Local pro Dean Deetz mentors future baseball stars

It May not have been what the kids had in mind for Christmas break, but last Tuesday was about much more than baseball at the Andrew Stepp Baseball Camp.

“For example we talked about making your bed every morning and brushing your teeth and doing little things like that,” said Stepp, a Nixa native and current assistant baseball coach at Ohio University.

Stepp hosted this camp with the help of his former Nixa teammates, Brock Hammitt and Dean Deetz; a hard-throwing relief pitcher recently added to the world champ Houston Astros 40-man roster.

“It’s pretty special for him to be here and to show kids if you work hard enough, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can succeed at it,” said Stepp.

Injuries nearly halted Deetz’ baseball career, but he stuck with it, and that hard work has him on the cusp of the ultimate goal, something he never imagined at this age.

“It was big for me when I was younger because I didn’t even like baseball when I was a younger kid,” said Deetz.  “When I got better and went to more camps I started enjoying it more and it’s paid off.”

An inspiration for these kids, many where Deetz once was.

“It’s a good sport, but I kind of like basketball better,” said Walnut Grove 3rd grader Sam Vooris.

On this day, Vooris put his basketball career on hold, and found himself playing catch with a pro and even winning the “don’t drop the ball” competition.

Unfortunately, less than half of a percent of high school players will have even a shot at pro baseball.  So Deetz advice to parents? Learn the game, but have fun doing it.

“From a parent to a kid I would just encourage them, let them have fun, don’t force it on them,” said Deetz.  “If he wants to do it he’s going to actually give his full potential into what he does.”

And you never know who’ll be the next Ozarks kid to make it big.

“He taught us how to work and train to do it and I feel like I could do that to get into the Majors,” said Nixa 8th grader Austin Whitehill.

Stepp plans to host the event and others in the future with the help of his former team, the Midwest Nationals.