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Mohegan Sun Hosts Coaches Convention

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By Earl Heath
It was the gathering place for more than 2100 baseball and softball coaches. The Mohegan Sun Casino tucked away in beautiful picturesque Southeastern Connecticut, was the setting for the World Baseball Coaches' Convention and the Black Voice News takes you there.

The Mohegan Sun is the World's second largest casino and is also a sports haven as it is the home of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun. It's hosted World Championship fights including; Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz. This time it was all about baseball and softball. Coaches and vendors came from around America and Canada.

New York Yankee batting instructor Don Mattingly was one of the hot speakers many came to hear. Mattingly, who played 14 years for the Yankees, was the American League MVP in 1985. "I love sharing what I know," said Mattingly. "It helps the game and if I can help youngsters and their coaches do better, that's what's important."

Former Texas Ranger and New York Met manager Bobby Valentine was on hand to share some of he knowledge he has absorbed as a player and manager for 27 years. Valentine, with a 2005 Japan Series championship, discussed with the Black Voice News the difference between professional baseball in Japan and America. "There is no difference, it‘s the exact same game," said Valentine. "There are 12 teams there and 30 teams here, so that's different. There's more money thrown around here (America). Baseball is baseball wherever you play it."

Kevn Smith - Director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission
There were not just professional ballplayers or managers at the Mohegan Sun. Kevin Smith, Director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, was on hand. Smith was impressed with the Hot Seat portion of the convention. This entailed past and present major leaguers such as B.J. Ryan, Valentine and Mattingly to answer questions from host Mark Leinweaver and the audience members themselves.

"We're here to bring sports and tourism back to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area," said Smith.

The commission hosts about 46 tournaments a year that last from three days to a week. The World Baseball Coaches Convention is one way to recruit coaches and teams for some of its tournaments. Some areas have four separate one week tournaments in the Sunshine State. "Some of our larger tournaments will have 25 different states represented at one time from California, Texas and many from the eastern seaboard." 

Former Detroit Tiger John Valle with signature glove
Beau Blair represented Team Express from San Antonio, Texas. He was there to promote his baseball and softball equipment that is delivered nationwide. "We have a ton of customers that go by us all the time and we make the effort to be here for them," said Blair.

John Valle was in town from Rochester, New York. The former Detroit Tiger made the trip to push his lines of baseball and softball gloves and bats. The company, Valle Baseball, has distribution throughout the east coast.

Retired UCLA Head softball coach Sue Enquist was one of the most sought after speakers at the convention. Enquist led the Bruins to 11 National Championships. Players and coaches hung on every word as she gave illustrated batting instructions to the audience.

"The game {softball} allows no color line, no ethnic background restrictions. It accepts everyone whether you're fast or slow, rich or poor," said Enquist. "If you decide to work hard and be committed to this game, it rewards you with opportunities to go to college." 

"I've learned how to be more efficient in my practices," said Emily Crompton, head softball coach of Northwood Academy of New Hampshire. "I've learned tons of new things and more hitting tips from coach Enquist. It is interesting to see how people have gotten their program to grow and grow as her team."

(R-L) Bobby Valentine, Chairman g'tine'mong - Dr. Ralph Sturges and Don Mattingly share a moment at World Baseball Coaches Convention at the Mohegan Sun
Baseball coaches Sal Coppola and Jeff Rotteck made the trip from Amity High School in Western Connecticut. They have attended the event for several years and information gathered from previous coaches conventions at the Mohegan Sun has helped their coaching ability immensely. "We implement a lot of the stuff we learn here," said Coppola. "We do have to adapt it because a lot of the coaches are dealing with pro and college players. We take what they give us and adjust it to high school kids. We'll incorporate into our drills and our smaller facilities. We make it work for us."

Amity High reached the Connecticut State Finals three of the last four seasons. This year they are the Class S Champions. Coppola was extremely impressed with speaker Rod Delmonico University of Tennessee head coach . "He's tremendous and talks about philosophy and how to approach the game. We use a lot of what he has to say."

Delmonico is a fiery young coach from the University of Tennessee who was the crowd favorite at the convention. He's led the Vols to nine 40-win seasons on the way to becoming the Vols winningest coach in history with 650 wins. He's straight forward and believes in diversity, as his team has players from many races and all walks of life including Brazil and Puerto Rico. While assistant coaching at Florida State he went to three College World Series in six years and coach Deon Sanders. "For me, I like to give a little bit and learn. Also, I like to give back to the game," said Delmonico. "I believe when you stop learning you're done and you should retire."

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