Highlanders trying to build a baseball power

Mar. 09, 2014 @ 05:32 PM

 Kyle Viers lifts his hands up to show the blisters.

It’s the result of countless reps in the batting cage and proof of the time the Gatlinburg-Pittman catcher has put in this offseason.

“I like it a lot,” Viers said. “You get better instead of not doing anything at all. You actually have a chance to compete.”

While the Highlanders’ baseball field has been reconstructed as part of the Rocky Top Sports World project, so has the entire G-P program. New coach Josh Warner arrived in the fall and has encouraged his players to work five or six days each week on their game.

Warner and assistant coach Lance Traywick, who helped build the program at Sevier County, hope that invested time will lead to big success on the field.

“It’s a situation I’ve never been involved in,” Warner said. “I’ve always been around storied programs. This shows you what type of coach that you are. You lay a foundation and let the kids know what your expectations are of them.”

That construction project began the day Warner arrived. The former Jefferson County coach said he broke down each of his player’s games to the fundamentals. The staff started with basics like catching and throwing and got the Highlanders into a conditioning program to strengthen them for the season.

“Most people don’t want to put in the work, honestly,” said third baseman Isaiah Morris. “We didn’t want to put in the work from the start. But once they got us up here, encouraging us to come up in the cages even when we didn’t want to come up here, repetition is the only way to get better.”

The early returns are promising. G-P went 3-1 in preseason scrimmages. Warner said pitching and defense has been strong in the preseason. Pitcher and shortstop Austin Sides has already added four to five miles per hour on the mound Warner said and will be relied on not just for his baseball ability but his leadership. Viers looks like he has plenty of potential behind the plate and Warner said Morris had a great preseason.

The focus now is getting the Highlanders to hit better. That will mean more work in the cage on those fundamentals, Warner said.

“We want to put this place on the map as far as baseball goes,” Warner said. “You have to demand perfection and be consistent, day in, day out. These are just kids. They’re eager to learn this game. It’s fun to see the progress they’ve made.”