By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Area softball players looking for a little added instruction, there is good news. One of the nation’s top pitchers is at your service.
Ty McKinney, a member of the men’s U.S. National fastpitch softball team, is now instructing players from southern West Virginia interested in improving their game at The Home Plate on Route 3.
“I’m really wanting to give back to the game,” McKinney said. “Softball has been super excellent to me. I’ve been able to travel and see the country. I’ve seen the world for free. I just want to give back.”
McKinney comes from a high level of competitive fastpitch softball. It’s something he’s wanted to do since he was a young boy growing up in Ashland, Ohio.
“In my hometown, we had two men’s major fastpitch teams, and as a kid those guys were like major league players to me,” McKinney recalled. “I’ve been in love with the game ever since I can remember.”
McKinney threw his first pitch in a church league game at 13 years old and never looked back.
“Just like I said, I fell in love with the game,” he added. “In 1997, I made my first USA team and then from there I was on multiple men’s teams and won a national championship in 2001. We won the 23-and-under (championship) four times. And then on the big stage I’ve been on the U.S. team in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. I missed out in 2013 due to injury. My goal is to get back on that squad.”
The decision to bring McKinney to Beckley was an easy one for The Home Plate owner Phil Spurlock.
“We actually just started building cages and started working with kids here to try to get more up-to-date in softball,” Spurlock explained. “We have a lot of kids in the Beckley Little League program, high school programs, but a lot of the kids needed somewhere else to work and actually try to get better.”
It was a personal experience that brought Spurlock and McKinney together.
“I actually left Beckley and moved to Kentucky,” Spurlock said. “It was when I moved to Kentucky, my daughter wanted to take pitching lessons. So we went to a facility there called Championship Fast Pitch, where I met Ty.”
And now McKinney is bringing top-notch professional level instruction where Spurlock felt it’s needed.
“There’s a lot of kids in southern West Virginia that want to play, but there’s no one really working with them,” he said. “There’s some great places like Jerry’s Fastpitch and you’ve got Marty Jones and Tim Curtis, but those guys can only handle so much. They mainly all teach pitching, so we wanted to setup something where they can get everything they need.”
For McKinney, it’s all about fundamentals.
“It’s just the right way,” McKinney said. “It starts with knowing the basics and working up from there.”
The Home Plate offers membership packages for $160 a month.
For more information, call 304-237-0236 or 304-228-3336.