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July 26, 2014

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Coach striving to keep players committed to baseball

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Home News

Three-time minor league all-star and UNLV alumni Manny Abeyta addresses the players of his Southern Nevada Athletics prep baseball development team during a practice session at Chaparral High School.

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Palo Verde sophomore Cody Schuster focuses on the ball during batting practice with the Southern Nevada Athletics at Chaparral High School.

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Shortstop Ricardo Perez recently was awarded All Tournament Short Stop during the Showcase Classic tournament while playing for the Southern Nevada Athletics.

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Catcher Courtney Woods of Western High looks to fire a ball to third base during a practice session of the Southern Nevada Athletics at Chaparral High School.

As a pitcher in the Oakland Athletics organization in the 1980s, Summerlin resident Manny Abeyta may have learned more at the plate than he did on the mound.

Oakland manager Billy Martin emphasized an understanding of batting to his pitchers and the young Abeyta soaked up all he could at major league camps and while playing for Oakland's minor league affiliates.

For the past decade, Abeyta has applied those lessons with another Athletics organization – the Southern Nevada Athletics, a local high school scout team he puts together each fall.

"Under Billy Martin, he wanted you to understand hitting as much as you could," said Abeyta, who spent eight years playing professionally. "The two go hand in hand."

Abeyta, a 1973 Clark graduate and former pitcher for UNLV, formed the scout team in 1998 and has reassembled it every year since to play in tournaments between the end of the American Legion summer season and the start of high school practices in January.

"I wasn't trying to get the best players in town," he said. "But I wanted to get players who really wanted to work and really were good student-athletes who wanted to develop their skills and go play college baseball."

The Athletics won the Showcase Classic in late-November in Henderson and Abeyta considers this year's group one of the best he's coached.

They feature players from every part of the valley, including Palo Verde's Brandon Laubhan, who went 9 for 14 in the four-game tournament and Chaparral's Ricardo Perez, who netted two doubles and a home run

Their most impressive victory was a 8-5 win against a team from Allen, Texas, in the finals.

"Everything just came together during that tournament," Laubhan said. "It was awesome beating a team from Texas because they always put out good teams."

Throughout the years, Abeyta has worked with dozens of local prospects, including former professionals Doug Mirabelli and Tyler Houston when they attended Valley in the 1980s.

Palo Verde freshman Cody Schustersaid Abeyta has a knack for keeping players committed.

"He is the best fundamentals coach I have ever had," Schuster said. "The first thing he fixed was my swing and then I absolutely crushed the ball."

Abeyta was a hot commodity at Clark, which he led to state championship in 1972, and continued his career even as detractors deemed his 5-foot-7 frame too small to pitch professionally.

"I have always been an overachiever," he said.

Abeyta never pitched in the major leagues but cherished his years jumping from various minor league teams from 1977 to 1984. In 1980, he had his best year when he recorded 18 wins for a Mexico City professional team.

An arm injury cut Abeyta's career short just before he was slated to play for the Las Vegas Stars in 1985. He's periodically thrown batting practice for the Triple-A franchise since.

Abeyta's next goal is to coach college baseball.

"Wherever I end up I know I'm going to build a good program," he said. "A program that's going to going to get ranked and have players who get developed."

Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].

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