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Prep softball players hone skills at EDI camp 

July 15, 2019

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Versatile athlete Jasmine Hogan has been a key part of multiple championships during her prep career. Now the South Carolina standout is trying to learn a few more things to make her game even better. Hogan, 16, is one of approximately 90 prep softball players who

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Versatile athlete Jasmine Hogan has been a key part of multiple championships during her prep career.

Now the South Carolina standout is trying to learn a few more things to make her game even better.

Hogan, 16, is one of approximately 90 prep softball players who are visiting Florida’s Treasure Coast to participate in the Elite Development Invitational at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

The EDI camp, which opened on Friday, will conclude on Wednesday morning with the presentation of the Jennie Finch Empowerment Award presented by Arm & Hammer.

The award is given to four players from MLB’s softball-based events this year -- the Softball Breakthrough Series, Jennie Finch All-Star Classic, EDI and RBI World Series.

The four recipients will receive a trip to the World Series and be accompanied by Finch, an Olympic gold medalist and collegiate national champion who is now an MLB Youth Softball Ambassador.

Hogan, a rising junior pitcher/outfielder, has excelled at Cardinal Newman School in Columbia, S.C., where she helped her softball and basketball teams to state championships last year in the 3A classification.

A fan of her hometown University of South Carolina Gamecocks, Hogan also has interest from Clemson, LSU, Central Florida, Bethune-Cookman and West Point.

On a warm but breezy morning, Hogan worked with the outfielders and pitchers on Sunday, shuttling from Field 9 to Field 10 and listening to the coaches’ input all the time.

“I learned an outfield drop-step to get a faster release to the infield,” said Hogan, who is participating in her third softball camp this year and also continues to play basketball as well. “This [camp] gave me the opportunity to learn from new people.”

Coach Jessica Shults may be as excited as Hogan and the rest of the visiting campers to be at the legendary facility.

A native of Southern California, Shults said it was “so cool” entering the JRTC, formerly known as Dodgertown, where the Dodgers organization held its Spring Training from 1948 to 2008 before the club moved to Arizona’s Cactus League and relocated in Glendale.

A lifelong Dodgers fan, Shults grew up admiring the play of Los Angeles catcher Mike Piazza, played the position at the University of Oklahoma and coached with the Sooners and University of Houston.

“First, I’m so excited to be part of this experience,” said Shults, who is instructing in her first EDI. “These girls are phenomenal athletes and allowing them this opportunity is unbelievable. They’re just a great group of girls.”

The young backstops at the EDI will likely find Shults a valuable source of tutelage at the position.

Shults, 28, was a lifetime .348 hitter at Oklahoma and played all of her 228 games at catcher. Her achievements earned her First Team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American honors in 2012 and '10 and Second Team honors in '11.

She was an anchor behind the plate for the Sooners in their 2013 national championship run and a graduate assistant on the coaching staff during the team’s '16 title season.

Shults worked with the catchers on Field 10 -- one of the four fields that forms a cloverleaf at the softball portion of the facility -- and found the players to be receptive to learning the complex nature of playing behind the plate.

“They’re really soaking it all in and diving in and asking so many good questions,” Shults said. “It’s been a huge privilege for me to help them and enhance their game. They’re such great people and come from different backgrounds.”

Shults said she uses many of the teaching techniques she learned at Oklahoma and Houston with the prep campers.

“These are elevated athletes. I’m training them like I would my own team. We want to give them the elite tools. Today, we worked on passed balls, bunt coverage, getting our body around the ball, popups, transfers and the communication between pitcher and catcher,” she said.

Shults added that each positional area has a number of coaches, allowing players to receive specialized instruction and in-depth advice at the position they play.

“I really liked the energy the girls are bringing and the flow we’ve provided the last two days,” she said. “They’re getting a lot of one-on-one attention from some of the best of the best.”