There really are no secrets to hitting a baseball. It obviously helps to be Barry Bonds or Ted Williams, but if you're not, some basic fundamentals and little confidence go a long way toward helping any hitter.
And if anyone is looking for some extra help, give Dennis Young a call.
Young, a familiar sight in the Carson City/Carson Valley baseball community for more than a decade, is now offering lessons at Off The Front pro sports and batting cages located at 2248 Meridian Blvd., off Airport Road. (For information, call 782-2412.)
Young is offering private lessons Monday through Friday.
"I've been surprised; it's been going pretty well so far," Young said. "The kids I've been doing are coming back and telling me they're hitting the ball better, and that makes me feel good.
"They still have to hit it. We can't hit for them, but we can sure help them," he added of the private lessons. "Out in practice and in here are two different things. Out at practice, you have to rush, rush to get things done because you have so much to do in 2-1/2 hours. In here you can can spend a little time with one person and it's kind of nice."
Young is even available for an occasional Saturday morning lesson.
"If somebody calls and requests a Saturday I'll come in," Young said on Friday. "Like tomorrow, I have an adult softball team coming in first thing in the morning they want to come in and hit before they go down to the Carson Valley Days (tournament)."
So, what's the first thing Young does when a student walks in?
"I don't just throw them in a cage and let them swing. I talk to them a little about hitting. I'll spend about 10 minutes try to explain the approach to take about hitting before we really do anything else and then I look at their swing," he said. "What I do is, I hand them a T and tell them to hit off the T. That's the first thing I do with some of these kids, and see what they do off the T. I'll correct a couple of things and then I make make the adjustments from there."
The T can help at any level, he pointed out.
"This one kid came in here about three weeks ago and I handed him the T," Young said. "He said, 'What's this?' I said, 'it's a batting T, use it.'
He didn't say no, he just looked at me like, 'This is for T-ball.' And I talked to him, I told him, 'I know what you're thinking right now. You're thinking this is T-ball, and he kind of grinned. I said, it's not T-ball. I've gone to games where I've seen Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire hit off a T before a game, right out in the open. They'll hit off a T into a net, 100 swings. It must work, and he kind of smiled, and it was OK. It's such a good tool to learn from. It's basic stuff, really."
Young developed his Hitting 101 philosophy with help from Hal Wheeler, who has coached baseball at Douglas High since the 1970s.
"I learned a lot from Hal Wheeler in the eight years I was at Douglas. He does a good job," Young said. "Hal talked to (my son) Jeff 45 minutes one day without him swinging the bat and he hit the ball good the rest of the summer, so sometimes talking to them helps and explaining things to them."
Young has been involved with coaching baseball moved to the Carson Valley from the Bay area in 1990. He started out with a Carson City Babe Ruth program that summer, then joined Wheeler's coaching staff at Douglas for four years. He switched to Carson High in 1994 and assisted Fred Bendure with the J.V. team for two seasons and then returned to Douglas in 2000 after Bendure took over as the varsity coach. He's taking some time off now to watch his own son, Jeff, play for the Douglas Tigers.
"I'm done coaching baseball for a while, until he graduates in three years," Young said. "I've been watching him in the summer and it's nice to just sit in the outfield and watch. I'm loving it."
Before he came to Nevada, Young coached in the Bay area at St. Joseph's and Encinal high schools and also coached American Legion ball in Alameda for 10 years. Among the talent he worked with -- in both baseball and basketball -- was future NBA star Isiah (J.R.) Rider at Encinal.
"He was J.R. then, and what an athlete. He could do it all -- football, basketball, baseball -- he could've gone anywhere," Young said.
Young is himself a 1971 graduate of Alameda High, a school whose list of prestigious baseball graduates includes Willie Stargell and Tommy Harper. After high school, went on to play one more season at Laney Junior College.
"I couldn't hit to save my life, but I was the best bunter around," Young said, laughing. "I had been a catcher all my life up to high school, but I was afraid of the ball at the plate. I knew why I couldn't hit and that's what it so puzzling."
Confidence is an important part of hitting.
"It's huge," Young said. "You've got to be very confident, and I think you even need to be a little cocky."
So, who's the best hitter he ever saw play, regardless of level?
"I went to a lot of A's games when I was down in the Bay Area and I thought Rod Carew was one of the best hitters I've ever seen," Young said. "Carew and Pete Rose, those two really guys got after it. And in the same category as those two guys, you've got Barry Bonds. The way he hits the ball, he's amazing. He chokes up a half inch on the bat that I can tell, and he's just got such quick hands."
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal