AITKIN -- A love for playing baseball has evolved into a love for teaching baseball for one Aitkin man.
Kevin Hoffman, the Aitkin Little League president, took his teaching one step further by completing a 12-hour course in the Twin Cities to become Minnesota's first fully certified Slugmaster hitting instructor.
Slugmaster, a Twin Cities based company, was founded by Lonnie Malwitz. The 20-year hitting instructor holds four U.S. patents on various types of hitting equipment that helps promote proper hitting technique.
"Slugmaster has come up with many revolutionary batting devices that can benefit children of all levels," said Hoffman. "There's a post mount system that can be used at the field. The one I teach with is a freestanding station.
"It's called a Slugplug and it's a well built piece of equipment and it just teaches proper hitting technique."
Slugmaster has four different hitting apparatuses that Hoffman has at his disposal. The first is the post mount hitting station. A metal gadget called a receiver is bolted to any post. The Slugplug piece can be placed into the receiver with ease. The Slugplug is a metal rod that has a thick, heavy rope attached to it. At the end of the rope is a regulation sized baseball.
Similar to the post mount is the freestanding design Hoffman uses.
There is a tire hitting station that also uses the Slugplug and receiver. Hoffman uses some of this equipment in his lessons.
With these devices, Hoffman can teach children of any age the proper way to hit. He can also correct any imperfections or bad habits that the athlete has developed.
"The biggest flaw young players have is too wide of a stance and they don't stride when they swing," said Hoffman. "They exhaust all of their power and generate most of it from the waist up. Most of the power should come from the hips.
"Children also need to develop a short, powerful, compact swing. If I had to tell parents what Slugmaster does in a nutshell, it would be that it teaches a short, compact, powerful swing. Kids have too long of a swing."
Hoffman has been involved with baseball for 35 years. He's coached youth baseball for 21 years from Richfield to Aitkin. He's taught high school baseball all the way down to Little League. In that time Hoffman has never been as impressed as he is with Slugmaster's hitting tools.
"I've taught over 30 kids in Aitkin already in the last two months," said Hoffman. "The biggest supporter of Slugmaster products is John Anderson, head coach of the Minnesota Gophers. He uses these products every day."
Although a resident of Aitkin, Hoffman wants to expand his teaching across the Brainerd lakes area. With his mobile version Hoffman can offer private lessons to boys and girls ages 9 to 14 in any town.
In these lessons, students learn swing techniques and build proper habits and quality practice techniques.
"There are four, one-hour lessons and they're spread out over a one-month period," said Hoffman. "Between lessons they go home and practice and when they come back the following week they show me what they've accomplished.
"In the first lesson, what I do is, I test everybody in 12 different areas. I test everything from bat grip to stance, strides, follow through and eye contact. Then they hit off a tire the rest of lesson one and exclusively in lesson two."
At the beginning of the final lesson Hoffman evaluates the students one more time to see the progress. He then asks the students to try to hit the way they used to and so far, said Hoffman, none has been able to remember old habits.
"These devices incorporate a lot of the things that I have taught in the past," said Hoffman. "There are some unique functions that help you to really teach children, though. With this equipment everything is a touch-tell teacher. If they don't hit the ball properly you won't hear the sound and you won't see the rotation of the ball."
Although he mainly teaches children ages 9 to 14, he said the equipment can help any aged athlete. The size of his classes ranges from two to three athletes. For more information or to coordinate a lesson with Hoffman call (218) 927-3463.
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