For the next couple of months, we’ll be shining a spotlight on some top-caliber and high-character club baseball organizations that have helped Pathway Baseball establish a foothold in tournament offerings at 15u-18u.
Next up, we have Derek Hines, founder and general manager of Premier West Baseball, located in Denver. Hines graduated from Arvada West High School and was a teammate of the late MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay; Hines played collegiately and was with the Chicago Cubs organization for parts of two years before turning his attention to coaching.
Q: Once professional baseball was out of the picture, how did you start with coaching?
A: My brother was in his senior year of high school when I got released (2000), so we decided to have a little summer team with some of his friends he grew up playing with, and we had a really good season that year with a lot of really good players (including Brandon McCarthy, 13-year MLB pitcher). We started it as a one-year deal, and then we started to get more players and were in some good tournaments. We met more coaches, and it evolved from there.
That was my first head coaching job. We had various sponsors over the years, Burt Chevrolet was the one we started with, then there was an apparel company out of Texas, then a bat company, and in 2015 I decided to start Premier West. We have an indoor facility now, in Denver, and worked it out from that end.
We started getting pretty popular with the top talent in the state and won some national tournaments. We won the NBC (National Baseball Congress) World Series for 19-under seven times, and those were good teams that started to draw even more players.
Q: What compelled you to start your own academy?
A: I’d been in a facility doing private instruction for about 15 years, just observing the business and the seasons, when the place was busy and not. What I learned over those years, doing lessons, that I felt I could take it on. I had always wanted to but didn’t feel like I was ready. When the opportunity arose, I jumped on it, and it’s gone well. We’ve added more youth programs and softball, so it’s been a good transition.
In 2019 we had five teams, and in 2020 we will probably have seven. Our 16u team won the 17u state championship last year; the 18u had a great year, most were 17u, and we’ve got a really great group of kids and parents, and the whole program is on the rise.
Q: How do you cope with weather that other regions don’t have to tackle?
A: Around here, there are days in the winter where you can get out, so you have to take advantage. If it’s a little cold, you should get on the field as much as possible. You can’t use it as an excuse; there have been a lot of really good players to come out of Colorado, so they did something correctly or were working when other people weren’t. We keep them busy, although we will take about 6-8 weeks to get away from it, then we are back indoors Jan. 1, ready to hit it hard.
Q: What’s the driving philosophy at Premier West?
A: The No. 1 thing that you get at Premier West, we will work hard on player development and try to get the best out of each kid. Every kid is different, with strengths and weaknesses … when you leave Premier West, you’ll be a better player. We try to teach the game the way it was meant to be played, all facets. I’m not all about the three-run homer all the time, more old school where if the team is not hitting, we’re not afraid to lay down a bunt or play small ball. We have a simple pitching plan that we feel works, and we’ve had some great success with some top-notch pitchers who have come through, but I tell people I’m more proud of what we’ve done with pitchers who had (less) talent, been able to get some mileage out of them and their colleges have as well.
Q: Describe your experience working with Pathway Baseball and director Gino Grasso?
A: Gino contacted me before the first Pathway Albuquerque Games; he’s always been very helpful and very honest. I like the events because he tells you how it is. He’s not going to tell you there will be 500 guys and no one shows up, like some of these tournaments we go to. He’s very transparent, and he loves the game, which is important for the position he has. He’s dedicated to baseball and to getting the kids seen. We’ve really enjoyed all the events; the facilities have been nice, he’s been great and the competition has been great, too.