An item Post 455 head coach Bruce Bolick loaned has gone a long way for second-year player Brandan Jones.
Jones, who red-shirted during the fall and halfway through the spring at Southern Wesleyan University, was loaned a â€˜Quick Swingâ€™ hitting tool and boy, has it made a difference.
In his final year of American Legion baseball, the 19-year old product from West Lincoln is batting .441 with nine RBIs through the teamâ€™s first 11 games. Last summer, Jones batted under the Mendoza line (a baseball term that signifies a batterâ€™s average is beneath.200).
The idea of the â€˜Quick Swingâ€™ is really quite simple. You put the ball in a tube and the batter waits until the ball is about to exit the tube before he swings.
The idea is it will make a hitterâ€™s hands quicker.
â€œI started using it when I got home this year and Iâ€™m more confident. Iâ€™m just seeing the ball real good,â€ Jones said.
The center fielder, who is just as humble off the field as competitive on it, is convinced the â€˜Quick Swingâ€™ has helped him dramatically improve at the plate.
He also believes eyeing college pitching for a year aided his progress.
â€œItâ€™s not about how hard you swing all the time; itâ€™s about just putting it in play and seeing what happens,â€ Jones said, who appeared in four games a relief pitcher at the end of the season.
While Post 455â€™s outfielder had a golden opportunity to analyze college pitching; he wasnâ€™t able to garner any at-bats to see how he would fare until this summer.
â€œIt made me more hungry to hit and see what I could do. If anybody asked me at the beginning of the season how I was going to hit; I would have told them not good,â€ Jones said.
The improvement Jones has made as a batter hasnâ€™t been lost on legion coach.
â€œHeâ€™s gained strength in his hands and forearms. His bat has gotten a lot quicker from last year,â€ Bolick said.
While Jonesâ€™ emergence as a hitter has only happened this summer, one thing has always remained a constantâ€”his ability to play the outfield.
If youâ€™ve watched a Post 455 game, chances are high youâ€™ve seen Jones rob an opponent of an extra-base hit.
Kenneth Jones, Brandanâ€™s biological father, and Brandanâ€™s uncles used to throw softballs to him in the outfield, in an effort to get him used to chasing down fly balls.
Has it ever worked.
Bolick, who has coached baseball for over three decades, believes Jones is a stellar defender. After all the outfielders heâ€™s seen come down the pike thatâ€™s quite a compliment.
â€œBrandan can really run them down,â€ he said. â€œHeâ€™s well above average. He gets great jumps and covers a lot of ground.â€
Itâ€™s not only Jonesâ€™ ability to make a spectacular play look routine that stands out to his coach. Itâ€™s also his communication with his teammates.
â€œHe brings experience. He helps his fellow outfielders and the infielders on shallow fly balls.. Heâ€™s always talkingâ€”yelling back or in to help them out,â€ Bolick said.
Jonesâ€™ hitting isnâ€™t the only thing that has turned around for Denver this summer. More importantly, their team success has done a 180.
Denver, who the youngest legion team in the area last season, limped its way to a two-win season. This year, they stand at 8-5.
What has made the biggest difference?
â€œI donâ€™t think the boys realized the level of competition we play at in legion, which many people donâ€™t,â€ Jones said. â€œAnd it helps that weâ€™re hitting,â€ he added.
Jones doesnâ€™t buy the youth excuse. Instead, he believes it just took a year for he and his teammates to jell with each other.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t say the reason we lost last year was because we were young. Last year, it was a whole new team. Coach Bolick only had a couple people coming back from the previous year.â€
With just six games remaining in the regular season, itâ€™s clear to Jones what the team needs to do to assure a playoff slot.
â€œWe have to keep hitting the ball and scoring runs. The main thing to win a ballgame, other than hitting, is keeping our walk-count down and errors.â€
The problem hasnâ€™t been Denverâ€™s ability to produce hits and runs, but rather how much of a window of opportunity they give the other team.
â€œAs a team, we find ways to get on base and find ways to score runs, but we give other teams more opportunities than ourselves to win a ballgame,â€ Jones said.
by John Mark Brooks