KATY (FOX 26) - Fans of baseball are enjoying the Major League Pennant Race right now. But in Katy, kids playing the game will be excited to have the season over. That's when the Pete Rose training facility will open up for business, and players are lining up for instruction.
"At a tryout, the number one thing is to go out there like your hair's on fire," Derek Hurley tells young players trying out for the Hit King Baseball Academy.
Hurley, one of the Hit King Co-founders, isn't talking about the effects of the hot summer sun. He's telling kids he wants to see passion. Hit King is looking for good players who want to be great.
"Our goal is to get these kids to meet whatever potential their skill level is," says another Hit King Coach, Gary Herrmann. Herrmann pitched in the Minor Leagues for the Philadelphia Phillies before injury knocked him out of the game.
"We're trying to group same level talent together so they can develop together," Herrmann tells us.
For the 75 kids who turned out to the Katy National Little League fields for the first day of tryouts, coaches were taking notes on every skill set. Players also took a baseball aptitude test, because the game is more than just hitting and fielding.
"In this fall program, what we really look to do is strip the player down," Hurley says. "We really get to the fundamentals and do Spring Training type drills."
The so-called off season will be intense in Katy. Major League stars who have signed on the the Hit King Academy, will take center stage. That includes former Cincinnati Red, Tony Perez, former Los Angeles Dodger, Steve Garvey, former Houston Astro, Gerald Young, and, of course, the namesake for Hit King Baseball, Pete Rose.
"Once he's wrapped up with the World Series coverage, Pete will be back here towards the end of the Fall, beginning of Winter time," Hurley says. "And we've just signed Pudge Rodriguez. We're looking to get some catching clinics going on with him."
14-year-old catcher Jack Johnson can't wait to work with the former Texas Ranger on skills behind the plate. Johnson's father, Johnny, is a founder and the CEO of Hit King Baseball Academy, but Jack knows there's no easy road to the Major Leagues. He just saw his competition in the Dominican Republic, where kids play baseball as a ticket off their island, and are playing to survive.
"It changed my heart to be more grateful and humble for what I have in America," Johnson tells us. "Down there they have dirt fields out in the middle of nowhere."
Johnson says the level of competition was amazing. His American team played 7 games in 5 days, and won only one.
"We faced orphans that beat us, which was pretty cool," he said with a huge smile on his face.
What does Jack share with his future teammates at Hit King?
"Teach by example," he says. "Show them with body language and respect, how to treat others."
And, never be satisfied, which is part of the Pete Rose motto.
Hit King is looking for players 8 to 18 years old to fill rosters on three levels of play. Rosters will be fluid, the way Major League teams use their farm clubs.
"If you're not looking to be competetive we may not be the group for you," Hurley says. "We're breeding competition because we feel that's the best way for them to grow up."
More information is available on the Pete Rose Hit Hit King Baseball Academy Facebook page.