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Safe at home: Huckaby’s clinic will benefit local Little Leagues

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POSTED March 27, 2009 4:57 a.m.
Retired big league catcher Ken Huckaby spent 18 years behind home plate as a professional ball player, fulfilling his lifelong dream stemming from his Little League days in Manteca.

And on April 7 and 8, he’ll be home to give local players the tools to help them realize theirs. He also intends to give back to the local baseball community.

Huckaby and Manteca Baseball Softball Academy will put on their two-day Manteca Baseball Bootcamp Clinic at Sierra High during spring break, and profits will go to the three Little League organizations (Manteca, Northgate, Spreckels Park) in town.

“I want the kids to benefit back home,” said Huckaby, a 1989 Manteca High graduate who played football and baseball for current Sierra varsity head baseball coach Jack Thomson. “I want them to experience what I got to live from growing up in small town from Manteca.

“I want to tell them how I started on the same fields that they’re playing on, and how I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. It’s not an easy dream to follow, but it’s almost surreal now that’s over.”

Huckaby’s 18-year professional career ended last season with the Kansas City Royals. He played for eight different clubs and won a World Series ring with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He currently lives in Chandler, Ariz., where he coaches his 12-year-old son Kyle’s Chandler National Little League team. The elder Huckaby opened his Baseball Boot Camp academy in September and put on a clinic at his current hometown.

The clinic maxed out to 100 kids, and the response was overwhelming. After expenses and salaries for instructors were covered, Huckaby gave the rest of the earnings to the Little Leagues.

And that was when he decided to contact Thomson and MBSA owner Greg Wilson.

“I’m basically bringing my boot camp back home so the kids can see what I did to get physically and mentally prepared to get the point to where I did in baseball,” Huckaby said. “We’ll keep it small this year and maybe expand as we go on. Hopefully we can make it an annual thing that gets bigger every year.”

The clinic in Manteca will consist of five sessions per day with a maximum of 10 in each, which would allow Huckaby to give full attention to every participant.

Both days will kick off with a catchers-only class from 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Three 2 ½-hour sessions will follow and will focus on defensive skills, agility, base running — “all the fun stuff of baseball,” as Huckaby put it.

“I’m planning on 10-11-hour days,” he said. “I’ll be there from sunup to sundown.”

The cost is $50 per player, and $75 for those who want to participate both days — a very affordable fee, said Huckaby, for anyone who wants instruction from a former pro. The clinic is geared for players ages 8 and older.

“I just want to give back to the kids,” Huckaby said.

For more information and instruction on how to register, visit the website www.azbaseballbootcamp.com, or e-mail info@azbaseballbootcamp.com.

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