Earleywine instructs youths at clinic

Ehren Earleywine has always had a passion for coaching softball.

But the Missouri head coach admits it’s sometimes nice to get away from the college game and spend time teaching the basics to up-and-coming players.

“It just takes me back to when I was young, playing Little League baseball and how you played just because you loved it,” Earleywine said. “You were just playing the game. That’s the part I like about being around young people — just that passion and their enjoyment for what they’re doing.”

That’s just one of the reasons the Jefferson City native didn’t think twice about returning to his hometown to speak at a clinic for middle- and high-school athletes Friday.

Earleywine, who recently wrapped up his eighth season with the Tigers, spent close to two hours teaching hitting mechanics to players and coaches in town for the Missouri American Softball Association state tournament, which kicks off today at Binder Park.

“I know if I was a kid and I had an opportunity to hear this stuff at a young age and do things the right way, then who knows what doors that might open for me,” Earleywine said. “If I can turn around and give a kid that opportunity, then I want to provide it.”

This was the first clinic ever held the evening before the state tournament, but Rick Petty, the ASA commissioner for the mid-state district, hopes more will follow in the future.

“We wanted to do something extra for the kids and coaches,” Petty said. “We wanted to make it a beneficial weekend for everyone to come down to the state tournament and gain some softball knowledge.

“I think the word-of-mouth will spread now about what coach Earleywine talked about and how it was beneficial.”

Area players agreed.

“It was pretty cool seeing all the different (mechanics) and how it all goes together,” Helias freshman Ally Pollock said. “It’s a good opportunity to learn more.”

Getting a chance to learn from Earleywine, who led Missouri to a 43-18 record last season, was also exciting for those in attendance.

“It was pretty cool — especially to meet the Mizzou coach,” New Bloomfield sophomore Kate Baxter said. “The advice coming from him was very beneficial.”

Earleywine has put on similar clinics across the country, but the father of two has cut down in recent years to spend more time with his family.

Friday’s presentation marked the first time in three years Earleywine, a former standout in men’s major fastpitch softball who was a four-time member of Team USA, has put on a clinic in his hometown. It was also nice getting to share the experience with his father, Larry.

“We like bringing it home and helping the kids locally,” said Larry Earleywine, the director of player development at Missouri. “There’s a lot to be gained from watching (Ehren). He does a great presentation.”

Ehren Earleywine said he hopes he was able to provide a foundation of knowledge — even if it takes awhile to completely sink in.

“Planting a seed in these kids’ minds at an early age is critical because, you know, they might have left here tonight really confused about all of it,” he said. “But you’d be surprised how much those seeds will grow if a coach says something to them six months from now, or a year from now, and they’ve heard it before — it’s just that repetition.”

Continuing to build a foundation for players, who range in age from 12 to 18, is another reason Petty wants to hold more clinics down the road.

“We wanted to help the young ladies understand the game of softball and help in them in the future if they have aspirations of playing high-school ball, college ball and maybe what they need to work on, what coaches are looking at,” he said.

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