Two baseball players work on soft-toss batting practice at the Julius Matos Baseball Clinic, a 12,000-square-foot facility in New Port Richey. MIKE CAMUNAS
BY MIKE CAMUNAS Tribune correspondent
Published: June 29, 2013
Updated: June 29, 2013 at 12:21 AM
NEW PORT RICHEY - Julius Matos realizes it could happen. The Ridgewood High baseball coach understands that a player not on his Rams roster, but one he trained, could make his team pay. He doesn't worry about that. "My goal and focus is to train these guys to be as good as they can be," the former major league infielder said. "Whether they end up throwing a no-hitter versus Ridgewood or win the triple crown in Pasco County, that's of no consequence - just means I'm doing my job and the kid put in his work."
Of course, Matos would love for his Ridgewood players to come to his newly opened Julius Matos Baseball Clinic, a 12,000-square-foot facility located at 8004 Congress St. in New Port Richey. But the clinic, which features three batting cages, two pitching machines, soft-toss and tee areas, two bullpen mounds, the fully-stocked Oppo Sports Pro Shop run by Joe DeGroat and a concession stand, is not a Ridgewood feeder system. Players from Anclote to Zephyrhills, from Hernando, Pasco or Hillsborough counties, are welcome to train and develop their skills inside those doors. From camps to membership packages, pricing starts at $49, and, as the clinic is still a work in progress, Matos plans to add a softball training area, as well. "This is a place for baseball players to call their own," Matos said. "Kids from the area can come and train and be exposed to a level of training they maybe haven't been exposed to. I've put together a professional staff to make sure they can offer a level of expertise and knowledge maybe not found somewhere else." That staff includes Jack Hubbard, who coached for the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals and worked for the New York Yankees as a scout, Mauricio Romero, a former Philadelphia Phillies minor-league player, and fellow former player Ronnie Lowe. "I expect a lot of the high school guys to be here, because the ones that come here really like it," said Ridgewood sophomore Jake Treloar, who batted .241 with nine RBIs this past season and makes full use of the JMBC facility. Not only does Matos expect, and already have, local high school players at his clinic, but players from the U13, U14, and the two U16 and U18 Sentinels travel teams also are coming to develop their skills through specific camps that teach hitting, pitching, catching and fielding. "It's different here, because you can do whatever you want, just as long as you get your work done," Treloar said. "It's very laid back, and it makes for a great place to get better at the game. . It's pretty awesome to have a place really close and to come to with your friends and just get work done and hang out with baseball." And it's not just about baseball. Matos says JMBC is a faith-based facility that offers non-denominational Bible study and minister reflection at the players' option. Matos wants that available for athletes who think they might be missing that in their lives or just need a place to talk. "I want kids to be happy and get in touch with their feelings, if need be," Matos said. "There is baseball and there is life, after all." "I really like how (Matos) is teaching stuff that's off the baseball field," Treloar said. "With things that have to do with life, he's really good at that." In the end, Matos wants to train, teach, mentor and mold a young player into a young adult. That's why it doesn't matter if one of them happens to beat Ridgewood later. "I love baseball," Matos said. "I loved playing in the big leagues, and there's nothing like that. But a close second is helping a player get there or to where they want to be and develop their skills. My goal is to help them be better, and yeah, probably win, and I'm just fine with that." For more information, visit www.jmbcbaseball.com or call (727) 534-6822. Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @MikeCamunas