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Tuesday, June 24, 2014
North Augusta High School's new head baseball coach, Matt Branon, is looking to make his impact on the program.
The annual Yellow Jacket baseball camp at Riverview Park was another way for him to do just that.
“The first day we had 24 show up, and we added a couple more each day,” he said. “It has been really good.”
Branon, who was an assistant coach with South Aiken, said he is coaching three summer ball teams in addition to this camp.
“Luckily I have some good assistants helping me out, otherwise I couldn't do it all,” he said. “Being able to practice with those younger kids, the rising seventh graders, has been a pretty good thing. It's letting me lay eyes on as many kids in the program as I possibly can. After a few weeks I'm starting to get a pretty good grasp on what we have here. I'm excited to move forward.”
Branon said the “cupboard is not bare” in terms of talent.
“I'm loving what we have with our varsity kids,” he said. “They're really out here working hard. They've been playing doubleheaders throughout the week. They're approaching things the right way. Even more than that is just the interest. They're out here in our camp; we have almost every varsity player here with the exception of the football players. What's good is that there is talent at the young levels, too. I can't keep them away from the ballpark, so as a baseball coach, that's pretty fun.”
One of the players helping out with the camp was Seth Owens, a rising junior center-fielder and pitcher.
“We thought it would be a nice opportunity; these guys are the future of North Augusta,” he said. “They'll be playing under the same lights that we are. It's good to see the upcoming players and how they can develop. That way when you come back you can say ‘oh yeah, I trained with him back in the day.'”
Owens said Branon has a “more aggressive style” than he and his teammates are accustomed to, but that they are “taking to him pretty well.”
“Coach (Vic) Radcliff was a very smart guy and a very smart baseball coach, and I enjoyed him,” he said. “However, Coach Branon has really influenced me in many different strategies. He has also helped us with many fundamental parts of our game that we may have been missing before.”
Branon said he told his camp-goers that many of the things they were working on are the same things the older players are also doing.
“We're breaking down fundamentals,” he said. “We're working on the basics, and at the same time, we're showing them what to expect when they get to the age where they can come out. We're working on defensive fundamentals; the simple stuff of breaking down on a ground ball, how to get behind a fly ball and stuff like that. We spent a little time with baserunning; just total fundamentals.”
In addition to the fundamentals, the players had cage tournaments at the end of each day. Branon said that while the fundamentals are important, he also wanted to show the kids how much fun the game of baseball can be.
The camp would not have been possible without the help of Branon's players.
“This is a good group of kids,” he said. “They had such a good foundation coming into this that the transition has been easy. I think that the willingness for them to get out here and do this; it's not a mandatory thing. It's just a credit to the kids.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheScottRodgers.