Dart finds Mudcats team practicing hard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; At first glance, the preteen boys taking swings at basketballs with baseball bats might seem a bit confused.

But make no mistake &8212; they know exactly what they&8217;re doing.

&8220;It builds your (hitting) power,&8221; said Anthony Durr of Brookhaven, barely taking his eyes off the ball to comment during Sunday practice at the Vidalia ballfields.

Email newsletter signup

Durr and his counterparts are participants on the Mudcats traveling baseball team, made up of mostly 12-year-olds from the Miss-Lou and as far away as Brookhaven.

Coach Jeff Upton of Natchez explained that although he works with players as he can throughout the week, three hours Sunday afternoon is the only time he can get them all together.

They&8217;ve been practicing for five weeks already, and that practice is vital since their first game, against Port Allen, La., is March 18.

Upton said his team, which isn&8217;t part of the Dixie Youth league but instead travels independently and focuses on tournament play, is strong in hitting but needs more drilling in both hitting and pitching.

So on Sunday, while Upton hit baseballs flying for one group to catch, another group&8217;s members were taking turns hitting parent-pitched baseballs in the batting cage.

Still another group, including Durr, was practicing hitting basketballs to develop power swings.

Durr&8217;s father, Mark, said that while video-game baseball might be a good rainy-day diversion, the real thing &8220;teaches them how to work with teammates.

&8220;And it teaches them respect,&8221; he added.