By Ed Niser
MIAMI — Around this time last summer, former Groton-Dunstable shortstop Kyle Priest was coming down off the high from being part of the Crusaders’ 23-0 state championship team.
Priest, who played his first year of junior college ball at Dean College in Franklin, is currently playing in the Gold Coast Collegiate League for the Dash.
Priest, who went to Dean College with the hopes of gaining some experience and improving his grade point average, committed last Friday to play for Division 2 Southern New Hampshire University.
The Penmen compete in the Northeast-10, which is an all wood bat league.
Priest will be the beneficiary of a partial scholarship from the school.
Priest was at the grocery store, when he received a phone call from SNHU baseball head coach Scott Loiseau called him with the offer.
“They have had 11 or 12 MLB Draft picks,” Priest said of SNHU’s program.
“They had four kids drafted in 2016.
They have a really great program and they develop their kids very well. They have a really nice field. they put a lot of money into their baseball stuff.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Priest’s team has yet to play a game due to a recent batch of rainy weather in South Florida.
Priest played much of the season for the Dean Bulldogs at second base and that is where he is patrollinig this summer.
He played a little shortstop during the season as well.
At Dean College, Priest batted .333 in 22 games with a home run and 6 RBI for the Bulldogs.
Priest, now one month into the Gold Coast Collegiate League training regimen, has admittedly improved his strength.
The Groton native has packed on 10 pounds of muscle since arriving in Miami and is up to 189 pounds.
“It’s a lot more training based than anything,” he said.
“I am in the cages pretty much every day from 8 a.m. to 2. We lift every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It is a lot more training than I thought it would be but I think more reps in the cages is way better than three at-bats per game.”
Priest and his fellow GCCL players are learning to breakdown the dynamics of the baseball swing through some of the latest technology.
GCCL founder Lorenzo Garmendia and coach Nathan Melendres, who was a 17th round selection of the Seattle Mariners out of the University of Miami. Melendres and Garmendia use a pitching machine known as the “Hack Attack”, which is used by Major League ballclubs. Melendres and Garmendia have trained the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Mookie Betts.
Currently, Priest is working on hitting 98-100 MPH fastballs everyday and 86 MPH sliders from lefty and right-handed pitchers — all on the Hack Attack machine. And Priest says that he has been able to catch up with it and that he is ‘starting to rake it.’
“We are learning how our swings compare to some of the best swings,” said Priest.
“They try and correct it and teach you all of these things like launch angle. They have the most high-tech stuff. The guy who runs it never played baseball. He just studied the swing.”
Priest said that he has always been taught to put the ball in play, but being in the GCCL has opened his eyes to a different approach at the plate.
“They use the merry-go-round and Ferris Wheel analogy,” he said.
“I was coming around the ball alot, east to west. You actually want to go south to north with your swing.
Once you’re able to do that, you are able to get a lot more power on your ball. I have already added 4 mph to my exit velocity. They taught me how to swing to do damage. Once you become aware of that, it becomes a whole lot easier.”
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