The Milton Mad Dogs coaches at the 11U and 9U levels might have started something special in the past couple of years.
“Building tomorrow’s champions today. Bringing championship baseball back to Milton,” said 9U coach Joel Holcomb, referring to some statements that have been used to represent his team.
Holcomb said 2015 is the first year the 9U team has played together, but the 11U team has been playing as a group for a couple of seasons now. Chris Campbell and Chris Kilen coach the 11U team.
Campbell, who coaches with the Janesville Craig junior varsity team, said he used to coach youth in Janesville but then decided to leave there and do his own thing with Kilen. They put together the first Mad Dogs team last year, and it took off.
“We had tryouts last year and actually we had 10 kids show,” Campbell said. “I think we were very new, so not a lot of people knew about us. This year, we’ve actually gotten quite a few phone calls so we’ll be putting a tryout together for our next year’s team in late fall probably.”
Despite the low turnout originally, Campbell’s team has done quite well this season. The 11U team is 29-9 overall with one more tournament left this summer. The team has travelled to Omaha, Neb., Jacksonville, Ill., Rockford and Wisconsin Dells for tournaments. Both age groups are only tournament teams and do not play a normal season schedule during the week.
Next season, Campbell said he is hoping to be able to take his team to a tournament in either Cooperstown, N.Y., where the National Baseball Hall of Fame is, or to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“Something that Chris and I have gone by together is to focus on the task at hand, each and every pitch, swinging, running and scoring situation,” Campbell said. “We just want the kids to learn the fundamentals of baseball and play the game the way it was meant to be played.
“We practice two to three times during the week on situations and fundamentals, trying to teach the mental aspect of the game as well … I try to take what I teach the older kids and teach it to younger kids. People look at baseball as kind of being a boring sport, but there’s so much to learn in baseball.”
Although Holcomb’s team is a couple years younger, he said the coaching staff decided that the boys should start playing together at a young age because it will benefit them once they start playing together at the middle and high school levels.
“It builds cohesiveness and familiarity between the players, plus the coaches have a love for the game and know how it can be coached right,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said they try to center their attention on kids who go to Milton schools, or kids who live in the district and might go to a parochial school somewhere. His team has played in about seven tournaments and placed first, second or third in every tournament so far this summer, including two championships and two runner-up finishes.
“To take a new team and finish that well in the quality of tournaments that we’ve played in is something that we’re really proud of,” Holcomb said. “We’ve talked to other coaches who have been at it a while, and they’ve also been impressed with how we’ve been able to immediately have success.”
Both teams host fundraisers to defer some of the cost to the families of some of the trips. The 9U team has a golf outing at Prairie Woods Golf Course coming up. For more information on the teams, visit their respective Facebook pages at http://ow.ly/PR9Zz (9U) and http://ow.ly/PRa6W (11U).
“For the kid who wants to take baseball to a different level, we’re more than happy to talk to them,” Campbell said.