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Locals learn from pro baseball player

February 23, 2002|By TIM YANNI

Special to this newspaper

CALEXICO — Baseball games are won and lost on the pitcher's mound.

That is why Calexico High School and professional baseball pitching coach Ruben Niebla organized a baseball clinic designed specifically to work on the fundamentals of pitching.

"Coach (Alex) Flores approached me and I was more than willing to do it," said Niebla, a pitching coach in the Cleveland Indians organization. "As much as I can give back to the community, I'm more than happy to do it," he added.

Niebla, a 1990 graduate of Calexico High, played baseball for Imperial Valley College, Azuza Pacific University and for several professional teams. He made a Major League appearance for the Montreal Expos in spring training.


His current position is contracted through 2004 with High-A Kingston, N.C., Indians.

Along with Flores, who ran group drills for the players, Niebla ran the clinic to work one on one with those who participated.

"We're covering every aspect of pitching," Niebla said. "There's nothing that's going to get away today."

Flores said that he is glad that Valley baseball players have the opportunity to work with Niebla.

"It's not every day that you can come out and work with a professional," Flores said. "When you can get help from a professional, you've got to take advantage of it."

Niebla said that when he works individually with the players, he can to see what areas specifically need to be worked on. He especially focuses on the mechanics of the skill.

"If they work at it, all of these guys can become pitchers," Niebla said. "Once you learn here, you get to know every aspect of pitching from top to bottom."

Niebla also works with players on an individual basis if they approach him in need of coaching.

Nicolas Santos, a 17-year-old pitcher for Vincent Memorial High School, has worked with Niebla on several occasions and learned of the clinic through personal coaching sessions.

"It has been a positive experience," Santos said of the camp. He added he feels the clinic's coaching staff and assistants are well experienced in what they are teaching.

Santos, an El Centro resident, is a junior at Vincent.

Santos said by working with Niebla he has improved greatly and describes Niebla as "a master."

"It helps me get better with my mechanics," Santos said. He added he hopes to pass on the positive spirit he developed at the camp to his teammates when they begin practice.

Niebla has coached several players who have gone on to play professional baseball, including Diego Lopez, who was drafted into the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization.

Niebla said that he believes that within 10 years, the Valley will have more representation in the Major Leagues

"That's the ultimate goal, getting guys to the big league," Niebla said.

Niebla said that he is comfortable with his coaching position in High A ball and it is important for local players to realize that a Valley resident has such a strong professional resume.

"This is what I'm good at and I'm trying to give back to the community," Niebla said. "Have them see that a Valley-born and raised guy can make pro baseball."

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