Teacher balances class with coaching
An accomplished baseball all-star and local high school teacher has found a comfortable fusion of instructional leadership and athletic knowledge to fuel summer camps that will undoubtedly stick with children for years to come. Todd Brock, a Sussex Central business teacher, has taken his training to the diamond, instructing local youth in basic baseball and softball, stages of the swing, fielding and throwing mechanics, and a variety of other procedures.
Now in his third year with his summer camps, he hopes to increase the number of players he instructs.
“I’ve never had a problem filling up the sessions each year,” said Brock, whose four- to five-day camps assist athletes at a young age and prepare them for the sports as they develop.
His determination began three years ago with an individual client — an upcoming athlete currently playing for the Selbyville Middle School team — Garrett Hudson.
“I worked with him through the winter,” said Brock, “and he really perfected his skills. That’s when I decided I should put camps together. I think the kids really get something out of it.”
His knowledge of the sport, however, is decades in the making, perfected at the highest level. A Sussex Central graduate himself, Brock got into baseball at a young age, like most of the kids he works with. He played in high school and continued at the collegiate level, playing for two years at Delaware Tech under his father’s coaching, and later at West Virginia University.
His skills earned him the honors of all-regional shortstop and first-team All-American. After earning his business degree at WVU, he entered the independent league for six years, traveling the country from California to Maine, and even into Columbia, South America.
“Independent ball is made up of professional leagues,” noted Brock, “but they’re not directly affiliated with any particular MLB franchise. Basically, the kids out of college who aren’t drafted, or players who were released from Minor League ball, play in the independent league and travel around in hopes of getting picked up by a team in the MLB.”
That lifelong dream became a reality for Brock when he signed with the Florida Marlins in October 2004.
After the busy, nomadic lifestyle of the big leagues got the best of him, Brock decided to return to his roots in Sussex County, with his wife, and encourage others to take that leap into sports the same way he did.
“I made a choice to return home and teach,” he said. “Throughout playing baseball, I substitute-taught, and I enjoyed working with kids.”
Since starting his camps, Brock has also offered team practices, and individual baseball and softball lessons.
The first baseball session, running from Tuesday, June 17, through Friday, June 20, is geared toward 8- to 12-year-olds and will be held at the Little League field at Roxana’s Pyle Center. Shortly after that, on June 30, Session II will begin on the Senior League field, for ages 12 through 16.
Brock said he found many parallels between the mechanics of baseball and softball, so he added a clinic for 13- to 17-year-old girls that runs from July 7 through July 11.
“I noticed that, as the girls developed, the fundamental basics were virtually the same,” he said. “I help the kids out with throwing mechanics, swinging, fielding, speed drills and the understanding of the game.”
He often works drills associated with game situations, stopping the instruction to explain how best to react.
Puling from his own experience, Brock appreciates the importance of perfecting talent at an early age.
“You really need to understand the game as you get older,” he said. “One thing I learned was that scouts had always found something wrong. They’d say, ‘It’s your size,’ then you’d get bigger and you’d be too slow. Then it came down to increasing your batting average. There’s always something out there that can make you a better player.”
Because the sessions last for a limited time, Brock has encouraged parents to come watch the lessons.
“I can’t be with their sons or daughters at all the games,” he said, “but they can hear what I’m instructing them and reinforce these skills at their games and practices.”
“It’s great to follow the kids through,” he said. “We even have repeat players come back each year.”
The overlapping of ages in the baseball sessions allows for some players at a developing level of skill to participate in both.
“It’s a transition to that bigger field,” he said, “which is a great adjustment that they’ll make later as they play. I think it helps that I teach here. I take those skills with the baseball I’ve learned and bring it all together.”
Working at a local complex has allowed the Georgetown native to help coach area athletes on the same fields that he has familiarized himself with over the years.
“It’s great working at the Pyle Center,” he said. “They’re very good to me. They’re nice people and really helpful.”
Roughly 20 kids fill the first-come, first-served slots at the camp sessions, although Brock usually accommodates everyone.
“Every year I have kids come up the day of the camps,” he said. “It’s great to see the turnouts, and I’m not going to turn a kid away.”