The coaching team was headed by John Vodenlich, Head Baseball Coach for the NCAA Division III powerhouse University of Wisconsin Whitewater Warhawks and Mark Fuller of the Cumberland Beavers, another Wisconsin-based team.
L-R: Steve Saltzberger; Coach Mark Fuller; Pietro Sollecito; Coach Vodenlich; Freddy Vibert; Ken Thomas
As they waited for the session to start, any of the players who had read this season’s most talked about book, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, might have begun to worry a little. Set in the fictional Wisconsin college of Westish, the college baseball team’s training regimes are punishing. One character says: "A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer."
Fortunately for these baseball hopefuls, Coach Vodenlich is not a good coach, he is an outstanding coach. He concentrates on developing skills, application and attitude and his methods lean towards encouragement and positive reinforcement, not suffering and torture.
Before taking the players through series of stations at which their athleticism, fielding and hitting were all evaluated, Coach Vodenlich told them that in selecting players for his programme he was looking for skills, not positions. In fact all but one of his NCAA DIII Championship winning team of 2005 had been shortstops in high school.
Winding up the session, Coach Vodenlich told the players he had been impressed with what he had seen and to keep working on their game. Generously, he made an open offer to all of them to answer their questions about college baseball or, if he couldn’t, to try put them in touch with someone who could.
The session ended with thanks to Coaches Vodenlich and Fuller and to the coaches who assisted on the night from the Mets and other baseball organisations, especially the Cobham Cougars and the players' parents. Each player will receive a personal evaluation on their performance by e-mail.
The session was organised by Pietro Sollecito of the London Mets Baseball Club in co-operation with the British Baseball Federation.