Showing posts with label Casanova Baseball Academy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Casanova Baseball Academy. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Cuban Florida baseball experience - Part One - Paul Casanova's baseball academy

Last week marked my semi-annual pilgrimage to South Florida to spend one last week in the sun and soak up the rich baseball culture in the area.

A favorite destination of mine is the baseball academy of ten-year major league veteran Paul Casanova, who delivers his instruction in the backyard of his house.
T-Shirt from Paul Casanova's Baseball Academy

I previously wrote about my 2010 visit, and every time I return, I pick up something new, whether it is an adjustment on my swing, an anecdote from his playing day, or meeting the next up-and-coming prospect out of the Hialeah area.
One of the many Walls of Fame

His students praise his ability to instruct and build their confidence, using his watchful eye from his over fifty years of professional baseball experience to keep their swings on-track.

Hank Aaron wall
His home also serves as a mini Hall of Fame of Cuban baseball history, the walls lined with photos of his Cuban contemporaries in the major leagues, as well as the legendary winter league teams prior to Fidel Castro closing off the league to professionals in 1961.

One one wall facing the batting cage, he pays tribute two of the biggest baseball legends he was associated with during his career, Hank Aaron and Ted Williams.

Casanova spent three seasons with Aaron on the Atlanta Braves from 1972-74, and was one of the first teammates to greet Aaron as he crossed the plate for his 715th home run. He refers to Aaron as, "the best," and often references Aaron's strong wrists when instructing the young hitters. Displayed on the wall are photos and articles on the wall about his Hall of Fame teammate.

Ted Williams wall
From my 2010 visit
The other side of the wall is dedicated to his manager Ted Williams, whom he played three seasons for as a member of the Washington Senators. His face lights up when speaking about the Splendid Splinter and how enamored he was with him. He felt very fortunate to visit Williams at his home shortly before he passed away. He proudly displays the photo of him with Williams on the wall of his facility.

Everything about the facility screams baseball, from the bats outside of the house, the games playing on the television, the constant crack of balls being battered, the endless baseball chatter and the photos that line the walls everywhere you walk.

As for what keeps the 71-year-old Casanova going, he says the game is a part of him.

"Baseball is in my blood. It's what I do."




 

Casanova's career in pictures
Batting Cages




Soft Toss Stations
Another Wall of Fame
Historical Cuban Baseball Photos
Historical Cuban Baseball Photos
Historical Cuban Baseball Photos

Baseball Bobble Heads








 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Astros Martinez first home run riles up his hometown supporters

Moments after J.D. Martinez hit his first major league home run, the action at Casanova's Baseball Academy in Hialeah came to a screeching halt. His first-inning blast off of Dontrelle Willis had the phone ringing off the hook. Former major leaguer Paul Casanova picked up the call and excitedly shouted, “Flaco did it! He hit his first home run!” All of the players working out stopped and cheered for the hometown rookie.

“Flaco” is the nickname which most of the people at the baseball academy call Martinez. Trained under the watchful eyes of major league veterans Casanova and Jackie Hernandez, Martinez built his legend right in Casanova's backyard, literally.

Casanova runs a training facility out of the backyard of his home, complete with pitching machines, batting cages and video recording equipment. Martinez has been faithfully attending sessions at the academy since he was a budding superstar at Miami's Flanagan High School. He was called up less than a week ago to replace Hunter Pence after his trade to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Both ex-major leaguers had ear-to-ear grins as the calls poured in and the highlights flashed on the MLB Network.

“He's been coming here since he was a kid," Casanova said. "Everyone down here knows he was working with us and we are just happy to see him do it.”

As Martinez topped off the rest of the game with two doubles, one of which narrowly missed being a home run, Hernandez confidently asserted that this will be a normal occurrence for Martinez. “He's been doing this everywhere he's been. Every level, he's hit. We will see him in left field for many years to come, just watch.”

While the cheers in Houston may have been plentiful for Martinez, they were just as loud in Hialeah, as the hopefuls watched one of their own begin to build his legacy in the majors.

“All of Hialeah is pulling for him.” Casanova said.