Inside Edge Baseball – Cole Taylor

Cole Taylor played at IE for 4 years, and after graduating from Lee’s Summit West in 2017, he now plays baseball at the University of Central Missouri. He took a few minutes to share his experiences playing at the collegiate level and how it differs from playing high school baseball.

First, congratulations! It’s a huge achievement to make the team at UCM. How did it feel walking onto the field at Crane Stadium for the first time?
IE Baseball - Cole Taylor - PitchingIt was an indescribable feeling. I spent my entire baseball career dreaming about playing baseball at college, and to be here now, I guess you could say it is a dream come true. Having the opportunity to play at Crane has been my best baseball experience…so far.

What’s a typical day like for a college baseball player?
Busy! I wake up and have breakfast by 8 AM and then I’m off to class until Noon. I grab a quick lunch, and then I’m dressed out and ready for practice. We practice until around 6 PM each day. I take an hour to eat dinner, and then I head to the weight room or study hall. I try to be in bed by 10 or 11 PM so I can get up the next day and do it all again.

While I’m busy with baseball, I also have to stay focused on my grades. I have to maintain grades in order to play baseball, and that takes as much focus in the classroom as it does on the field. College sports teams are made up of the hardest workers, the best talents, and the biggest dreamers. To succeed against that level of competition, you have to be committed to grades as much as athletics. Otherwise, the next athlete will step up and take your place.

Success as a student-athlete takes a lot of dedication, planning, and goal setting. I’m still learning how to tie it all together, but I have a lot of resources available to me, and I’m taking advantage of them all.

Wow! That’s a lot. It’s also really good information to learn. Are you realizing results from all the hard work on the field?
IE Baseball - Cole Taylor - UCM Mules BaseballI am…absolutely! Being on the field for 4 and 5 hours a day gives me time to focus on individual skills. That amount of attention elevates the game to a whole new level. But, the extra work is essential to compete at this level. College players are really good. They are the best of the best, which means the game is not only played better, but the speed of the game is also much faster. It takes crazy focus to play at this pace, so the extra work is mandatory.

And your grades?
So far, so good. Ask me again while we’re in the middle of the season.

Looking back at playing baseball in high school, what advice holds true today?
Without a doubt, it’s advice that Dave Silvestri constantly gave to us: Respect all and fear no one. In high school, that was a mindset to win the next play. Now, it takes on a whole new meaning for me. I play against guys who can be five and six years older than me. I can’t worry about their experience advantage. I have to step in the box and compete. So, I fully respect them but I certainly don’t fear them.

Respect all and fear no one carries over to everyday life. I say that to myself anytime I face a challenging situation. I can’t thank Dave enough for everything he taught us…on and off the field.

Dave is a wealth of baseball knowledge! We are very fortunate to have him available at Inside Edge. To pay it forward, what words of advice would you give to IE players?
Don’t give up on your dream of playing at the next level. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. You have to be willing to put in the hard work required to get there. That means working on skills every day. Inside Edge provides all the needed tools–great coaches, an indoor facility, and a bunch of great guys who love playing baseball. Take advantage of those things. I did and it shaped me into the player that I am today.

IE Baseball - Cole Taylor

Inside Edge Baseball – Grant Baird

Grant Baird is a multi-sport athlete who models his gameplay on several sports legends. The criteria for athletes he admires are character and work ethic, two qualities that are easily noticeable in Grant. The Lee’s Summit High School senior shared a little insight into how he developed such a huge sense of family and how it impacts his game.

First, what sports and positions do you play?
Inside Edge Baseball - Grant BairdI play baseball and football for Lee’s Summit High School. For baseball, I’m primarily an outfielder and I’m the quarterback for the Lee’s Summit High School football team. I would really like to try golf, too, but I don’t have time between academics and the sports I play.

You were on the LSHS baseball team that made it to state last year. What can say about that experience?
That was totally the best time of my life. We didn’t have any superstars, we were just a bunch of guys who like to have fun. I credit our run to how loose we were on the field and how that led to us becoming a family that season. We didn’t have enough gas to win the state championship but it was still an incredible experience.

That’s awesome. It’s great to hear that you guys picked up on the importance of team, too. Are there any players you can point to who have influenced your strong drive for team and character?
First, I have to say, my dad. He’s really been an influence and helped me to understand the importance of collaboration and working together for the benefit of the team and community. I also look to guys like Pete Rose, Drew Brees, and Andrew McCutchen. Rose is on my list because of the intensity he played with. I would definitely pay to watch him play the game!

Drew Brees is the player I admire the most. His leadership and work ethic are as good as it gets. I try to model my play on and off the field on him.

You mentioned McCutchen. Is he your favorite current baseball player?
Grant Baird - Baseball At-batI really like Cutch and would love to watch him play, but my favorite player is Mike Trout. He stays consistent with the best batting numbers in the MLB each season and plays fearlessly.

What other favorites would you share with our readers?
Celtics are definitely my favorite basketball team. My dad loved them when I was little and it rubbed off on me. I love how hard the current team plays even though they’re not that big and they don’t have all the superstars like the Warriors.

Miracle is probably my favorite movie. Seeing how an underdog hockey team dominated a seemingly invincible Russian team is totally inspiring. The story shows what can happen if you trust in the process and in your coach, and truly become a team and a family.

What tip would you share with a young IE player?
Get in the cages–you can never be in the cages enough. Over the years, I’ve learned that the more time you spend in the cages getting your timing down and seeing the ball and hitting line drives, the better you will play in games. There is no substitution for reps.

That’s great advice! Can you close by sharing what playing at Inside Edge Baseball Academy has meant to you?
Playing at Inside Edge has been a great experience. I’ve played here for several seasons now, and Todd Clausen and Dave Silvestri have taught me so much about the game. Both of them are at the top of my favorite coaches list. They have an indescribable effect on you: they somehow bring out the best in you, which, in return, results in hard play because you don’t want to disappoint them. That, magically, results in you giving 110% in every game–without even thinking about it. That leadership quality has really worked for me. As a result, I have seen my skills and understanding of the game take a huge leap forward. I can’t thank either of them enough.

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Inside Edge Baseball – Sam Tatum

Sam Tatum is one of those baseball players–all action and few words. The senior middle infielder/outfielder will graduate from Rockhurst High School this year (2018) and looks forward to continuing his baseball career at the next level. Considering his dedicated work ethic, Sam should have great success finding a place to play ball next year.

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Sam at a 2017 PBR event

You live in Kansas City, but you’re a Cardinals fan. Is that correct?
Actually, it is. I’m a huge Royals fan but my great grandpa was an even bigger fan of the Cardinals. I guess his love for the red birds rubbed off on me a little. I may have been Raised Royal but I will forever bleed red. Go Cards!

Since you’re a Cardinals fan, does that mean your favorite player is also a red bird?
Sort of. My all-time favorite player is Albert Pujols. I consider him to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game–even if he is in Anaheim now.

What other favorites can you share with us?
Chicken biscuits from Chick-fil-a, chicken fried chicken, Kansas City Chiefs, Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell (for that matter), fishing, and Hank Williams, Jr.

Wow! Hank, huh!? Does that also go back to your great grandpa?
No, not really. I enjoy country music over all other genres and Hank is about as country as they come. I should point out that I like traditional country, not Nashville country–those are two completely different styles of music.

I’m sensing a lot “traditional” with you. Would that be an accurate description?
I’ve never really thought about it but that might be right. I consider myself to be a pretty straight up guy. Some of that is from my great grandpa and a lot comes from my parents. Each of them has stressed that hard work gets the results. So, I dedicate myself to everything I take on. Work ethic is the only way you can separate yourself from everyone else.

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Sam Tatum At Bat IE Baseball

Sam Tatum, waiting for his turn to bat.

That’s a great attitude that will serve you well. How would you tell that message to a young Inside Edge Baseball player?
I would just tell them to keep working hard and they will get better. I would also tell them to take advantage of everything that Inside Edge offers to players. This is an awesome program that provides great opportunities for everybody.

Great advice. Speaking of opportunities, is there anything that stands out from this past season?
Probably getting to play at Mizzou. I love that stadium and being on that field. The field is always in great condition. Plus, it’s a traditional ball field and I love that.

I should add getting to work with Dave Silvestri. He’s an incredible person who teaches without over coaching. He has been invaluable this past year. He once told us before a game against a top-notch opponent to “respect everybody, fear no one.” That stuck with me and I use it every day.

Inside Edge Baseball – Todd Clausen

We sat down with Todd Clausen, the director of player development and founder of Inside Edge, to learn more about his philosophy for developing players as well as his vision for IE.

To start, can you explain how a kid from St. Louis ended up being the strength and conditioning coach for the LA Dodgers?
There’s really not much story to tell. A lot of hard work and a bit of good luck is all it took. I played baseball at UCM until a car accident during the fall of my freshman year ended my career. With baseball out, I focused all of my energy on my studies, and after graduating with a degree in exercise physiology, I was fortunate enough to earn an internship with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Working as a strength and conditioning coach wasn’t the same as being a player, but it got me on the ball field. I busted my hump that first year and the next year I was hired to run the minor league strength and conditioning program for the Rays organization. Two years later, I was asked to join the Dodger’s coaching staff as the strength and conditioning coach. I spent 7 years with the Dodgers and loved every minute of it.

If you loved it, why did you decide to resign your position?
Working with an MLB team is an awesome experience. There’s so much positive energy and dedication at all levels. I totally loved being a part of it. During my last year with the team, I started to realize how much I was traveling and the impact that had on my family life. I remember sitting in a hotel in Milwaukee when the thought of ending my tenure hit me. I sat there, thinking about my family and the impact of being a long-distance dad and husband. I decided then that my focus needed to shift to my family. So, I submitted my resignation and turned my attention to them. I’ve missed being with the Dodgers, but I have never regretted that decision.

Todd and his son Mac in the early days of Inside Edge

What happened between the Dodgers and starting Inside Edge?
I actually started Inside Edge immediately after leaving the Dodgers. Only, then it was focused on hockey and it was located in Phoenix, Arizona, where Jen, the kids, and I lived.

How did you and Inside Edge end up in Lee’s Summit?
As the kids got older and Phoenix got bigger, Jen and I started to ask ourselves if Phoenix was really home. We loved the city and all of our friends who were there but it really wasn’t the environment we wanted for the kids. Plus, I really wanted to find a way to be more dedicated to baseball. After talking about it, Jen and I decided Lee’s Summit, which is where Jen grew up, was our best option.

Once we got here, I contacted Silvestri, Quantrill, and Gagne to discuss shifting IE’s focus to baseball. Each of them dedicated their time to help me. I owe a lot to those guys for everything they have done in helping IE grow.

It’s not easy to start a baseball academy. What would you say has made a difference for Inside Edge?
You know, I think there are a lot of different factors that had to come together. First and foremost, I had to find the right coaches. I’m huge into having strong, positive leaders as coaches, and those first-year coaches really helped to set the foundation. I met with them before our first try out to explain my philosophy and what I expected from them. Fortunately, they were in and each of those guys is still involved to this day. That group of guys really helped IE turn into the academy it is today.

Next, we had to find the right players. We needed talented kids who were focused on development. We were fortunate to have the right mix show up at that first tryout.

The parents were the next key ingredient. We needed positive parents that understood our mission. I wanted to break the mold–to focus more on development than winning, and it really takes buy-in from the parents for that to work. Thank you, parents!

Once those ingredients came together, it was a matter of time. And, as we saw last year with the 17u showcase team winning the 2016 World Series Powered by PBR, creating a positive environment where players can focus on development really works.

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Todd coaching a group of youth players

What was your motivation for taking that approach?
It all goes back to the major leagues. The managers, especially with the minor-league clubs, are some of the most positive and supportive people I’ve ever met. They draft players and seemingly make it their mission to help each player to succeed. The managers don’t get wrapped up on a bad play, a losing weekend, or even a negative trend. Instead, they stay focused on their mission of helping each player to develop so they can move on to the next level. I witnessed that first hand and have brought that approach with me. I like to call this approach managing from the major leagues down because we focus on the big picture.

Where do you see Inside Edge going in the coming years?
Only going up! I am so stoked for the coming years. Everybody at IE has put in a ton of hard work and it’s starting to pay off. Winning the PBR World Series last year was just a peek at all the good that’s coming our way.

Those boys winning a major event like that has brought a ton of attention to the academy. I’m capitalizing on that to ensure that every player, from 9u up, has an opportunity to realize their full potential. This year, the big showcases are giving us a serious look. That attention brings more opportunity for our showcase guys to play in front of a larger number of scouts. That ultimately trickles down to the youth teams. The younger guys may not realize it right away, but they certainly will as soon as they get to high school. Our showcase teams, from freshman through 18u, are playing on the big college fields every weekend. That’s an awesome place for a baseball player to be.

We’re making several moves to help support and sustain all the growth. We just announced our partnership with Premier Baseball. That brings additional training space and access to some of the best coaches in the Kansas City area. I can’t wait for our boys to start working with Premier.

I’m also working to add a few more teams to the academy. Several age groups have only 1 or 2 teams. I’m actively searching for coaches to help us fill those gaps. Those coaches have to meet our criteria for being strong, positive leaders, and they can join us with an established team or we’ll work with them to build the team through a tryout and recruiting.

Todd Clausen Eddy Vedder

Hanging with Eddy Vedder of Pearl Jam

Wow. That’s huge and exciting. To wrap up, what’s one aspect not related to baseball that you can share with everyone?
I’m a huge music fan. That’s why we often have the tunes cranked while the boys are working out. I listen to all styles of music but Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam are at the top of my favorites list. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Eddie at the Chicago Cub’s fantasy camp.

Inside Edge Baseball – David Latlip

David Latlip (2nd/SS for 17 White) graduated from Blue Springs South with an impressive academic and baseball resume, one that was punctuated with an invitation to the MHSBCA All-State Senior Game. We sat down with David to talk about his baseball experience and how IE helped his development.

To start, how huge was the MHSBCA invitation?
That’s an incredible honor. I am totally humbled but very appreciative to be selected to play in the game. Getting the invitation and having the opportunity to play baseball with the best athletes in the state is a great reward for all the hard work I’ve put in over the years.

Congratulations! That is a huge honor. Looking back over the years, at all the hard work you put in, does any one coach stand out?
Coach Dave Silvestri. He taught me how to play the game more than any other coach. He has so much experience and knowledge to share, and he has a way of connecting with players. When you work with him, you know that he’s been there and done it. I’m also blown away by his game strategy. He would know where to put me on the field for every pitch. Those are lessons that I will carry with me forever.

I also owe a lot to Todd and Inside Edge Baseball Academy. Playing baseball at Inside Edge has been a blast…a totally fun experience. That might sound cliche, but Todd’s philosophy makes a huge difference in how we play the game, a difference that’s noticeable on and off the field. His approach carries over to the coaches, and inevitably to us players. Having fun simplifies the game. That helps everyone to play loose, which in turn, allows us to have a great time on the diamond.

I feel honored to be one of the first players to be a part of this great organization and I hope to continue to be a part of it for years to come. IE provided me with great coaches who helped me to learn the game and how to play it the right way. And, of course, you have fun playing, because in the end that is what it is all about!

Wow. That’s quite the testimony for Todd and everything he’s doing with Inside Edge Baseball. How would you translate that message for the young players?
I think it’s really two key messages. First and foremost, have fun. I know that’s said a lot, but it really is important to have fun while playing baseball. Otherwise, the game becomes work and nobody likes to work.

Second, and this is a big lesson I learned a few years ago: Life is too short to worry about things you can’t control. I realize the young kids may not understand that, so I would use a baseball analogy to explain it to them. For example, the umpire will make bad calls. Bad calls are part of baseball and there’s nothing we as players can do about it. So, rather than get upset with the ump, move on to the next play.

What about you? What should our readers know about you?
This is the hardest question of the day (laughing). I’m just a ballplayer. The Sandlot is my all-time favorite movie. Moneyball would be a close second, though, because it showed a different side of baseball.

Winning high school baseball districts might have been the best time of my life. That was a hard-fought game that meant so much to me and my school. To win it was incredible, almost an indescribable feeling.

Do you have a favorite band or music style?
Definitely alternative rock. Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Mumford and Sons are just a few bands that come to mind.

Favorite pro baseball team?
I was Raised Royal! Kansas City Royals all the way. They’re not only my favorite team, but Kauffman is also my favorite stadium. It’s such a beautiful place to watch a ballgame.

What do you enjoy when you’re not playing ball?
I really enjoy hanging with friends, going fishing, and eating pizza. I also love watching baseball, but I think we’ve already covered that.

Since you’re such a baseball guy, I’ve gotta ask the all-time baseball question: designated hitter–yes or no?
Yes! The pitcher should not hit in the National League. Pitching is too demanding. Those guys deserve a break when their side is up to bat.

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Inside Edge Baseball – Wolfe Weeks

Wolfe Weeks, who plays for 16 Red, is a standout student at Lee’s Summit West. The 2019 graduate currently has a 4.1 GPA and starts at pitcher or first base for the West JV team. If those stats don’t show it, he thrives in high-pressure, challenging situations–something he learned watching Mike Moustakas struggle in the 2014 season.

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Wolfe with a huge drive to right center field

You play first base but you say you learned the most from Mike Moustakas, who plays third base for the KC Royals. Can you explain that?
I’ve learned a lot by watching Mike Moustakas the last few seasons. In 2014, Moose was playing terrible baseball. He looked nervous during every at bat. The next season he appeared relaxed and seemed to enjoy the game. He went on to have his best season of his career that year. Watching him go through that I learned to relax and to not be uptight while playing.

Is Moose your favorite player?
While I’ve learned a lot from him and I enjoy watching him play, he’s not my favorite player. It’s actually Carlos Correa. I love his passion and the effort he gives to the game. I’m also a huge fan of Barry Bonds, the late Jose Fernandez, and Mike Trout.

Wow. Players from all over the league and history. With such a broad group of players, which is your favorite MLB team?
No doubt, the Royals. I’m a huge Royals fan and always will be. I love the way they play baseball and interact with their fans. Kauffman is also my favorite place to watch games because of its layout and the fact that there are no bad seats. I’ve been to Kauffman, Chase Field, Busch Stadium, and Angel Stadium. The two parks I want to visit the most are Safeco Field and AT&T Park.

What other favorites can you share with us?
I love biscuits and gravy! Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. I also like cereal and waffles. My favorite dinner would probably be either pizza or wings. Hip-hop and Rap are my favorite music styles. I love how raw it is and how the artists use that energy to understand and embrace the struggle. Guys like Logic, Vince Staples, and J. Cole aren’t afraid to open up and chase their dreams.

I enjoy watching sci-fi and adventure movies. They have interested me for as long as I can remember. Interstellar is my favorite movie. The story behind it really makes you think, and I love movies that challenge me that way.

Are you saying the struggle is real?
I guess so (laughing). I like to be in pressure situations, especially on the mound, because the best feeling in the world is getting out of a challenging situation. Some of that comes from my dad. He always told me to play every game like it’s my last and to enjoy every moment because it will be over in the blink of an eye.

It’s easy to understand how that advice helps you on the field. Is there a particular game or play that comes to mind where that advice really helped you?
Oh yeah. I hit the game winning homerun against Staley my freshman year. We were down 2 in the 7th. I hit a 3-run home run with 2 strikes and 2 outs. There’s huge pressure stepping into the box in that situation. Rather than worry about the outcome, I focused my attention on each pitch and simplifying my swing. The outcome was the result of staying calm under pressure. That was my best game…so far.

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Wolfe working with Coach Quantrill

How would you simplify that idea for young players?
Have fun. Don’t get caught up in slumps or hot streaks. You know what you’re capable of; focus on what you can do and have fun doing it. The results will be there.

Would you say that playing at Inside Edge Baseball challenges you?
No doubt. But, it’s been a challenge in the right way. There isn’t so much pressure as much as there are expectations that we will give our best effort every time. The coaches do a great job of managing situations for us, which gives us players the opportunity to learn how to apply strategy rather than pressure to get the best results. I love IE Baseball for that. Coach Mitchell has been there with me each year and has helped me through some tough stretches. I also like the access I’ve had to former pros like Paul Quantrill and Dave Silvestri. Both of those guys provide great perspective–they’ve been there and they know what it takes to compete. The travel and showcase tournaments are a good way to get out in the wider baseball community. Going on the road and playing at top universities has given me a better appreciation for what it takes to play at the next level. It’s also given me the chance to play in front of the area’s top scouts.

Inside Edge Baseball – Nick Wheeler

Nick Wheeler, Truman High School class of 2018, shares a few stories that illustrate why some consider him one of the nicest players at Inside Edge. Nick, who plays catcher, first base, and outfield, also tells how the motto, “Break it down to what you know,” has helped him earn a spot on the Varsity team every year that he has been at Truman.

ie-baseball-nick-wheelerLet’s start with your motto, “Break it down to what you know;” where did it come from and how does it apply to baseball?
My dad told me those simple words when I played little league. It stuck with me and I use it in everything I do, especially things that are a struggle. It has taught me to not overthink things and to keep everything simple. Baseball is a complicated sport, so keeping game scenarios simple–thinking only about the current play, the next pitch–helps to keep the game from getting out of control.

That’s a really good lesson. You’ve been seen around IE helping the younger players. Do you share this idea with them?
Absolutely. I give this advice to any young player that is into the game. Baseball is a grind. The game is designed for you to fail, so every time you don’t succeed, you have to keep grinding. Keeping it simple starts with focusing on fun. As a young player, you can’t let the bad outcomes keep you down; get back in the box and go after it. If you strikeout to end an inning, go on the field and make a play. I’m telling the young players to have fun and give every game all they’ve got because the next play is the greatest opportunity for success.

Have you seen the Inside Edge video Focus on Fun?
Yeah, that’s one of my favorite videos! It made me smile the first time I watched it. I love that Todd directs the academy with that mindset.

You’ve played on the Truman Varsity team every year. That’s quite the accomplishment that has surely given you a lot of great opportunities. Is there one that stands out?
The most memorable would be playing in my first varsity game as a freshman. We were in Columbia, Missouri playing Hickman Mills High School. The score was tied and I was called in to pinch hit as the lead-off in the 7th inning. I took the first pitch for a strike and then I got a fastball that I could handle. I lined it over the shortstop and rounded first. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins. Later in the inning, I came around to score and met all my buddies in the dugout. It was the best feeling I’ve had in a baseball game.

Nice job! Is there anything that would top that game situation?
Well, as a hitter, I still dream of getting up to bat in a tie game, with the bases loaded, 2 outs and a 3-2 count. That situation gets my blood pumping and fuels my fire to play the game. That is my dream situation and I’d take that situation over any situation in the game.

Has anyone else, other than your dad, inspired you to play the game?
Ken Griffey, Jr. I’d love to see him play. He’s on my ‘Field of Dreams.’ It would be a dream to watch him, to see how he played the game and how much fun he had playing it. Seeing him have success so quickly at a young age makes me believe I can put in the work and produce great results on the field.

You mentioned your Field of Dreams. Is there something behind that?
That’s my favorite movie, has been since the first time I saw it. I love the part where the couple and the little girl can see the players on the field but the man coming to take their farm couldn’t see anything at all. He thought the ball field was a pointless waste of valuable crop land. It was funny because the man thought the couple was crazy, but really he was the crazy one.

Do you have any other favorites?
I love steak, pasta, pizza and I recently found sushi. Friends has always been my favorite TV show because of how funny it is. And classic rock and roll! Bands like Guns ‘N Roses, Nirvana, Journey and AC/DC. And, of course, Kauffman stadium. It is the best place to watch a baseball game. The Royals have been my favorite team forever, even during the rough years. Seeing them not succeed for so many years has made the wait that much sweeter.

In closing, what would you say about playing at Inside Edge Baseball Academy?
Inside Edge means a lot to me. It has given me opportunities that I would never have a chance to do if I hadn’t played with this baseball club. I’ve met so many great people, coaches, and teammates, all of whom have become close friends. I’ve had the opportunity to play at colleges that I had no idea was even possible to play at while still in high school. I’ve made memories with this organization, from traveling to tournaments, to winning the big games. IE is a part of me. It’s a chapter in my life that I’m still writing and I look forward to keeping it going, to keep writing memories.

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Inside Edge Baseball – John Brady

John Brady is about as traditional baseball as a guy be. The sophomore pitcher from Blue Springs South High School loves Fenway Park, hot dogs, and dreams of stepping to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, down 2, with the bases loaded. And like a true traditionalist, John doesn’t like the designated hitter rule. We sat down with him to learn what drives his traditional sense of baseball.

Some people describe you as a traditional baseball player. Do you think that’s accurate?
I don’t know — I just enjoy playing the game. I do like a lot of “traditional” baseball things, though. My favorite park is Fenway. How can you not love the history of that place? And yes, hot dogs are my favorite food. Ketchup and mustard only, no pickles, sauerkraut, sesame seeds or other funky stuff–just meat, ketchup/mustard and bun. I also think pitchers should have to hit. The DH has no place in professional baseball.

Those are all pretty traditional. You mentioned doing away with the DH. Why do you think pitchers in the American League should have to bat?
I think all players should have to step in the box and make it happen. There shouldn’t be any free rides. Plus, taking the bat out of the pitcher’s hand changes the whole dynamic of the game. It almost makes it easier for the AL managers if they don’t have to find pitchers who can hit. So, yeah, the AL should do away with the DH.

So, would you say that you’re more of a National League fan?
I wouldn’t say that. The Royals are my favorite team. That said, Clayton Kershaw is my favorite player. Kershaw’s home run against Kontos a few years ago was pure magic!

Considering you are a pitcher, it’s not surprising that you pick Kershaw as your favorite player. Are any other players on your list?
Bo Jackson. Dude was an animal! His attitude always seemed to be Go For It All. He never gave up.

He’s a great pick! He was an amazing baseball player and all-around athlete who proved it by playing two sports. Do you play any other sports?
Yeah, I also play football. My primary position has always been quarterback. But, I have also played free safety and wide out. I’ve actually played football longer than I’ve played baseball. I played basketball and ran track for a few years but eventually gave them up to focus on baseball and football.

Of the two–football and baseball, which is harder to play?
That’s a tough question. Each one is hard in its own way. If I had to pick only one though, baseball is harder. There are too many challenges in baseball. Plus, because there’s no clock, you have to play the game out–9 innings, 27 outs. There’s no taking a knee in order to run out the clock.

Speaking of challenges, what’s your biggest challenge in baseball?
Pitching to lefties. I’ve always struggled with it. It’s getting easier but I sometimes struggle to hit my spots when someone is standing on the left side. I’m learning to manage the situation by focusing on the pitch, not the batter.

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Brady on the mound at a showcase in Illinois

That’s a great attitude for managing a challenge. Did someone teach you that or did you learn it on your own?
Probably both. Coach Boenker told me to always get ahead in the count. I applied that advice and started to focus on throwing my pitch. To make it happen, I set my grip, see the glove, and execute my motion. When I do that, it’s almost like the batter disappears. That mental focus helped me throw a no-hitter last year.

Wow! A no-hitter! That’s really awesome. What advice would you give to a young player, to pay it forward, as they say?
It’s funny but my advice wouldn’t be about baseball. Now that I’m in high school and starting to look at different colleges, I’m beginning to realize the importance of grades. My parents always told me to focus on grades, but it’s your parents, right. It wasn’t real until a scout asked for my GPA. Thankfully, I’m a pretty good student, so I was able to give a decent answer. But, for his first question to be about grades told me a lot. I would stress that to any young players.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?
There’s not a lot more to share. I’m a pretty normal guy. I watch ESPN, play XBox, enjoy hunting and fishing, and I love Adam Sandler movies. Waterboy is my favorite. “You can do it!”

In closing, can you tell us what playing for Inside Edge Baseball means to you?
Three things immediately come to mind. First, is the sense of community. One of my best baseball memories was traveling to St. Louis for a tournament last year. We had a great time on and off the field. Even though we played great, it’s the time hanging with the team families that I remember the most.

I also love that all the players and coaches focus on getting better. It doesn’t matter if it’s practice or a game, everyone brings an intensity to get better. Because of that, we have developed into an elite-level team that is ready to take on any just about anyone.

And lastly, I have to mention the sincere caring Todd Clausen and my coach John Boenker showed me. I broke my ankle last year on the last day of the high school tryout. I ended up in a boot for 7 weeks, which meant I missed the entire high-school season. That was a big hit that upset me pretty good. Todd and John both helped me through that trying time. They both talked with me and helped me understand that it was only a short setback. They also found ways to keep me involved at IE. They invited me to help coach the younger teams and I worked on pitching with other players. The caring they showed me really affected me in a GOOD way.

Call me traditional but that’s what IE Baseball is all about: community, respect, and a desire to always get better.

Inside Edge Baseball – Ben Lock

IE Baseball - Ben Lock Baseball Swing

We asked Ben Lock, the first baseman and pitcher for 17u Red, to share a bit about his college recruiting experience, what it takes to score a 30 on the ACT (that’s really good, by the way), and what playing for Inside Edge has done from him. His answers didn’t disappoint!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself–where do you go to high school, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the field, favorite band, best vacation spot…all that “not baseball” stuff.
A: I’m a senior at Lee’s Summit High School. When I’m not on the field or studying, I like to take it easy and watch TV or listen to music. My favorite movie is Talladega Nights and I love watching reruns of The Office. As far as music goes, it’s all country, all the time. My favorite is a toss up between Zac Brown Band and Justin Moore.

My perfect (non-baseball) moment would be spending extended time at some beach, somewhere. There are no worries and every day is all about fun. As for a perfect baseball moment, I really want to come in during the bottom of the ninth to close the World Series. Set your sights high, right!?

You’ve had a great high school experience. Can you tell us a little about it?
A: High school has been good to me. But, it has also taken a lot of hard work. School work has always been relatively easy for me. Last year, things got real with college applications on the horizon. I hit the books hard and was able to score a 30 on the ACT. That was a big achievement for me, one that will hopefully get me into the college of my choosing.

IE Baseball - Ben Lock Down and ReadyI’ve had a great high school baseball experience, too. I’ve earned a spot on the Varsity team for the past 3 years. And last year, I led the team in extra-base hits and batting average. I’ve worked hard this offseason so I can hopefully add a few more accolades to the list.

This year, I’m also focused on picking the best college to attend. It seems that I spend time every day talking with different college recruiters. I’m considering pre-med so I can eventually become a doctor. I want to play baseball at college too, so that’s factoring into my decision.

Q: Wow. That sounds like a lot. Can you share how Inside Edge has helped you with the college process?
A: Absolutely. There are a lot of baseball options in Kansas City. When I picked IE 4 year ago, a few factors guided my decision. First, it’s close to home. It really helps when the facility is a 10-minute car ride away. Second, while IE is a relatively new organization, Todd and Coach Quantrill really stress the right aspects of the game. Both of them have taught me a lot of great things that I use every day. And Coach Q, in particular, taught me how to handle the mental aspect of the game and how to truly be a pitcher. Lastly, IE does a great job of getting us in front of the right scouts and college recruiters. Those lessons and opportunities have opened several doors for me, any one of which could lead to a great college for me.

Q: Those are tough questions. How about a couple of easy ones. Who’s your favorite baseball player of all time?
A: Bo Jackson

Q: And what about current ball player?
A: Clayton Kershaw.

Q: Favorite pro sports teams?
A: KC Royals, the Chiefs, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Q: Favorite food?
A: It’s a toss up between chicken wings, cheeseburgers, and tacos. But, if I were stranded on an island and had to pick only one food, it’d definitely be cheeseburgers.

Q: What’s the best baseball advice you’ve ever been given?
A: I have to give props to Todd. To quote him: “Baseball is a marathon, people quit each year for different reasons if you want to be successful and love the game, then keep goin’.” Those words have kept me going the past 2 years. Thanks, Todd!

IE Baseball - Ben Lock First BaseQ: Any advice for young IE players?
A: Take in advice from every coach you encounter and always practice to find what works for you. Coaches all have a different way of doing the same thing. It’s your job as a player to listen to them, learn what they are saying, and then determine how that lesson applies to your game. It’s a tough thing to do, but good coaches have a way of making it easy. Through all of it, just keep pushing, which is the moto that’s helped get me where I am today. That applies to everything, not just baseball.

Inside Edge Baseball – Zach Dillman

Zach Dillman

We sat down with Zach, from the 15u Red team, to talk baseball, Tacos, and his experience playing with Inside Edge. He also shared great advice for younger players.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself–where do you go to high school, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the field, favorite band, car do you drive…all that not-baseball stuff.
A: I’m a freshman at Lee’s Summit West and I’m really just a pretty normal kid. I don’t have a favorite band…I like all kinds of music. If I’m not playing baseball, I like playing Xbox and basketball with my friends and just hanging out.

I don’t have a car, yet–I’m only 14, but I really want a Toyota Tacoma. 4×4, lifted, of course. I’ve always wanted one…there’s just something about getting to drive a car called a Taco.

Q: Favorite food?
A: No question, it’s steak. I like hamburgers, too. And tacos.

Q: How long have you played for Inside Edge Baseball?
A: 2017 will be my second season playing with Inside Edge Baseball. I started with Coach Roder when he first started the team, and I’ve really enjoyed every season. It’s been fun to watch a new team take shape.

Q: What positions do you play?
A: I’m a catcher, but I also play pitcher and infield. And, I love chasing down flyballs in the outfield. I guess I play all of the positions. When I first started playing baseball, I didn’t want to be limited to one position, so tried to learn all the positions. It’s hard to remember the details about each position, but I really enjoy the challenge.

Q: What’s your best baseball moment?
A: Without a doubt, it was hitting a grand slam last season. Everyone dreams about getting up with bases loaded and seeing your perfect pitch thrown. That night, I saw a low inside fastball coming and knew it was gone as soon as I made contact. I’m normally not a fast guy, but I was around second base before it cleared the fence. I was pumped!

Winning the local MLB Jr. Home Run Derby was really cool, too. I qualified to compete in regionals, which were in Chicago. I finished 5th out of almost 600 other boys. I missed making and moving on to hit at the MLB All-star Game by 1 HR. That was pretty heartbreaking, but it was also a good lesson to learn.

Q: Any advice for young IE players?
I’d say what my dad always says to me: have fun. Baseball is the hardest game to play. Hitting a baseball, throwing strikes, getting the footwork right on grounders; that’s all really hard to do. If you focus on having fun it all gets a lot easier and it keeps you from putting too much pressure on yourself. Having fun doesn’t mean being goofy or not playing with a purpose. It’s more about understanding that you will make errors and you will strike out and how you react when those things happen. The best thing about baseball is the fact that the next pitch is your next opportunity to do something good. Focus on that and play with a smile.

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