Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Easton Doster, 8, left, and Luke Lashure, 17, hit off batting tees while working on hitting drills on Wednesday at Strike Zone Training Center on North Clinton Street.
Former big-league second baseman Dave Doster says he feels “rejuvenated” since beginning work with Strike Zone, a baseball and softball training and development center.
Doster tosses a pitch to Christian Hoffman, 11, inside one of the batting cages at Strike Zone Training Center on Wednesday while working on hitting drills.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Dave Doster, left, tosses baseballs to Christian Hoffman, 11, while working on hitting drills on Wednesday at Strike Zone Training Center on North Clinton Street.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Dave Doster, center left, helps his son Easton Doster, 8, center right, with his grip on the bat as he works with Christian Hoffman, 11, left, and Luke Lashure, 17, on hitting drills on Wednesday at Strike Zone Training Center on North Clinton Street.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:54 pm
Getting back into the zone
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette
Dave Doster had wanted to get back into baseball – he loves teaching youngsters how to play the game – so working for Strike Zone Training Center seemed like a great fit.
"It has rejuvenated me," said Doster, 45, a native of Fort Wayne, who played two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies as a second baseman.
Strike Zone, a training and development center at 4141 N. Clinton St., caters to baseball and softball players of all ages and works on all facets of the game, and it does so year-round.
It recently came under new ownership, and its staff includes director of baseball Lance Hershberger; director of softball Kent Bleke; director of business development Mike Lashure; director of operations Mike Hoffman; director of member services Dave Krites; former North Central coach and IPFW softball pitcher Courtney Cronin; and Doster.
"They contacted me a couple weeks ago and thought I might be interested in doing some lessons," said Doster, who played for the Phillies in 1996 and 1999 and batted .233 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 202 at-bats.
A minor-league all-star, he played at all levels and even professionally in Japan. He is a member of the Northeast Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame with the minor-league team in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was selected the best player in the Phillies’ minor-league system in 1995.
In 2004, he had a 32-game hitting streak for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
While he’s worked at Steel Dynamics Inc. for nine years, he’s also recently been doing color commentary on broadcasts – mostly TV – for the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League.
"It’s great," he said. "I’ve got the best seat in the house, and I get to talk baseball."
He’s no stranger to teaching the fundamentals of baseball, which he gets to do at Strike Zone Training Center.
"I’ve done everything, team camps and group camps, and I’ve done work with individuals. I’ve done them all," he said. "Individual lessons are my favorite. You’re one on one with that kid and you can cover it all."
Doster, who is a father of three, has found that students are hungry for knowledge – especially from a former major-leaguer.
"When you’re trying to teach your own kids, nobody wants to listen," Doster said with a chuckle. "But other kids have that awe factor. ‘Oh, he really played. He must know what he’s talking about.’ "
Asked about the challenges young players face in baseball and softball, Doster said it can be the lack of versatility and that it’s an effect of some coaches pushing players to stick with travel teams – because of that, they end up specializing with a position or two and can’t get out of their comfort zones.
"A lot of parents I speak with ask me, ‘Hey, if my kid doesn’t play travel or club ball, is he going to make a high school team?’ " Doster said. "But sometimes the travel ball kids end up being projects because (in high school) you get specific kids who can only play specific positions.
"We used to play all over the place. … I see the versatility of some of the kids going away today because they’re not getting the chance to play more than one position."
As a former middle infielder, Doster gets a particular kick working with kids of the same ilk, but he wants even them to be multifaceted.
"I want to teach you how to turn a double play from second base and shortstop so you know it’s different techniques that you use from both positions," Doster said.
Other instructors at Strike Zone include Jessica Cotton and Vern Shannon.
Strike Zone works with individuals and teams.
For information, call 260-471-7224 or go to www.strikezonetraining.com