A few line-up changes have been made, including the addition of arguably the best hitting instructor in the nation -- turning an already outstanding baseball coaches clinic into a must for ALL coaches.

The annual Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Clinic is set for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17 and 18 at the BWI Marriott. It's open to coaches at all levels, from youth baseball to high school to college.

University of Illinois head baseball coach Itchy Jones headlines a lineup of outstanding instructors. Jones, who worked with ex-Orioleand now Houston Astro Steve Finley, is considered a dynamic speaker on the art of swinging the bat.

"Itchy does a dynamic three hours on hitting that all coaches should hear," says association member Bernie Walter, head baseball coach at Arundel High. "They say he is the highest paid coach in the country and you only have to hear him speakto understand why. He gives the best talk on hitting that I've ever heard."

That comes from a man who has attends clinics all over thecountry. Walter himself has put on one-man clinics in Maryland and beyond, earning quite a reputation as an instructor in his own right. His opinion of Jones adds credence to the coach's credentials.

Joining Jones, who will speak for three hours Friday night, will be suchother college coaches as Joe Arnold of the University of Florida, Jay Murphy of George Washington and Bill Brown of George Mason. In addition, Oakland A's coach Pete Richert, Orioles weightlifting coach Al Johnson and high school coaches Harry Lentz of Northeast, Roger Wrennof Patterson and Tim O'Brien of Wilde Lake.

Arnold will lecture on pitching. So will Richert, the ex-Orioles left-hander (1967-71). Murphy will speak on college recruiting, citing the positives and the no-no's, while Johnson will inform the coaches on what they should know about pumping iron.

Lentz, whose 1991 Eagles became the first inMaryland public school history to go unbeaten (24-0) and earn the No. 1 ranking in the country per Collegiate Baseball magazine, will also talk on hitting.

The dean of county coaches (24 years) is obviously well-versed on the subject. Northeast batted a robust .411 as a team and outscored its opponents, 326-59, including 63-8 in the state playoffs. In his tenure at the Pasadena school, Lentz, who is 325-168with three state championships, has produced some of the greatest hitters in county history: Rob Vereen, Lenny Herd, Don Gilbert, Andy Srebroski, Craig Everett and Don Shump.

Wrenn, who fields a perennial Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference contender at East Baltimore's Patterson, will lecture on base running. Wilde Lake's O'Brienwill speak on catching.

And that's not all. The clinic also will include two other interesting and vital lectures on arm care and Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rule changes.

Kevin McCoy, an ex-minor league pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers' system and current President of the Maryland Professional Baseball Players Association, will advise on taking care of your arm. McCoy manufactures ice sleeves for arms, a new item that helps prevent sore arms and related injuries.

"Kevin has a lot of good information on takingcare of arms,

which is something that all coaches should be awareof," Walter said.

Local umpire Tom O'Hara, who serves as a state rules interpreter, will go over various rule changes and any additions made for the upcoming season. His talk should be very valuable to even the youth baseball coaches, many of whom field teams in leagues that play under the National Federation of High School Baseball rules.

"We had a lot of high school coaches attend last year's clinic, but we are hoping that more summer coaches will come out this time," Walter said. "There is a lot to be gotten out of this clinic."

Baseball is the greatest game in the world. It's the only sport people talk about year-round and the only game that seems to be newsworthy 12 months a year.

I highly recommend this clinic to all coaches. Any wives out there looking to give a coaching daddy a surprise Christmasgift should consider this clinic.

The price is very reasonable: $50 for coaches association members, $55 for non-members who register early and $60 at the door. It's also very convenient for county residents, since it is being held in the Linthicum area, near the airport.

The clinic goes all day Friday (10 a.m. to 9:40 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.), with a social scheduled for 10 Friday evening.

Included in the price of the ticket is a bonus luncheon at noonSaturday, which will include a state awards ceremony and the organization's first State Baseball Hall of Fame inductions.

Among those to be inducted into the newly formed Hall will be former coaching greats Bob Lumsden of Baltimore Poly and Bill "Bumps" Vaughan of Bowie in Prince George's County. WBAL-TV's Vince Bagli, the dean of local sportscasters, will be enshrined as the Media Man of the Year.

To sign up or for more information, give Jim Miller a call at 410-838-2145.


In other hot stove baseball news, former Andover High star and 14-year major league veteran first baseman Jim Spencer and Baltimore Orioles' Scouting Supervisor Jim Gilbert are pushing to have the Baltimore City Rec and Parks 16-and-Under Cardinal Gibbons Baseball Tournament renamed for the late Sheriff Fowble.

Spencer is one of 12 Fowble proteges who made it to the big show. That dozen includes Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

Fowble, who passed away Dec. 6 at the age of 76, completed his 46th consecutive year coaching sandlot baseball over the summer. His first team was High's Ice Cream. Later it became Gordon's Stores, among other names; Harbor Federal was his final team.

Along the way, Sheriff won the Gibbons Championship a record 24 times. The tournament belonged to him. His Gordon's Stores teams went413-51 in a 12-year period (1951-'62), winning the prestigious Gibbons crown eight times in that span.

A host of Anne Arundel baseballplayers, including Minnesota Twins pitcher Denny Nagle from Arundel High, were coached by the Sheriff.

Spencer and Gilbert, who coached back in the early '70s against Fowble with the Brooklyn Optimist Boys Club, believe the city should rename the tournament for Sheriff because of the way his teams dominated the event and put it in the spotlight.

Renaming the tournament, however, might be tough, because of its long association with Cardinal Gibbons, a former Archbishop of Baltimore.

In my opinion, and the opinion of Spencer, Gilbert and many other baseball people, taking the Cardinal's name off the tournament would do no dishonor to the man. The cardinal has a well known southwest Baltimore high school named after him, and it was in education that he made his mark.

Sheriff made his mark in that baseball tournament.

A contingency plan for Spencer and the Fowble supporters is to name one of the baseball diamonds at Patterson Park after him. That's not bad, but the Sheriff Fowble 16-and-Under Baseball Tournament sounds better.

Sheriff and his wife and scorekeeper, Virginia, had no children, but a family of over 600 boys during his 46-year run. Sheriff was to be honored by the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Jan. 18 as the Amateur Coach of the Year for the state.

Virginia, who was named the Amateur Baseball Woman of the Year for Maryland in 1990 by the coaches association, will accept the awardfor her late husband.

Anyone in Anne Arundel County who favors naming the baseball tournament after Sheriff should call Baltimore Rec and Parks at 396-7016.

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