The inaugural Sanibel-Captiva Baseball Clinic, which took place on Saturday morning at Sanibel Baseball Diamond #1, featured 23 participants, three coaches — two of which were former Major Leaguers — and handful of volunteers who assisted with offering instruction to the next generation of ballplayers.
Fort Myers residents Julio Zuleta, a 17-year professional utility player who made it to the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs, and Michael Tucker, an outfielder who played for seven MLB organizations, stood in front of some of the island's top hardball talent and shared with them their on-field experience with hitting, fielding and baserunning.
"You've got to listen to what your coaches tell you," Zuleta stated at the start of the clinic. "Stay focused and always hustle."
Before beginning a series of drills, former Florida Gulf Coast University player Ryan Miller gathered the youngsters together to perform some basic stretching exercises. Afterwards, the group was divided into two — half working with Zuleta and half working with Tucker.
"A lot of times, you think that you're in the right position to make a play... and then something happens. The ball bounces the wrong way or somebody makes an error," Tucker said. "But you have to shake that off. You can't get upset about it... it's only one play."
The kids were paired off to do some short tossing, with both ex-pros offering advice on the right way to throw and catch a baseball, the proper way to shift your body and place your feet when making a play in the field and to always communicate with your teammates.
Charles Phoenix, who helped organize the clinic, was happy that local Little Leaguers have the opportunity to receive instruction from players who reached the pinnacle of success in their careers.
"I think (Zuleta and Tucker) are giving the kids a good combination of fun and fairness," said Phoenix.
Before taking batting practice with some plastic balls from a pitching machine, players learned how to position themselves when fielding grounders.
"You always want to move towards the ball," said Zuleta. "Never back up on it."
During his 17-year career, Zuleta compiled a .286 batting average, drove in 1,060 runs and slammed 276 homers in 5,335 at-bats in more than 1,500 games.
"You want to make sure you move your feet," noted Tucker. "It's not about how fast you go... you just have to keep moving."
Tucker, an outfielder who played with the Royals, Braves, Reds, Cubs, Giants, Phillies and Mets during his career, compiled a .256 batting average with 125 home runs and 528 RBI.
Youngsters are given instructions during Saturday's inaugural Sanibel-Captiva Baseball Clinic, led by former big league players Michael Tucker and Julio Zuleta and FGCU coach Ryan Miller.