BATAVIA – David DeJesus will wear a darker shade of blue on his cap and uniform in 2014 than most of last baseball season. On Saturday afternoon, a handful of grade-schoolers clad in Cubs gear looked the other way.
Then again, many youngsters gazed at the turf or a side wall of ProForce Sports Performance Training, anyway, as DeJesus’ clinic concluded.
ProForce owner Chris Browning incorporated strength training stations after DeJesus – now a Tampa Bay Rays outfielder after spending 2012 and part of 2013 with the Cubs – happily lent his expertise alongside a few minor leaguers.
“Just to get these guys out and be around other professionals, they can learn something, pick something up and maybe that’ll get them to the next level in their career,” DeJesus said. “We just want to be tools they can use, and we’re excited to help them out.”
DeJesus, who lives in Wheaton during the offseason, is planning a second clinic from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 8. The event is designed for players in grades five to 12, and will be divided into middle and high school groups.
Blending in with the ProForce staff and clientele for the past 3 1/2 years, DeJesus credits Atlanta Braves minor league outfielder Dan Brewer for introducing him to Browning and his staff.
A Lyons Township graduate now residing in Chicago, Brewer lived in Batavia with his mother when the New York Yankees drafted him in 2008.
“I feel like I keep moving farther and farther away from Batavia, but keep coming out here,” Brewer said. “I wouldn’t train anywhere else.”
Detroit Tigers minor league left-hander Casey Crosby, a Kaneland alumnus, recently adopted the latter refrain.
Crosby trained independently in each of his past five offseasons in professional ball before Geneva products and ProForce regulars Pat Schiller and Brad Allen told him about Browning’s “Train Insane” headquarters at 501 W. Fabyan Parkway.
A shoulder impingement limited Crosby to 13 starts and 57 2/3 innings with Triple-A Toledo in 2013, so he’s especially encouraged to find his new regimen providing a “night and day” difference.
“Doing stuff on my own,” Crosby said, “you don’t realize you don’t push yourself as much as you do if somebody’s in there telling you what to do and doing the right things.”
Last month, the Tigers announced plans to move Crosby to the bullpen. Although he made three spot starts in June 2012, struggles and injuries that prompted Tommy John elbow surgery earlier in his career ultimately steered the organization’s decision.
Crosby, who eventually could return to the starting rotation pending his performance, is eager for another chance in spring training. He previously pitched in relief in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and in past spring trainings.
“It’s lots of fun, and it’s an adrenaline rush,” said Crosby, 25. “You’ve got to be ready every day, which is what I love, too.”
Stay tuned to see whether that also becomes Crosby’s assessment of fatherhood. His wife, the former Haley Balluff, recently reached her 39th week of pregnancy, which precluded Crosby from joining the Tigers on their winter caravan and fan fest during the weekend.
Tidbits: Crosby has yet to meet new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, a former major league catcher, but is eager for their first spring training encounter and beyond.
“Just from what I hear in interviews, it’s going to be awesome,” Crosby said.
• Crosby applauded the resolve of his brother-in-law, Kaneland senior running back Jesse Balluff, who tore his ACL in Week 3 and missed the rest of his final prep football season.
“I’ve gone through some stuff,” Crosby said, “but it’s unbelievable for him.”
Crosby said Balluff has been offered preferred walk-on status at Northern Illinois and also was in contact with Division-II Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich.
• DeJesus maintains close ties with the Cubs even though he hasn’t patrolled their outfield since Aug. 18.
Earlier this month, The David DeJesus Family Foundation and Cubs Charities hosted “Strike A Chord,” a celebrity karaoke event benefiting ALS research and support.
“You know, you build relationships, and they’re trustworthy people that we love and who were able to help us out,” DeJesus said. “It’s a perfect union.”
• Fellow Cub collaborators, the Kane County Cougars, will not host a “Meet the Cubs” hot stove banquet this weekend. The event’s traditional complement, an adult coaching clinic featuring coaches from the Cubs and Cougars organizations, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday inside the upper deck level at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
The Class-A Cougars will begin their second season of a two-year player development contract with the Cubs on April 3 at Quad Cities, with the home opener scheduled for April 8 against Fort Wayne.
A baseball clinic for players in grades five through 12 led by Tampa Bay Rays outfielder David DeJesus will be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at ProForce Sports Performance Training, 501 W. Fabyan Parkway, Batavia.
The group will be divided into middle school and high school players. Cost is $135 an athlete, and includes a picture and autograph. To register, call 630-406-9700 or stop by the gym. Email abrowning@proforceTI.com for questions. Space is limited.