Former big leaguer Brian McRae to speak at Leland Hot Stove banquet; upcoming Diamond Trainer, UNCW baseball clinics

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WILMINGTON — The spring sports season is fast approaching. The first day of high school baseball practice is on Feb. 13 and opening day for the UNC-Wilmington baseball team is Feb. 17. For young ballplayers looking to improve their skills, there will be a pair of clinics featuring top level instruction over the next month.

Over the bridge in Brunswick County, the non-profit Leland Hot Stove organization will host former big leaguer Brian McRae during its 13th Annual Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 14.

Former big leaguer Brian McRae will speak at next week's Leland Hot Stove banquet.
Former big leaguer Brian McRae will speak at next week’s Leland Hot Stove banquet.

McRae will serve as the keynote speaker during the event, which gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at North Brunswick High School. This yearly get together recognizes and honors the Leland Hot Stove North Brunswick Player of the Year and The Nelson Best Scholarship recipient for each new season. The cost is $25 for adults and $10 for children (12 and under).

The Leland Hot Stove League is a non-profit that strives to recognize and honor individuals who have excelled both on and off the field. The main objective of the group is to raise money for an athletic scholarship.

McRae joins former New York Yankees Roy White, Mike Torrez, Bucky Dent, Tommy John and Bobby Richardson as previous speakers at the annual fundraiser. McRae spent nine seasons playing for five clubs during his MLB career from 1990-1999. After his playing days ended, McRae worked for MLB.com radio for five years as well as working on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

UNCW Baseball will hold clinics throughout the next month.
UNCW Baseball will hold clinics throughout the next month.

For details on the 13th Annual Leland Hot Stove Banquet, contact Nelson Best at 910-371-3764.

Local clinics look to improve mechanics, fundamentals this January

The UNC-Wilmington baseball program will be hosting a Spring Training Hitting Academy starting Jan. 9. There will be two session slots: 5-6:30 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m. The cost is $300.

“This is a great opportunity for local players to get plenty of swings and fine tune their mechanics leading up to the school baseball season,” said UNC-Wilmington Graduate Assistant Josh Stott. “Each session will be limited to 12 players. Spots are filling up fast so don’t wait to sign up.”

Players will get four total sessions on Monday evenings in January. The last session will include batting practice on Brooks Field. For more information contact Stott at pjs3966@uncw.edu.

Former East Carolina University Head Coach and Area Scout Billy Godwin has also brought together a great cast of instructors for the second annual Diamond Trainer Baseball Clinic, Jan. 14-15, at nearby Dixon High School in Onslow County.

“The purpose of our clinic is to teach proper fundamentals that lead to individual development as a baseball player,” said Godwin, who served as head baseball coach of East Carolina from 2006-14.  “Each clinic is designed to promote correct fundamentals, promote individual development, age appropriate instruction along with promoting integrity and confidence.”

Former East Carolina Coach Billy Godwin will help with instruction. Photo courtesy- Diamond Trainer Baseball Clinic
Former East Carolina Coach Billy Godwin will help with instruction. Photo courtesy- Diamond Trainer Baseball Clinic

The Diamond Trainer Clinic is designed for ages 10 to high school seniors. Players will be divided into groups according to age. Each clinic will run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.  Pitchers and catchers will be the primary focus during the clinic on Jan. 14, with a hitting clinic set for Jan. 15. The cost is $110 for each individual clinic or $200 for both.

“The clinic will be staffed by current professional players, scouts, former college players and top high school coaches,” Godwin added. “This year’s staff will be one of the finest on the east coast.”

Those expected to lead instruction include: Baltimore Orioles Pitcher Mike Wright, Cleveland Indians Pitcher Shawn Armstrong, area scouts Billy Best (Atlanta Braves), Neil Avent (Oakland A’s) and other minor leaguers.

The weather forecast for this weekend moved the original dates of the two-day workout to Jan. 14-15.  Click here for updated details.