PORT RICHEY — In June, former major league baseball player and coach, Julius Matos, opened an indoor training facility to help young players develop their hitting and pitching skills.
Matos, 38, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1994. Though most of his 13-season career was spent in the minors, he had two stints in the majors in 2002 and 2003. He was also a minor league hitting coach with the New York Yankees from 2008-11.
After being released by the Yankees, he was undecided about his future.
“I reassessed my life mentally and spiritually,” said Matos, a devout Christian. “I prayed for God to show me the way. Although my professional playing days were over, I felt that He had equipped me to serve others. At the time, I didn’t know who, so I waited for His signal.”
Shortly afterward, he was notified by several people about a coaching vacancy at Ridgewood. In October, he was hired. Two months later, he leased a small facility nearby with two batting cages. He also formed U12 and U13 baseball teams, naming them the Sentinels. In the summer of 2012, with a growing demand for his training services, he collaborated with Arnold Gwynn, the owner of Suncoast Gymnastics on Congress Street.
“Arnold was moving closer to Tampa, so his facility was available,” said Matos, a native of Puerto Rico. “We moved in in June. Currently, the Julius Matos Baseball Clinic (JMBC) has batting cages and pitching mounds set up for boys baseball. A wing is being developed for girls softball.”
His staff of former professional players includes four coaches, including hitting, pitching and catching specialists. The cornerstone of their hitting philosophy is based on two principles: comfortable position and focus on the pitch at the time of release.
“Many successful baseball players, including Hall of Famers, had unique batting stances,” Matos said. “Current players, such as three-time All-Star Kevin Youklis has what looks like an awkward stance. Yet, it works for him. We try to find what makes each individual a successful hitter.”
One of JMBC’s success stories is Patrick Coleman. The Hudson Middle 12-year-old seventh-grader has developed both as a hitter and behind the plate.
“I’ve learned to make better contact and found a more comfortable batting stance,” Coleman said. “As a catcher, I’ve learned how to block the plate better and be in position to throw out runners.”
For Matos, the busy facility translates into opportunities to develop both the youngsters’ playing ability and their character.
“I’ve always had baseball in my life,” Matos said. “My impact on young people goes beyond teach them skills. I want them to believe in themselves and stay positive. They also need to learn about successfully dealing with the stresses of the game and in life.”
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ReporterCliff.