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Archive for the ‘Athlete of the Week’

Alex Markwardt

September 01, 2011 By: Admin Category: Athlete of the Week 8 Comments →

Alex, a 13 year old from Phoenix, AZ, is our Student-Athlete of the Month. He is a 8th grader at Madison #1 Middle School where he maintains an “A” average. He also plays in the jazz band. Alex is a two-sport star and is tremendously talented both on and off the field. In 7th grade he was a shooting guard on the JV Basketball team and he made the Varsity Baseball team as a first baseman.

I first met Alex back in the Summer of 2007. He and his older brother Erik took private lessons with me and it was then that I noticed his smooth left handed swing. Erik is 4 years older, but Alex was always holding his own in the batting cage. We would do a hitting competition worth points at the end of each lesson and the winner always enjoyed bragging rights on the long ride home.  Alex would go on to attend our camps and clinics over the years and also played in the Arizona Baseball League for the past three seasons. In 2008 he played for the (AA) Cubs and in 2009 he was on the (AA) Giants. In 2010 I had the pleasure of coaching him on the (AAA) Astros. He was our top catcher  and one of our best pitchers during the Fall & Winter seasons. He also played the corner infield positions and excelled at 1st base.  One of the highlights of the Fall Season that year was the dominance Alex had over the Mets in the opening round of the Fall playoffs. This year he has joined the 15U Vikings club team.

Outside of the playing field Alex has other interests. He is a certified scuba diver and he loves to ski. In the future he would love to play in the pros, but if that does not work out he is looking into the NCIS Division of law enforcement. One thing I am certain of is that Alex will excel at whatever he puts his mind to. I look forward to seeing the man and leader that he will one day become.

Travis Giam

October 13, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week 1 Comment →

Travis GiamTravis, a 14 year old from Scottsdale, AZ, is our Student-Athlete of the Week. He is a 9th grader at Horizon High School where he maintains a 3.5 grade point average. Travis is an extremely bright young man and the classroom is not the only place that he shines.

We first came across this talented athlete in the Winter of 2008. Travis played for the (AA) Reds in the Arizona Baseball League and made the All-Star Team. He also represented the Reds in the 2008 Home Run Derby. In 2009 Travis was elevated to the (AAA) League where he played for the Diamondbacks and was an integral part of their Fall Championship team. He quickly picked up the nickname “Giambi” from AZBL coaches after they watched him crush baseball after baseball into the outfield during the season. In 2010 Travis returned to the (AAA) League and was drafted by the Cardinals. He was just recently named the AZBL Player of the Week after going 5 for 7 with 4 Runs Scored, 3RBI & 1 Stolen Base in the Cards first 2 games of the Fall Season.

Travis has a special blend of speed & strength which makes him an elite athlete. In addition to his prowess on the baseball field, he also holds a purple belt in Karate and masters this craft at the Scottsdale Martial Arts Center. After watching Travis crush a baseball 300 feet into the left-center gap, I would not like to find myself on the mat with this powerful young man.

When it comes down to it Travis is still your average 14 year old at heart. Like most kids his age he likes playing video games and hanging out with his family at home. In the future he aspires to be an engineer once his baseball career comes to a close. Travis truly is one of my favorite players that I have had the pleasure of coaching because of his pure heart, great hustle and quiet demeanor. I have no doubts in my mind that he is going to grow up to be a tremendous man and future leader in our country.

Stephen Kaneko

August 19, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week No Comments →

Stephen KanekoStephen, a 14 year old from Mesa, AZ is our Student-Athlete of the Week. He is a 9th grader at Desert Ridge High School and he carries a 3.4 Grade Point Average. His favorite class is History and he is also very talented with his hands. He is a phenomenal sketcher and is also ambidextrous. We found this out first hand on the field.

We first met Stephen last winter when he played for the A’s in the Arizona Baseball League. He helped lead his team to the Southern Division Championship over the favored Orioles and also the AZBL Championship over the North Division Champion Dodgers. He is extremely versatile on the field due to the fact that he can throw well with both hands and hit from both side of home plate. This is almost unheard of for a player to be able to do both of these things and it will give his high school coaches a lot of flexibility with their lineup when they have Stephen on their team.

I also had the pleasure of working with Stephen this summer at our Baseball Camp up in Flagstaff, AZ. He was voted the MVP of the camp due to the fact that he was the strongest performer in the criteria we use to select our most valuable players- Attitude, Leadership, Talent & Work Ethic. He excelled in all categories and was a great example for the younger players who attended.

His future goals include playing baseball at the collegiate level and also serving our country in the military. Like most kids his age he enjoys playing video games and spending time out on the diamond honing his baseball skills. He is a wonderful young man and I look forward to seeing him grow into one of our future leaders.

Justin Haas

July 01, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week No Comments →

Justin HaasJustin, a 13 year old from Mayer, AZ is our Student-Athlete of the Week. He is home schooled and will be entering the 8th grade in the fall. His favorite subject is biology because he wants to learn more about the creation of the earth and how nature works.

I first met Justin two weeks ago. He attended Indoor Hitting Camp #2 as well as an Indoor Pitching & Catching Camp #2. The coaches unanimously voted him the MVP of both camps because of his ability and tireless work ethic. He showed us that he is a fast learner and was able to apply what we taught him right away.

This past spring Justin played for the 13U Prescott Rebels. He is great behind the dish and really showed off his receiving and blocking skills during our baseball camps. Justin also swings a quick bat and has great hand to eye coordination. We learned that his nickname is “Speedy” so I will assume that he tears up the basepaths as well. In addition to playing baseball he is a avid bow hunter during elk season.

Justin’s future aspirations include earning a college scholorship and playing professional baseball. He also has an interest in becoming a fire fighter during or after his pro career is over. I know that Shaq works in law enforcement while playing in the NBA, so I can definitley see Justin volunteering as a firefighter during the baseball offseason.

I have only known Justin for a couple of weeks, but I feel like I am a better man now that I have met him. He has a strong conviction for his Christian faith and he will not comprimise that in order to just fit in with the crowd. The two of us were able to have some deep conversations after the camps and I am encouraged that a young man like himself with be a future leader in our country.

Andrew Soich

May 27, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week 1 Comment →

Andrew SoichAndrew, a 12 year old from Phoenix, AZ is our Student-Athlete of the Week. He is finishing up 7th grade at Glendale Preparatory Academy where he is solid A & B student. He is one of the most intelligent young players I have come across in recent years and I have been impressed with him both on and off the field.

Andrew has attending many events we have offered in the past, but really caught all of the coaches’ eyes this past winter in the Arizona Baseball League. He played for the AA Diamondbacks and helped lead his team to the North Championship over the Dodgers and then the Orioles in the AZBL (AA) Championship Game. At the end of the season he was named the AA North MVP in a very tight race between a few other players in the league. As good as his talent was compared to his competition, what put him over the top in the voting was his leadership and knowledge of the game. He was like having another coach on the field.

He is a two-sport athlete at Glendale Preparatory and played Center for the Football team last fall.  Baseball is his #1 sport and in addition to playing for the Griffins this spring he also starred for the Major Reds in Arrowhead Little League. Andrew is a slick fielding infielder and outstanding pitcher as well. He handles the bat with the best of them and shows good power to all fields. He’s so slouch on the base paths either so if you are not paying attention to him when he is on the sacks, he will rip your heart out with stolen bases and taking the extra base with the slightest bobble of an outfielder’s ball.

Like most kids his age Andrew likes to play video games, he is an avid reader and of course he loves baseball. He aspires to play in the Major Leagues and when he is finished follow in his father’s footsteps with an engineering career. Andrew is also looking forward to being a husband and a father one day. He is an exceptional young man and I really look forward to seeing him grow up. Andrew will be one of our future leaders and that make me both excited and comfortable about the future of our community.

Zack West

May 15, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week No Comments →

Zack WestZack, a 15 year old from Phoenix, AZ is our Student Athlete of the Month. He is completing his freshman year at Sandra Day O’Connor High School and maintains a “B” average. Zack is involved with many extra curricular activities which include the Auto Club, Air Force ROTC and Christ Church of the Valley Youth Group.

We first met Zack back in the Summer of 2008 at one of our Indoor Pitching Camps that was hosted at Inside Pitch. He has grown considerably in many ways since then and it has been a pleasure to coach him over the past 3 years. Zack is a 2 sport athlete and participated on the freshman football and baseball teams. Last fall he dominated opposing corners with his precise route running at the wide receiver spot. This spring he split time between throwing gas off the hill and flashing the leather while playing a gold glove worthy 3rd base.

I know this young man mostly for his work on the diamond. For the past two years he has played in the AAA Division of the Arizona Baseball League and was an All-Star both seasons. In 2008 he was with the White Sox and in 2009 he played for the Diamondbacks which was the team I coached. This past season Zack showed a lot of promise with consistency on the mound, solid defense at short stop and was our lead off hitter. His on base percentage was off the charts and he racked up a lot of stolen bases. He was the engine that got our team started every game.

While baseball is a love of his, Zack has other passions and interests outside of the game. He is very into jets, action movies and cars. He really enjoys history, especially the time during World War II when our country stepped in and helped put an end to the terror that Germany and Japan were inflicting upon other countries.

His future aspirations and goals include attending college and traveling to Germany so he can drive on the Autobahn. Any young man who is into fast cars would naturally be drawn to a place where speed has relatively no limits!

I feel blessed to be a part in this young man’s life and I look forward to the adult that he is growing into. Regardless of what Zack does for the rest of his life I can assume that he will do it the same way he does everything else- in excellence.

Hunter Chee

April 23, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week 1 Comment →

Hunter Chee Hunter Chee, a 14 year old from Page, AZ, is our Student-Athlete of the Month. He is an 8th grader at Page Middle School, where he a solid A & B student.

We first met Hunter at a fall baseball clinic we performed up in Page in October of 2008. From that point on his parents made a commitment to improving his game by making once per month visits from Page to Phoenix to meet with me one-on-one for hitting & pitching instruction. For those of you who don’t know, Page is 275 miles North of Phoenix!

Hunter is a tremendous athlete and he excels in most every sport he plays. He currently is dominating the track and participates in the 100m, 300m, 400m & Hurdles for Page Middle School. In his last 2 meets he has placed 1st in all four events almost every time with the only exception being a 2nd place finish in hurdles once, and that was after he got up after a fall!

As good as he is on the track, he is even better on the diamond. Last fall Hunter played in the Arizona Baseball League and proved to himself that he can hang with the big boys down in the desert. He was easily one of the best players in the league and helped lead the Braves to the AZBL Championship Series. All of the games were played in Phoenix & he was able to attend more than half of them. This again shows his level of commitment to the game.

Hunter also plays baseball in the Junior Division of Page Little League and for the past 2 years has competed in the Inter Tribal Diamondbacks Tournament. When he is not throwing fastballs that look like tic tacs coming at the batter, you will find him flashing his gold glove quality leather at short or throwing runners out from behind the dish. He is also a great hitter with solid gap-to-gap power. Once the ball starts heading towards right center you may as well chalk up a triple in your score book for this young man.

Hunter has many passions besides sports. He reads the Bible, and likes to discuss religion.  He likes music, plays piano by ear and the drums.  Hunter likes Broadway plays and is interested in drama and writing. He enjoys helping other people and is adamant about encouraging the “underdogs.”  Hunter likes to visit his grandpa, who is a well known medicine man, and ride horses, herd sheep and enjoy the quiet time on the Reservation for meditation (getting away from computers, cell phones, TV, XBox, etc.) He likes working outdoors.

I have had the privilege of spending time with Hunter over the past 2 years and I am looking forward to the man he will become. The young people of today will be our leaders of tomorrow and with people like Hunter leading the charge, I feel pretty good about our future.

Jeffrey Gehr

March 19, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week 1 Comment →

jeffrey gehrJeffrey, a 9 year old from Phoenix, AZ is our Student-Athlete of the Week. He attends Richard E Miller Elementary School and is a straight “A” student. I can personally attest to the fact that he is a tremendous blend of brains & braun because he has been attending Cactus Camps events over the past two years.

I believe we first ran across this talented athlete in November 2008 at our Thanksgiving Camp. He has a powerful left handed swing and throws gas on the mound. Jeffrey has played in the Arizona Baseball League the past 2 winters and his team this year, the Diamondbacks, went all the way to the Northern Championship Game. He was voted to the All-Star Team as well.

In the spring he plays in Royal Palm Orangewood Little League. Jeffrey, or JBo as some call him, is a dominant force on the mound and flashes golden glove type leather over at first base. When he is hitting, he has been known to smoke balls so hard into the gap that the grass catches on FIRE! Well maybe not that hard, but I have seen some right fielders just decide to run to the fence to get the ball when it stops moving instead of getting in front of it!

Jeffrey’s passion is baseball, and he wants to play in the majors. He understands the hard work and dedication needed to reach this goal and while the goal may change as he matures, his ability to commit to work hard is something that will serve him well throughout life. He also likes geology, collecting autographs & drawing. I look forward to seeing him grow over the years and see where his passions take him. I am sure that he will be a leader in whatever he does.

Evan Mekenney

February 15, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week 1 Comment →

Evan MekenneyEvan Mekenney, a 6th grader from Glendale, AZ is our Student Athlete of the Week. He attends Highland Lakes Elementary School and maintains a 4.0 grade point average. Evan is an extremely intelligent young man and has been in the advanced reading and math programs for three years.

He first caught our eye during our Holiday Baseball Camps this past December. During the camp he showed a great combination of talent, leadership and determination. He was also very coachable and implemented the drills we showed him during our daily scrimmages. Due to that he was voted the MVP of the camp.

We also had the pleasure of working with Evan during the winter season of the Arizona Baseball League. He played for the (AA) Braves in the North Division and helped his team earn a 6-2 record and a #2 seed in the playoffs. His head coach Chris Marchildon had this to say about Evan: “He was a great player for me. He got to the field early, learned new things we taught him on the fly and was a real joy to coach.”

This spring he will play in the Majors Division of Arrowhead Little League. Defensively he excels over at first base, but  is a beast anywhere you put him on the diamond. He is a very consistent hitter at the plate and has some pretty good wheels as well.

Evan’s first passion is baseball.  He also loves to play video games, ride his BMX  bike, and is an altar server at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church.  Evan is a driven and responsible kid.  He wanted to raise $250 on his own to attend his 6th grade trip to Sea World and he accomplished that goal. One of his nicknames is Tank. He got it because he has always been so thin.

In the future Evan has plans to get a full baseball scholarship to ASU and then play for the Diamondbacks as a star shortstop. I think those are solid goals and I wouldn’t put it past him. He is a smart kid who is going to continue to shine brighter and brighter the older he gets.

Logan Woodward

January 23, 2010 By: Billy Horton Category: Athlete of the Week 1 Comment →

Logan WoodwardLogan, a 12 year old from Phoenix, is our Student-Athlete of the Week. He is a 7th grader at Explorer Middle School and he holds a 4.0 grade point average. We first met him during our pitching clinics in May and he really opened our eyes with his dominance on the mound during our Thanksgiving Baseball Camp in 2009. He showed great leadership and athletic ability that weekend and because of that the coaches voted him the MVP of the camp.

Logan is a two sport stud. In basketball he plays for the Junior Suns and excels at both guard positions. He is a deadly shooter and if you don’t keep a hand in his face all game long he will rip you for 20 in a heartbeat. In baseball he currently plays for the AAA Rockies in the Arizona Baseball League. Logan is a great left handed pitcher and when he is not on the hill you will find him flashing gold glove quality leather over at first base and in the outfield.

He loves sports and music and when he grows up he would like to play in the NBA or pitch in the big leagues. Who knows, with his talent, brains and work ethic he may end up doing both! The most important thing is that he is a fine young man who shows respect to others and I am confident that he will be successful in every endeavor he sets out to accomplish.