By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Dave Saturday had always pushed his kids, Domenic and Gia, to be good at defense when it came to baseball and softball.
Like any dad who coaches, he would endlessly beat grounds balls at them to help them hone their skills.
Then he came a realization. It wasn’t defense that people came to see and it wasn’t defense that secured positions on a team.
“For me, it was when Gia played for the Lasers,” Saturday said. “They had the best 12- and 13-year-old team in the state. We had a good year and went to Nationals. That’s when I came to the realization. Their coach was willing to give up a couple runs because he knew they could score a lot of runs.
“They spent probably 90 percent of their time working on hitting. If you can hit, you can afford to make mistakes.”
At that point, Saturday shifted the focus of his work with both Gia and Domenic.
“When they were younger, I thought fielding was so important,” Saturday said. “I’d hit a hundred hard ground balls at them. They could field anything but they couldn’t hit. They needed something.”
So Saturday did some research. Then he began working with his kids.
“I got Ted Williams book, ‘The Science of Hitting,’” Saturday said. “I started to study the world-class players, the big college girls. I wanted to know what the best hitters in the world were doing. They were all doing the same thing.
“My kids needed to concentrate on hitting. If you’re hitting, coaches will find a spot in the lineup for you. Domenic, in his senior season, was All-Ashtabula County and he was a DH.”
With Domenic now in college and Gia in the midst of her senior year, Saturday should be at the point when he’s beginning to shut things down as far as coaching. Instead, he’s going strong and reaching out to try and help others, both boys and girls.
“We had some kids coming over for hitting,” he said. “We weren’t as big as we are now. I enjoyed working with the young kids, so I decided to help. Everybody in the area has pretty much closed down. There aren’t a lot of people to go to.
“I’ve got a cage in my garage and it has escalated from there.”
The Saturdays are now reaching out to help as many people as they can. They have gone to the internet with the website, www.saturdayhitting.com.
“We right now, at any given time, we have 35-40 kids who come here and there,” Dave Saturday said. “We’re working with kids between 9 and 18 right now. This time of year is when it really starts to pick up.”
The Saturdays work with both boys and girls, teaching the same mechanics to everyone. It’s something Dave Saturday has always done, even with his own kids.
“We teach the same thing to the boys and girls,” he said. “The mechanics are still the same.”
In that approach, Dave Saturday will have his critics. It’s long been argued that teaching girls to hit softballs is different than teaching boys to hit baseballs. Girls are always taught to hit the top half of the ball, thus hitting the ball on the ground.
“That’s why girls have been held back so far, because of that mentality,” Dave Saturday said. “When they start swinging like the boys, they’ll start hitting for power. Chopping down at the ball won’t help you hit for any power.”
“We still live in a society where people say girls can’t do something that boys do,” Domenic Saturday said. “There’s nothing about the human body that prevents girls from hitting just like the guys.”
The process has worked for his own daughter, as well as many others Dave Saturday has worked with.
“I tell people all the time, if the girls put in the work, they’ll reap the benefits,” Dave Saturday said. “They have to get a lot of swings in. They have to build that muscle memory.
“McKenzie Wilber (a junior pitcher-center fielder-first baseman-shortstop at Jefferson) put in a lot of work,” Dave Saturday said. “She’s become a real power-hitting threat. Dedication goes a long way.
Dave Saturday can’t stress enough just how important repetition and work can be.
“They have to put the time, get their swings in,” he said. “Tee work alone is valuable.”
The Saturdays don’t openly pursue boys and girls to come work with them. Once they get someone give what they’re teaching a chance, they prefer to let the results speak for themselves.
“I don’t beg anybody to come and see me,” Dave Saturday said. “If they’re happy with the results, they come back. I teach one way.”
Many might think it’s difficult to change a player a players habits and teach them something new. That, however, is false.
“It happened quick for me,” Domenic Saturday said. “They come to the garage and see that their swing can generate so much power and bat speed. Once they see it, they’re on board. It doesn’t take longer than a couple times through.”
One thing the Saturdays have come up against is that they’ll help a player, then have one coach or another somewhere along the way tell the players, girls especially, they can’t hit that way and try and change things.
“Girls will come to me and they’ll be doing well, then they go to their travel coaches and he’ll tell them they can’t hit that way,” he said. “With that demographic, there’s such a huge variety of what gets taught. That’s what holds the girls back.
“They have to choose the way they want to hit and not switch back and forth.”
What the Saturdays teach is how to hit with authority.
“We don’t try and change anybody who doesn’t want to change,” Dave Saturday said. “If they’re successful, I leave them alone. If they aren’t having success, I ask them if they’d like to try something else.
“From what we do, we’ve been very successful. Not everyone may agree with what we teach, but we’ve been very successful. We develop power hitters. We don’t teach how to slap or hit the ball on the ground. We teach them to hit with power.”
Dave Saturday operated basically on a word-of-mouth basis until Domenic Saturday brought him into the digital age.
“People are on their cell phones and they can Google any question they have,” Domenic Saturday said. “They can find every answer they need. You’d be amazed at how many people from all over the United States, Canada and even Mexico have visited the site.
“We can reach such an audience.”
Though Domenic Saturday is attending college in South Carolina, he has a hand in helping his dad teach.
“We do Facetime talks, he can watch and give some suggestions,” Dave Saturday said. “He works with people through emails and videos.”
“Just the other day, I got an email from somebody in Canada,” Domenic Saturday said. “His daughter is 12 and she’s played for a couple of teams. She’s always pitched. He sent me some video to analyze.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re at or where the people we’re helping are at, we can do a lesson. We go online with Skype or email. We want to help as many people as possible.”
It’s when his players get it that Dave Saturday enjoys most.
“I like kids who come to me after everybody has given up on them,” he said. “A parent or a kid might say they’ve never hit like that before. That’s what’s rewarding.
“I really do enjoy watching them make that transition into a good hitter.”
For more information, visit www.saturdayhitting.com or contact Dave Saturday at 812-3073 or by email at email@example.com.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.