ELKTON — For one family, a recent chance encounter with former major league baseball player Joe Vanaskey led to a parking lot clinic in baseball.
“We met at Jojo’s Diner and he told us about this,” said Kim Harris, whose son Ethan, 8, is a fan of the game. “We were sitting next to him at the counter and he said, “You’ve got a son about the same age as my niece.”
That led to a discussion of Joltin’ Joe’s Baseball and Softball Extravaganza, held recently in Southfield’s Shopping Center on Augustine Herman Highway in Elkton. Vanaskey told the Harrises that he was offering free 15 minute clinics to help build practical knowledge for players of the national past time.
“He plays all sports,” Daryl Harris, Ethan’s dad, explained about his son. “He was in soccer for a long time and played T-ball.”
As mom and dad watched, Vanaskey coached Ethan on some of the sport’s fundamentals.
“Home runs are coming but line drives are first,” he said. He fine tuned Ethan’s batting stance and showed him how to approach the pitch.
“We’re teaching him the fundamentals,” he said to the parents.
Vanaskey – a Cecil County native son – played for the Montreal Expos and Detroit Tigers, then became a scout for the Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins. He’s been running the Joltin’ Joe Academy for 16 years.
At the event, Vanaskey was joined by a staff of 12 volunteer coaches from the area, who assisted him in teaching the attendees baseball skills, breaking down and tweaking their technique. Any baseball player age 5 and older was welcome to come down and hone their skills, as well as partake in the music and activities provided by the event’s sponsors.
Turning back to his student, Vanaskey told Ethan that hitting the ball is about finding the pitch.
“It’s like a train going by. You gotta catch the train,” he said. It’s all about taking a weakness and making it a strength, the coach continued.
With his tongue pinched between his lips, Ethan finally made contact with the ball, sending Colton McCoy – one of Vanaskey’s assistants – hustling across the parking lot to catch it.
“It’s only 15 minutes but we build confidence in them,” Vanaskey said. “We want to get him to smile and enjoy the game and work on their game.”