ELLSWORTH — For seniors at Hancock County high schools, graduation is only one semester away. Conner Wagstaff wants to make the time he has left time count.
Between getting his house in order for college and graduation and pitching his final season for the Ellsworth baseball team, the next few months will be plenty busy for Wagstaff. Yet there’s something else on Wagstaff’s to-do list: ensuring the Eagles have a foundation for the future on the mound.
“Looking back on it, there are just so many things I wish I had learned at a younger age when it came to pitching and technique,” Wagstaff said. “It’s important for them to learn the mental aspect of the game and have us to look up to.”
To give younger players hands-on experience, Wagstaff is running a once-a-week pitching clinic at Ellsworth’s Katsiaficas Gymnasium. The five-week clinics began Sunday morning with separate sessions being held for the 7-11 and 12-15 age groups.
Wagstaff, a two-time All-Penobscot Valley Conference selection, has made pitching look easy in his three years at Ellsworth. As a junior last season, he went 6-0 in the regular season as he struck out 65 batters and posted a 2.25 ERA.
Originally, Wagstaff’s plan for getting involved at the youth level was to coach in the Ellsworth Little League program in the spring. With the Little League International season coinciding with varsity baseball, though, there simply wasn’t enough time.
“I thought about it, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it,” Wagstaff said. “I also wasn’t sure what I age group I wanted to work with. I thought these clinics would be a good idea because I knew I could do them in the winter and solve both those problems.”
There is much to be learned about pitching at the youth level, where many players are still learning the basic rules and fundamentals of the game. Yet the No. 1 sticking point for young pitchers, Wagstaff said, is muscle memory.
“Thinking is the worst thing you can do as a pitcher,” Wagstaff said. “You want to not have to think about having the ball back, getting your knee up or getting your toe pointed so you can focus on the batter.”
After the last clinic is held Feb. 24, Wagstaff will turn his attention to his final season as an Eagle. In the fall, he will head to Southern New Hampshire University on a baseball scholarship.
“It’s kind of surreal to think I’ll be going up against college-level players,” Wagstaff said. “Whether you’re teaching or playing, you’re always learning, and that’s what this is all about.”