HURON — “Everybody gather around! C’mon, let’s hustle!”
As a group, young baseball ballplayers form a loose group around Minnesota Twins camp instructor Jason Nell.
Nell, Kevin Nunn and Kent “Call me K.O.” Paulson were in Huron on Saturday morning, instructing approximately 150 area youth in two age groups, on the fundamentals of what Paulson terms “the greatest game in the world.”
“We are one of the three-person teams that do clinics like this one under the direction of Josh Ortiz, the manager of Community Programs for the Twins,” Paulson said during a lull in the action before the older players’ clinic began.
The clinic schedule follows the major league season, beginning in April and continuing on approximately 30 weekend excursions throughout the summer.
“All of us truly love the game of baseball,” Paulson said, “I am in awe of the game.” Teaching the fundamentals of the game - proper technique for throwing the ball and catching the ball and getting and maintaining a correct balance when at the plate are all high on the list, but the trio also stresses other values that are important.
“Courtesy and respect are values that are important,” Paulson said. “Respect for your parents, your coaches and fellow players, other students and yourself are very important. Maintaining respect and extending courtesy are benchmarks, because while we want to help lay the foundation for being a good ballplayer, becoming a good young man or young woman has a higher priority.”
Nunn is an assistant baseball coach at Century College in the Twin Cities and Nell is the head baseball coach at Hudson High School in Hudson, Wis.
Paulson has been involved with youth baseball for many years and has recently retired from a 36-year career as a high school English teacher. He has been involved with the Twins Outreach Clinics for 13 years.
“Early in my time doing the clinics, I was able to travel to them with Twins Hall of Famer Rod Carew, which I have to say was an amazing experience,” Paulson said.
Two age groups - 6-9 year olds, then 10-13 year olds - received instruction from the clinicians. Nell took the players through the different steps to properly throw the ball. As they players began tossing the ball, all three walked among them and made corrections as the drill continued. At the same time, players were also positioned to correctly catch the ball.
Nunn shared the principles of hitting, including having a solid base, concentrating on the pitcher and targeting the bottom third of the ball for contact.
“At the core of it all, we are teachers first and foremost,” Paulson, “We want to make sure that the game is played correctly.” He added that it was wonderful to see a great turnout of ball players and parents at the clinic.
Paulson said that there is usually a good turnout at the clinics, but when the Twins are doing well, as they are this year, everyone - at clinics and in the public - are more upbeat.
“It’s more fun when they are doing well,” he agreed. “I mean heck, they took two of three from the Yankees! That’s something to brag about. What I like the best is that they are really good guys who are easy to root for. They just happen to be good ballplayers too.”
“We’re fans and we are going to try really hard to make it back to Target Field for the first pitch tonight,” Paulson said. “Everyone can converse about baseball and everyone has an opinion about this awesome game.”