He fine-tuned skills.
He preached discipline.
He taught the values of weight training.
But what was the most important thing Dwayne Strong did for the guys and girls who attended his baseball and softball camp?
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“We got the kids out of bed,” he said.
Strong ran his camp until July 16 at G.T. Bray. Campers had to be there by 8:30 a.m.
Luring them probably wasn’t too much of a problem — Strong runs The Sandlot @ 5 Tools, an instructional facility in downtown Bradenton, and is the head baseball coach at Manatee High. He’s also been the longtime coach of Kirby Stewart Post 24’s “A” and “B” American Legion teams.
Strong knows baseball.
This summer, Strong worked with players on agility drills, various baseball skills and getting stronger.
“It’s about conditioning your body,” he said.
In his camp, players are given the space and time to grow. It wasn’t about getting into shape for a game on a Friday.
It was more about getting into shape — both physically and mentally — and readying themselves for the daily grind.
“We work on ground balls, we work on getting stronger,” Strong said. “We do a lot in the weight room.”
On the weekends, Strong took Manatee High’s summer team to different tournaments around the state, looking to build on the momentum the Hurricanes started by reaching the Class 5A regional quarterfinals last year.
“We went to Fort Myers, we went to Georgia, we went to Clearwater,” Strong said. “And the difference between that and what we did in the spring was, we gave everybody a chance to play.
“And we have a fall season, too. We work really hard.”
Then, of course, there’s Legion season, when Post 24 plays teams from all over the state, leading up to the state tournament — which the team won last weekend in Fort Pierce, the first state championship for Post 24 since 1999. Strong’s team will compete in the South Regional Tournament next weekend in South Carolina.
“I’ve been doing Legion for about 20 years,” Strong said. “And the thing I’ve noticed is some guys, they may not get it in the spring, but they’ll get it in the summer. Some guys need time to figure it out.”
That’s the most important thing — baseball is a complex game, one where the only way to get better is by doing.
Whether at camps or hitting the road on weekends or playing fall ball, that is the message Strong is looking to send to the area’s players.
“That’s what we’re trying to do: Figure this thing out.”