At the Clubhouse, get baseball tips from pros
Published 7:38 am, Sunday, March 11, 2012
There are many batting cages offering individual instruction.
There aren't many that offer instruction from three former major-league ballplayers.
That's the case at the Clubhouse in Fairfield, where owner Mike Porzio, a Fairfield Prep grad who pitched three years with the Chicago Whitesox and Colorado Rockies, has brought on Willie Upshaw, the current Bridgeport Bluefish manager who played with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians and Angel Echevarria, the Bridgeport native who went onto to play six years with the Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
Additionally, the Clubhouse offers Adam Greenberg, whose career was cut short by a beaning in his first major league at bat and Ashley Waters, a Stratford Brakette who specializes in instructing female softball players.
"Through our experiences of having been there, I think we are able to provide helpful, reliable instruction and truthful feedback," said Porzio. "We want each one of our students to feel better about themselves and their abilities when they leave."
So Porzio said the instruction is modified to each player's needs.
"If it's a player currently sitting on the bench, our goal is to help him make the regular lineup. If the player is a regular, we'd like to turn him into an All-Star," Porzio said. "If he's an All Star, we want them to get a college scholarship ...we've already had dozens of players who have gone onto the Major League draft."
Porzio's staff also offers assistance to teams and groups, and runs summer camps.
"Most players don't need to be here all the time," Porzio said. "Some pointers go a long way to straightening out swings and perfecting motions."
Warming Mulligan up with soft tosses, Echevarria repeatedly talks to him about form, balance and center of gravity.
"You're opening up your back foot," the former outfielder says as Mulligan pounds a ball into the ground. "You're dropping your shoulder," Echevarria says after a popup.
But after a few minutes of instruction and concentration, Mulligan begins ripping line drive after line drive.
Echevarria believes in repetition.
"You do it enough times and it's going to become automatic," he said.
"Not everyone who was a major league baseball player can be an instructor," says Echevarria, whose trained eye sees each imperfection. "You have to be able to communicate with kids. Sometimes what is easy for me is not easy for someone else."
When he's through with batting, Mulligan moves to the pitching mound set against a Fenway Park backdrop. Here Porzio takes over.
"Balance and form are the keys," Porzio tells him. "It's not easy to hold it. If it was we'd have more big leaguers than truck drivers."
He corrects the boy's motion, urges him to be more explosive in his movement towards the plate, and then watches as Mulligan fires fastball after fastball into a catcher's glove.
When he's done, Mulligan admits that in the month he's been going to The Clubhouse "they've helped me a lot."
The Clubhouse, located behind the Gap at 2215 Black Rock Turnpike, is open seven days a week year round by appointment. They have special rates and sessions for teams and during the summer they run camps outside.