Learn­ing from the best

Stephen Mul­la­ley, Jeremy O’Reilly hold soft­ball clinic in Dunville

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER TC ME­DIA

You might as well call Fresh­wa­ter na­tive’s Stephen Mul­la­ley’s moto ‘ hands up.’

It’s some­thing he said over and over dur­ing a re­cent soft­ball clinic he and Jeremy O’Reilly put off at the Wil­liam P. Ho­gan Soft­ball field in Dunville on June 28.

One of the best soft­ball hit­ters in the world, Mul­la­ley was teach­ing the six steps to be­com­ing suc­cess­ful at the plate to over 60 young ath­letes from the Pla­cen­tia re­gion.

Di­vided into two ses­sions, the play­ers watched as Mul­la­ley and O’Reilly showed them the finer points of hit­ting the soft­ball a long way.

At the front of that ad­dress was al­ways ‘ hands up.’ It ini­ti­ates ev­ery­thing for a hit­ter and is some­thing young play­ers should prac­tice early and of­ten.

Over the course of two hours, play­ers learned from two of the best to come out of Pla­cen­tia and the prov­ince as a whole.

“With the turnout to­day, we’re ab­so­lutely blown away,” said Mul­la­ley. “We didn’t know if would get five kids. We didn’t know what to ex­pect.

“To see the turnout was fan­tas­tic.”

O’Reilly had put off a cou­ple in the area be­fore, but it was a first for Mul­la­ley. The played to­gether the pre­vi­ous week­end in On­tario, and de­cided to put if off last week.

“We said, ‘Let’s do it when we get back,’” said Mul­la­ley. “We put it out there with the sup­port of the par­ents, the coaches and the schools and then we were able to get a big turnout.”

The idea was to teach the fun­da­men­tals that go into a good ballplayer, while keep­ing things light and fun.

They cer­tainly ac­com­plished that. Play­ers bounced be­tween hit­ting ses­sions dur­ing their first hour.

They took turns swing­ing a weight bat — in some cases, the bat swung them but that’s OK — hit­ting the ball off a tee and tak­ing soft tosses from Mul­la­ley him­self.

O’Reilly moved along with the play­ers, of­fer­ing en­cour­age­ment and tips where he could.

When the in­struc­tor was at a cer­tain sta­tion, the kids picked their bats up a lit­tle quicker and swung a lit­tle harder.

It wasn’t only hit­ting fun­da­men­tals cov­ered on the day. There were throw­ing, field­ing and other drills aimed at mak­ing the young­sters bet­ter play­ers.

“I came out here for a bit of fun and to learn some fun­da­men­tal skills,” said Pla­cen­tia’s Bra­dyn Wil­liams. “It was a pretty good ex­pe­ri­ence. I mean, they’re both on Team Canada.”

Giv­ing back

For Mul­la­ley and O’Reilly, the clinic was about more than the game. It was about rec­og­niz­ing where they got their start and giv­ing back to the pro­gram.

It’s a no­tion that drives ath­letes some­times. They want to make sure young play­ers get the proper learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that can give them a shot to get as far as pos­si­ble in the game.

Mul­la­ley cred­ited the sup­port they get from the town as a whole as a main rea­son for want­ing to put off the clinic.

“Jeremy and I are both prod­ucts of peo­ple giv­ing back their time, their pa­tience and their

knowl­edge … and we feel that we can do that now and come back,” he said in be­tween the morn­ing and af­ter­noon ses­sion. “We wanted to make it fun, but also some of the drills that we had growing up and helped us get here.

“Who knows who the next great ball player is and they very well could be in that group.”

Things lined up pretty well for Mul­la­ley and O’Reilly to put off the clinic. The Hill United Chiefs Rock In­vi­ta­tional was last week, which fea­tured both of the Chiefs (Mul­la­ley) and the Toronto Gators (O’Reilly).

The hope is to make this an an­nual thing.

“I’d love to see that hap­pen,” he said. “It’s al­ways a goal to come home. If this soft­ball tour­na­ment turns into an an­nual thing, we’ll 100 per cent try to make this an an­nual thing.”

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/TC ME­DIA

Fresh­wa­ter na­tive and Team Canada mem­ber Stephen Mul­la­ley chats with a young ath­lete in Dunville on June 28.

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