12 Clinic
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis got a taste of the past Saturday, when he put on a clinic for Mentor Baseball League’s U12 team.
Shagging balls at first base and taking batting practice with an aluminum bat, Kipnis had a chance to relive his little league years.
Kipnis, the spokesman for Crave, met the team at Garfield Park in Mentor, Ohio, for two hours to teach the young ballplayers more about the game. The Mentor Cardinals won Crave’s “Second to None” Sweepstakes, earning the opportunity to host Kipnis at practice.
The Cardinals split into two lines at shortstop and third base to take grounders, and Kipnis offered advice on playing the infield as they threw to him at first base.
Kipnis said the opportunity reminded him of his childhood dream of meeting [former Cubs infielders] Mark Grace and Ryne Sandberg.
“Growing up in Chicago, it’s kind of weird to say this, but [White Sox first baseman] Paul Konerko was playing for the White Sox when I was still there,” he said. “I just remember how I felt when they would come to camp. I’m hoping I can at least leave some kind of good impression on them here today.”
Each player had a chance to take batting practice in front of the Tribe second baseman, who followed up with the kids after their at-bats.
Assistant coach Darren Muchnicki said his team is more likely to listen to advice coming from Kipnis than from his coaching staff.
“They already mimic his batting stance. We find it all the time in practice,” he said. “What he has proposed — and his batting stance is very sound — the kids really believe in it.
“It was a great thing to have a professional baseball player interact with the young kids and give them some guidance and answer questions. Jason reiterated some of the same things we do, and it was great hearing it from someone like him. That goes a long way.”
Kipnis took a little batting practice at the end of the clinic, hitting several souvenirs into the woods behind the fence and leaving the team with few balls to shag deep in the outfield.
“This bat right here is a 32 [inch]-29 [ounces]. The bat that I use is pretty much an inch and an ounce bigger than that,” Kipnis said. “They’ve got some big kids here who are pretty much my size at 12 years old. They’ve got some swings right now, some pop in their bat. I miss the sound of this ‘ping’ right now.”
Cardinals catcher Kevin Dages said he learned a lot from Kipnis.
“I was happy he used my bat. That was a pretty cool part,” he said. “I am just going to go [to home plate] next time with a clear head and think about how he hit it and how he was so calm back there and not worried at all — just having fun.”
At the end of the day, Kipnis said, all little league teams should focus on having fun.
“Play hard and have fun. That’s something that I try to do each game. If it’s a typical game, it’s not always going to be the easiest game; a lot of times, you’re going to fail,” he said. “It’s just a game, though. Just run with it. Have fun and try your hardest, and you really won’t have much to hang your head on the next day.
“Don’t take the game too serious. It’s not life or death. It’s not something that you have to be the best at, but if you’re out there having fun and trying your hardest, it’s usually all you need to be doing.”
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor