Puyallup: Sports

Wiese Baseball Academy teaches life lessons through baseball

Kids watch as Justin Begley takes part in batting practice during the Wiese Baseball Academy at Heritage Park in Puyallup last week.
Kids watch as Justin Begley takes part in batting practice during the Wiese Baseball Academy at Heritage Park in Puyallup last week. jbessex@gateline.com

Every summer, aspiring baseball players come out to take lessons from one of the brightest minds in high school baseball at the Wiese Baseball Academy at Heritage Field.

Puyallup High and USA baseball coach Marc Wiese has established a reputation as one of the top coaches in the game. From his time playing in the New York Mets organization (1988-1989) to being an 11-time SPSL coach of the year over his 20-year career with the Vikings, Wiese has always had the knack to get the best out of the players he reaches.

Players from all over the state, and several from outside of Washington — including two from Hawaii — came to Puyallup last week to hone their baseball skills under the watchful eye of Wiese.

“It’s so much more than just coming out to hit ground balls or (hitting the cages). It’s building life. It’s building life lessons through baseball,” said Derek Jennings, an instructor for WBA and also the coach of Wilson High. “(Wiese) is one of those guys who can instill confidence in a player or a coach, and that’s what we want do — teach these guys that when life gets tough, what do you do? You get back up and go back at it again. You have to have that mindset in baseball, and in life.”

And that’s exactly what the WBA camp is intended to do over the three weeks the camp runs. With participants paying $160 per week ($400 discounted for attending every week), the goal is to have these kids leaving one step better than they arrived.

“We got some real good young kids who have a passion for the game. It’s a lot of fun,” Wiese said. “It’s not a day camp, it’s a baseball camp where the goal is for the kids to get better. Every rep means something, every rep is a quality rep. I think the key is our coaches instill that energy and love for the game.”

Always having an eye for talent, Wiese has brought in some of the state’s best motivators and instructors to push kids to their limits in shagging pop flies or digging out grounders out in the field, to basic hitting mechanics and having the right approach in the cage.

People like Jennings, who played six years as a shortstop with the Seattle Studs as well as in the Frontier Independent League, and Brady Steiger, a former all-state player with South Kitsap High who also spent time in the New York Yankees system (2013-2014).

“We talk about when you’re here, you should take every opportunity to hear what the coaches are talking about getting better in the game,” Wiese said. “Kids have to learn to be coachable. For most of the kids, we talk about eye contact and being engaged. If a coach is talking to somebody else in your group, you should be sponging all that information in (as well). If there’s one thing these players should get is the respect and want to be coached.”

Even with the serious, more focused tone, the WBA camp has created an attitude within its camp. Jennings dubbed it a “putting that Superman on your chest” sort of attitude that a person has to have to survive the grind of the sport.

And baseball is a grind with no equal.

“You’re always adjusting to the game. In the minors, it’s a at-bat by at-bat approach, but in the (MLB) you have to shake off each pitch. You have to make a pitch-by-pitch adjustment,” Jennings said. “In high school, you can make the game-by-game adjustments, but what we’re trying to do is shorten that to help them become successful.”

In a sport that glorifies failure like no other — where someone who gets a hit 30 percent (.300 batting average) of the time can be a star — it’s understanding how to take those losses to make the adjustments needed to move on.

It’s a pitch-by-pitch world, and the quicker that’s understood, then improvements can be made. Seeing those little adjustments means everything to the coaches at the WBA.

“It’s honestly that moment when I’m glad I got my glasses on because my eyes fog up a little bit,” Jennings added. “Maybe it’s once a year you get one, but once a year is enough. When you see a guy just finally get it, I mean, you know that it’s going to be better for his life.”

As Wiese roamed around the baseball fields and the cages just beyond center field, his tough-love rang through to the kids under his wing.

As a talented player from the 11-year-old group struck out against Rogers High graduate Michael Sexton, Wiese stopped the activities to shout out one question meant for everyone to hear.

“When you strikeout like that, what do you do?” Wiese blared, only to hearing a resounding response that cracked a smile on the old coach’s face.

“You get him back next time. That’s right — you have to let this one go and move on to the next. You get him next time,” he said to the campers.

When that same player walked up his next at-bat, he cranked out an opposite field shot on the first pitch from Sexton.

All Wiese could do was cheer, because to him, that’s how you win at baseball.