Youths learn some big-league lessons

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 8/16/17

Most of the young baseball players didn't know anything about their coaches, but it really didn't matter, since the tutors were all former major league baseball players.

There were 125 youngsters …

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Youths learn some big-league lessons

Posted

Most of the young baseball players didn't know anything about their coaches, but it really didn't matter, since the tutors were all former major league baseball players.

There were 125 youngsters divided into age groups that took part in the Legends for Youth clinic presented by the Major League Baseball Players Association Alumni Association on Aug. 4 at Lakewood's All-Star Park.

One of the ex-big leaguers on hand to show the young players the fundamentals of the game was Skip Jutze, a 71-year-old resident of Highlands Ranch.

Jutze, a Bayside, New York, native, spent all or parts of six seasons in the major leagues as primarily a catcher with St. Louis, Houston and Seattle. He was the first player in Mariners history to hit a grand slam home run.

He played briefly for the Triple A Denver Bears and liked the city enough to move to Colorado.

"I got here because of baseball," Jutze said. "I was here for two weeks when the Bears were with the Houston organization. I was called up right after that but when I was here I said, 'This is where I'm staying.' I just fell in love with it."

Other big leaguers at the event included former Aurora Hinkley standout Brian Fisher, who pitched seven seasons in the major leagues, and Mark Knudson, a Northglenn High School grad, who was a pitcher for all or parts of eight seasons with four teams.

Jutze - who coached at Regis University and at the high school level at Jefferson, Wheat Ridge, Colorado Academy and Columbine - says the game hasn't changed.

"Three outs, three strikes and four balls," he said. "The thing that has changed is the physical ability of the people who participate. They are much bigger and stronger and the equipment is better. The actual playing of the game hasn't changed.

"While I played Little League, we played 12 games in the summer. When my son played, they also played 12 and tournaments and everything else. So he might have played 60 games in the summer. I don't think it's good for the individuals that participate, but coaches in high school want you to specialize in one sport. I'd rather see a kid play a sport in the fall, a sport in the winter and a sport in the spring where you can develop some other skills."

Fall sports season begins

Summer vacation is over - although it seems these days that high school athletes have very few down days because of club and off-season training.

Still, the fall sports season officially began Aug. 7 when boys golfers opened practice. All other fall sports could begin practice Aug. 14.

Boys golfers can have their first tournament on Aug. 10. Boys tennis teams are allowed to open the competitive season Aug. 17 and girls softball Aug. 18. Other sports can begin play with games on Aug. 24, with the football season openers set for Aug. 31.

Enrollment or success?

There's a new subcommittee that might change the look of competition in the Colorado High School Activities Association.

The Classification and League Organization Committee created the subcommittee to examine the current Colorado classification system, which has been based on school enrollment for the past 84 years.

One possible change could be to move larger or smaller schools up or down in classification depending on success or lack of success. California uses a system based on success.

Hopefully, the subcommittee will not consider adding another classification to a system that is already overloaded with classes.

Any recommended changes from the subcommittee would be considered for the 2020-22 two-year cycle.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083. 

Jim Benton

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