Principles of baseball training help director of Dalton Academy

Jan. 28 – As a professional baseball athletic coach, Matthew Mederios quickly learned that it’s important to build trust in the athletes he coaches, and he wants Dalton Academy’s students to have the same trust in their teachers and staff.

“Relationships are key” in education, especially with high school students, as well as in athletic training, said Mederios, who spent nearly two decades as a high school principal and assistant principal in Florida before moving north to become principal of Dalton’s New High School, which opened in August for students in grades 10-12. Ballplayers need to know two things about a coach, that the latter has the former’s best interests at heart and that “you really know your stuff”.

Likewise, Dalton Academy students will know that “we’ll have them in the right classes for their future because we’ll get to know their goals, ambitions, and dreams,” said Mederios, who was named a 2017 Lee County (Florida) Person of the Year, 2015-16 North Fort Myers (Florida) Rotarian of the Year and 2010 Assistant Principal of the Year in Lee County. “It’s going to be all about relationships, relevance and rigor.”

Relevance and rigor of content will be “at the core” of the academy, and “students will benefit from it,” said Tim Scott, superintendent of Dalton Public Schools. “We are grateful to give all students the opportunity” to choose which high school is best for them.

“It starts with relationships — everything will be based on trust — and then relevance, by showing students what they’re learning that’s relevant to their lives and future,” Mederios said. “Accuracy will be paramount because we want active, engaged learners, not passive learners.”

“We’re going to instill a sense of family in these students,” said Paige Watts, Director of Translation Academy at Dalton Academy. “We want them to understand that here they have people who love them and care about them.”

At Dalton Academy, each student chooses one of eight paths – Entrepreneurship and Leadership, Health Sciences and Sports Medicine, Audio/Visual Technology and Film, Law Enforcement/Forensics, Sports and Entertainment Marketing and Management, Teaching as a Profession, Early Childhood Education and a Translation Program — and it’s fair to say that Mederios puts his focus closer to the path of health sciences and sports medicine than the others since he’s a certified athletic trainer, he said with a chuckle. “To say I’m excited about this trail here would be an understatement.”

Crystal Clark, herself a certified athletic trainer, runs the program, and she has started a sports medicine club to provide hands-on opportunities for students, similar to what Mederios did when he was an educator in Florida before coming to Dalton, he said.

“It’s a lab experience outside of a classroom and it’s great to have it here at Dalton Academy.”

Take the initiative

A native of New York State, “I wanted to work in pro baseball – that was my goal – and help athletes with rehab,” he said. He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he earned his degree in Physical Education and Exercise Studies, and sent more than 100 letters to pro and minor league baseball teams looking for internships.

Only one called — the Houston Astros, who worked about 45 minutes from his home in the New York Penn League — but “I only needed one,” he said. “I worked at a grocery store during the day, then drove 45 minutes to the ballpark all night to work, and I probably worked 18-20 hour days — I didn’t sleep much — but I loved it.”

Based on his experiences, he tells students, “You can’t just sit back and say, ‘I got good grades, I’m going to get a good job.'”

“You have to show initiative and when you get the break you have to do a good job and make a good impression,” he said. “You can’t sit back and just expect good things to happen to you.”

minor leagues

He discovered an internship in Fort Myers during his senior year of college, and because his grandfather lived there at the time — and because he could escape the harsh winters from Buffalo to Southwest Florida — “he jumped on it,” he said.

This internship at a local hospital led to work training for the Fort Myers Royals, then a subsidiary of the Kansas City Royals – Fort Myers was also the spring training home for the Royals at the time – and he continued to work for the Spokane Indians. then Kansas City’s Class A short-season daughter.

“You work every day for six months of the year, but you bond with the guys and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” he said. “You take care of each other and it’s like a family.”

During his time in pro baseball, he met Manny Acta, who later worked with Cleveland and Washington in the majors, and Carlos Beltran, the 1999 American League Rookie of the Year, was named to and won nine All-Star teams three gold gloves.

Acta was “a really nice guy, and even though Beltran was only 18 or 19 (when I was watching him), you could tell he was different from the rest,” Mederios said. Beltran “was gifted”.


He also met Jeff Conine, who played 17 seasons in the majors, and Kevin Appier, who was later inducted into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame when they moved through Fort Myers during their rehab stints, but his fondest memory of working at the Baseball attended a Garth Brooks concert with George Brett, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot with 98% of the vote and is considered by many to be the greatest player in Royals history and one of the top five becomes -time third baseman.

At the time, Brett’s brother Bobby owned the Spokane Indians, and George Brett came to town occasionally, both as a roving instructor and to catch up with his brother, Mederios said. When George Brett offered a VIP ticket for that night’s concert, Mederios didn’t hesitate.

Brett is “really funny and he’s got a million stories up his sleeve,” Mederios said. “I loved talking to him and hitting him.”

Considering Brett had 3,154 hits and finished with a .305 batting average, his batting philosophy was surprisingly simple.

“He told me he would never swing for anything but a fastball unless he had two shots,” and that “he was trying to hit the ball through the wall, not over the wall,” Mederios said . Although he wasn’t attempting to scale the wall, Brett hit 317 homers, and he’s one of four players — Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Stan Musial being the others — with at least 3,000 hits, 300 homers, and a .300 batting average in his career .

transition to training

Mederios was ready to step up to coach the Royals’ Double-A affiliate — then in Wichita, Kansas — the next season, but instead he made his senior year with Spokane his senior year in pro baseball.

“I just didn’t feel it,” said Mederios, who holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and a doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “In the off-season, I was a high school coach and coach, and I did substitute classes, which I really enjoyed.”

Mederios, who was already based in Fort Myers for his work with the royals, began teaching high school health and physical education classes and coaching baseball, he said.

“It was a great transition for me.”

Mederios and his wife Joni have two children, Luke, a seventh grader at Hammond Creek Middle School, and Riley, a third grader at Westwood School.

His son is “a swimmer and my daughter is really into dancing (with the) Dance Theater of Dalton,” he said. “My wife and I met in Fort Myers because she’s also a certified athletic trainer.”

While it may come as a surprise to some to leave a promising career as a professional baseball athletic coach for an apprenticeship, Mederios knows he made the right decision.

“I loved being in a classroom — I spent eight years teaching — and it was great,” he said.

He was also an athletic coach for high school sports and coached varsity baseball and basketball earlier in his career because “I just love mentoring kids in and out of the classroom.”

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