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Tips from a pro
Huckaby returns home with revamped clinic
Former professional baseball player Ken Huckaby provides instruction at a clinic he put on in Manteca in April of 2009. On Monday and Tuesday he returned to Sierra High to hold a similar camp.

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }<font face="Times New Roman, serif">There is always room for improvement in baseball, even for those who teach the game.</font>

“That’s what I love about it, we’re always maturing and learning more about this game,” retired pro catcher Ken Huckaby said after completing a two-day hitting clinic at Sierra High Tuesday. “You never get to the point to where you’ve perfected it.”

The 18-year pro and 1989 graduate of Manteca High said he has improved as a coach since last holding clinics in his hometown in April and August of 2009, part of an evolution that has taken place over the three-plus years of running his Baseball Boot Camp business in Chandler, Ariz.

Baseball Boot Camp offers private lessons and small-group classes ran by Huckaby and other former big leaguers such as Jason Conti, who helped instruct the latest camp in Manteca.

“Just like anything in life we’re learning as we go,” he said.

Thirty six players ages 7 and up from the area took the opportunity to receive personalized instruction from former professionals. Some came from Linden, Patterson and Modesto. Greg Wilson of Manteca Baseball Softball Academy and Sierra High head varsity coach Jack Thomson — Huckaby’s baseball and football coach at Manteca High in the late 80s — lent a hand.

Four sessions were available on each day, including one for catchers only.

“There are some good young catchers around here,” Huckaby said.

Huckaby and Conti put on the same camp in Philadelphia. The response was so great that they were invited back for an encore this summer.

“The camp in Philadelphia was sort of a test run for this one,” Huckaby said. “When I got home I said, ‘You know what? Let’s go back to Manteca and give them something a little bit better.’”

Huckaby’s first clinic in Manteca revolved around defensive mechanics and base running, and a few months later the focus was in hitting. In both camps he also shared training methods that helped him mentally and physically prepare as a professional.

Huckaby would like to continue to visit annually and make his camps bigger and better in future years. For now, he’ll settle for “better.”

“My goal is still to make this bigger, but I’m realistic,” Huckaby said. “It’s hard to get kids because of the economic times and we understand that, but I’d like to keep coming back.

“It’s fun coming here and it’s just great to see everybody.”