More than 30 Juneau youths participating in the Doyle Baseball Players School held at Miller Field were treated to a surprise visit from one of the clinic's founders, Robert Dennis 'Denny' Doyle.
The week-long program -- set up by Gastineau Channel Little League president Allan MacKinnon and GCLL training and development officer Chip Mixson -- provides the training and support to put confident, skilled and enthusiastic youngsters on the baseball field in an atmosphere built for success, according to Doyle.
Doyle, a former major leaguer who now resides in Winterhaven, Fla., founded the Doyle Baseball Academy in 1978 with brothers Brian and Blake, also former professional ballplayers. Over the past 22 years, more than 600,000 individuals have passed through the Doyle Academy in Winterhaven and the Satellite Schools for Players and Coaches.
"I've never been here and I wanted to meet the people here who have instilled the time and effort with us," Doyle said. "There are some great kids here. During the month of June, I like to see as many staff members as I can. I'm like the quality control. I make sure everyone is using the same vocabulary and are consistent with our teachings."
Doyle's big league career spanning 12 years, beginning in 1965 with the Philadelphia Phillies organization where he played second base for eight years before being traded to the California Angels after the 1973 season. He played in California for the entire 1974 season and was finally sold to the Boston Red Sox early in the 1975 season where he played until his retirement in 1977.
Doyle has fond memories of his baseball career, but none more than his 1975 season. Boston won the American League pennant by sweeping the Oakland Athletics in three games, but lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series in seven games. That Series is mostly remembered for Carlton Fisk's legendary walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game Six that Fisk waved for it to just stay fair as he danced down the first-base line.
Doyle was given the Red Sox Annual Man of the Year Award in 1975 not only for contributions to the success of the Red Sox, but also for outstanding co-operation in community endeavors. And to this day, Doyle continues his community involvement through his baseball academy and clinics.
"The most satisfaction I had in baseball was the pennant drive in 1975," Doyle said. "I wasn't infected with the curse of the Bambino since I wasn't with the team the whole year. But what a lineup we had. I batted second and behind me there was Fred Lynn and behind him there was Carl Yastrzemski and behind him was Carlton Fisk. Our team was so strong, Dwight Evans batted ninth."
The Doyle school is the largest baseball school of its kind in the country and close to 20,000 players and coaches will pass through its system this year alone. The school also has produced several major league athletes including current players Derek Bell, Tim Wakefield, Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson and Walt Weiss.
Juneau's Doyle clinic is a week-long program designed to hone the skills of young baseball players. The Doyle school sends coaches to teach baseball basics through organized drills designed by the Doyle family. The academy programs take place over a three-week period in Winterhaven and are broken down into three categories -- youth (11-12 year-olds), junior (13-14) and senior academies (15-18).
"We've hosted the Doyle Baseball School for probably 8-10 years," MacKinnon said. "We use the school to train coaches and managers. I'm not sure weather some of the younger kids will be able to appreciate someone like Denny coming here. Its neat to have somebody of his caliber and his experience here. He's a great teacher and also can talk life experiences."
"Talent is important," Doyle said. "But education and having knowledge about the skills, thrills and wills can turn a kid around. These clinics are great but some of these kids will come to Florida and participate in our academies where we evaluate the players body type, style, quickness, strength and agility, as well as giving the kids leadership classes. We want them to succeed not only in basebal,l but in life."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.