YOUTH BASEBALL: Local academy aims to build better ball players
When Gold Country Baseball Academy founder and president Zach Viselli was a 12-year old playing Little League he used to daydream about building a team comprised of the best young baseball players from around Nevada County and traveling to face teams from all over Northern California.
Now, more than 20 years later, he is making his dream come true for the current crop of youth baseball players.
“It’s been kind of a dream of mine,” Viselli said of opening the baseball academy. “When I was 12 years old, and All-Stars was over, I thought about how cool it would be to take three guys from Nevada City, two or three guys from Grass Valley, two or three guys from Bear River, two or three guys from Penn Valley, and put a team together and travel and go compete.”
That’s exactly what Viselli and the Gold Country Baseball Academy has done with six traveling teams and a total of 85 players.
“Our mission is to build quality baseball in Nevada County from tee ball to high school, girls and boys,” Viselli said. “It doesn’t matter your ability. I want the top-of-the-line kid to the kid that wants to simply learn baseball.”
The academy began in August, and Viselli said he has seen a great response from players, parents and the community.
“It has been unbelievably humbling to see the support from the parents,” Viselli said. “I can’t thank them enough. This wouldn’t happen without them.”
The academy features teams at the 8U, 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U and Developmental levels. Players train at the team’s facility in Grass Valley and have field practices during weekday’s and travel for tournaments on weekends.
Gold Country Baseball Academy coach and trainer Russell Brackett said Nevada County has sorely needed another baseball option in addition to Little League.
“I always wanted to help high school kids be successful and that could be helping these kids right now, so when they get to the high school level they’re prepared,” he said.
Bracket added that baseball also teaches players greater life lessons.
“Baseball taught me how to succeed and how to fail, and how to succeed while failing,” he said. “It’s good to be able to teach these kids from a young age the right way to approach not only baseball but life.”
For Brackett, its always been a dream of his to be able to give back to the community through baseball.
“The one thing I always wanted was to give back,” Brackett said. “Baseball has been so good to me as a person, growing from a kid to a man and I still play to this day.”
Viselli and Brackett both said the academy players have been extremely receptive to their training methods and coaching styles and have seen vast improvement from most of their players.
For 12U player Joe Pardini, the Gold Country Baseball Academy offers him a chance to keep playing ball with his friends and become the type of baseball player he wants to be.
“I really love baseball and I thought it would be a good thing for me to do, so I can get better and play the way I want to play,” Pardini said.
For 13U player Noah Sims, the academy offers a local option for travel baseball and a deeper level of training.
“It’s a good group, good facility and it’s close. There’s not a lot of travel teams around here,” Sims said. “I like all the drills we do. We don’t just work on hitting, we work on mechanics and all that stuff.”
Sims said he has seen lots of improvement in his pitching, citing his work with coach Jim Amaral.
Other Gold Country Baseball Academy coaches include Jarett Roenicke, Sam Keen, Chris West, Trevor Hassfeld, Mark Smith, Forrest Harrison, Brackett and Viselli.
When Viselli first decided to start the academy, he said he wasn’t exactly sure how it would go.
“When we started it was a coin toss,” he said. “How many kids were we going to get? Is it going to work? How is it going to work? And, its just been awesome for the community and for the kids. The response has been unbelievable.”
Viselli said the outpouring of support from players and parents as well as the amount of interest from the community has him envisioning a bigger and better academy in the near future.
“It’s turning into a full-fledged academy,” Viselli said. “Let’s build these kids, there is so much talent. It’s unbelievable to see how the kids have responded to the coaching.”
Viselli added the academy isn’t strictly fall ball, but a year-round endeavor and is planning to have his teams compete in tournaments through January, February and beyond.
For more information about the Gold Country Baseball Academy, visit http://goldcountrybaseball.com.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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