It was only fitting that on November 21st, 2015- in the midst of Wisconsin’s first snow of the year, Oregon St. Pitching Coach Nate Yeske (2013 NCAA Pitching coach of the year), Catching coach Jake Rodriguez, and Infield Coach Andy Jenkins were evaluating possible recruits at STiKS Baseball Academy located in Oconomowoc, WI.
At the onset of the camp the theme of the opening address [made by the three coaches] echoed across the facility loud and clear: “At Oregon St. we’re looking for tough, blue collar, kids that take direction and coaching. Wisconsin is relatively uncultivated in terms of baseball, and we believe in the culture Sean is building here at STiKS, otherwise we wouldn’t have made the flight”.
STiKS founder, CEO, and Oconomowoc native Sean Smith founded STiKS Baseball Academy and Sports Training with the underlying idea of giving back to the community that gave him so much. Having been drafted by the Braves in 1992, coaching at the Universities of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Smith was out of baseball for seven years before founding STiKS in 2012.
Smiths’ vision for the academy and the athletic training programs were be built on three key ideals: Discipline, Structure, and Accountability. A fourth ideal has emerged recently, which Smith is reminded of each time a former player returns from college over holiday breaks: Family.
The philosophy at STiKS is emulated on the idea of family, but the importance is rooted deeper than just an atmosphere. While STiKS may seem like a relevant name for a baseball training operation, STiKS is actually an acronym for Smiths’ three daughters:Sawyer, Tatum, Kenadie- Smith.”
Smith himself said: “Over Thanksgiving break I was informed that a group of former STiKS players were coming back to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving break and having their own STiKS Friendsgiving get-together. Hearing that makes what we do here worth it”.
Since 2005 Oregon St. Baseball has appeared in the NCAA tournament ten of the past eleven years and features two NCAA Championships in 2006 & 2007. Notable alumni include Mets OF Michael Conforto, Yankees OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Giants C Andrew Susac, 2012 National League 2B Gold Glove Award Winner Darwin Barney, and 2015 Mariners second round draft pick Andrew Moore (RHP). With recent success in the foreground, the Oregon St. coaches made their presence of holding the camp clear: They [Oregon St.] are actively seeking competitive coachable players that put themselves in a position to improve by 1% each day.
Numerous parents believe Smiths’ laid back, yet attentive personality facilitates productive competition within the players themselves. Brad Burns, whose son Nathan is a 2017 Oregon St. commit, drives 45 minutes to-and-from STiKS four or five times a week. Mr. Burns made a point of saying that many other parents do the same. Mr. Burns noted many similarities between the environment at STiKS and Oregon St., including: an infectious atmosphere, a unique energy, enthusiasm, and a comradery with players and staff.
Parents Brian Miller and Scott Hefle had similar views to Mr. Burns, both instantly stating how Sean and other STiKS employees are straightforward and honest regardless of circumstance. While some STiKS players are recruited by D1 schools, Brian and Scott appreciate the fact that STiKS gives any athlete who walks through the door the opportunity to pursue baseball at the next level. When asked about why they chose STiKS opposed to other academies/facilities, one of the parents said “My wife had the final say if we would enroll our son in lessons at STiKS or somewhere else. The first thing that she said was “He’s [Sean] not a yeller and screamer, and it looks like they are all training together, not individually.” That had me sold and I knew STiKS was the perfect fit, at a reasonable cost if I do say so myself.”
Sean’s approach to how player development is implemented throughout STiKS is honest and straightforward: “I want STiKS to give every athlete that walks through that door the opportunity to play at the next level if they desire. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been knocked down, as long as [you] keep getting back up. STiKS has the resources to improve athletes and their given talent to the extent their bodies able, but we simply cannot teach resiliency which determines character.”
Given that there are over 1,600 college baseball programs across America, there stands reason to believe that almost any teen willing to improve and dedicate time and effort into self-improvement can pursue baseball at the next level.
For additional information or questions, email Vince Rinaldi at vincent@or call (262) 560-0299