By STEVE KRAH
Better offense through science.
Following the scientific methods prescribed by Mike Marks at the Hitters Edge training facility in Sturgis, Mich., has helped players going after high school state titles in Indiana.
Among Marks’ weekly pupils are Penn seniors Nolan Metcalf (Kansas University commit), Niko Kavadas (Notre Dame) and Trevor Waite (Dayton) and junior Payton Kerr and St. Joe seniors Tony Carmola and Tyler Kleva (Trine).
“I use analytics and metrics to help them reach their potential,” says Marks. “I’m not the traditional baseball trainer.
“All you have to do is give good athletes information. All I do is use science to prove it to them and then they understand it.”
Marks gets hitters to be able to analyze their own swings.
“I want to know what they did wrong, so they can make an adjustment,” says Marks. “It’s more of a college/pro tech approach. We want a kid to be low maintenance at the next level.”
Marks, who started coaching his own Kalamazoo, Mich., area travel team in 2002-03 and worked at Around The Horn baseball school in Kalamazoo 2004-07 before starting his own place in Sturgis in 2008, talks about the kinetic chain of energy, building the swing from he bottom up.
Metcalf, the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association district player of the year for 2017, has been going to Marks since age 12 with Kavadas, Waite, Carmola and Kleva plus Mishawaka Marian senior Riley Tirotta (Dayton), South Bend Clay senior Trenton Stoner (Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne) also being longtime students. Kerr and South Bend Adams senior Spencer Nelson are newer clients.
Unlike the traditional approach, Marks encourages his hitters to drive the baseball in the air.
“We do not hit down on the ball like I was taught 20 years ago,” says Marks, who played at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich. “Line drives over the infielders’ heads leads to extra-base hits. I’d rather see a deep ball to center field than a grounder to shortstop.”
It’s an exciting moment when hitters can inform Marks they had 0 percent ground balls on 100 swings.
The Hitters Edge facility Wall of Fame is filled with many current and former Major League Baseball hitters at the point of contact.
Marks encourages his hitters to find a match and then goes about breaking them down.
“There is a small reconstruction period with kids,” says Marks. “I break the kids down to nothing to teach them core movements that they need to know.
“I want to teach them technique first. Then they can put their own style to the swing.”
Hitters are encouraged to have quick hands and not get jammed at the plate.
Marks wants his hitters to build muscle memory and to become unpredictable at the plate by being able to use all fields and not just pull or hit to the opposite field.
“Then they don’t know how to pitch to you,” says Marks.
IHSAA State Finals players have been tough outs in 2017. Witness some of the Penn numbers.
Penn left-swinging lead-off man Waite is hitting .491 with six home runs, five triples, eight doubles and 40 runs batted in.
Righty Metcalf (.410, 4 HR, 7 2B, 36 RBI), lefty Kavadas (.370, 4 HR, 3 3B, 9 2B, 26 RBI) and righty Kerr (.377, 1 HR, 5 2B, 23 RBI) have also been potent.
Then there’s righty-swinging St. Joe boys Carmola (.446, 3 HR, 4 3B, 12 2B, 28 RBI) and Kleva (.360, 1 HR, 9 2B, 31 RBI).
Hitters Edge instructor Mike Marks meets up with three pupils (from left): Penn High School and Indiana Nitro travel baseball players Trevor Waite, Nolan Metcalf and Niko Kavadas. The three Kingsmen have helped their team into the 2017 IHSAA Class 4A state championship game.