High school baseball player Jason Sweet is convinced an off season program is the key to turning around the Longhorn baseball program.
"We had a meeting for everyone who wants to play baseball to talk about goals and how we need to come together as a team and start practicing right now," the Payson High School junior said. "If we do, we'll be good by the (start of the) season."
With a renewed commitment to improving the team's 11-18 record last spring, Sweet and senior teammate Matt Levac recruited former Seattle Mariner Shane Monihan to help out
"He is an intense awesome coach and he knows his stuff, it's amazing," Sweet said.
After several season in professional baseball, Monihan moved to Payson to manage the new Home Depot.
After meeting Sweet and Levac, Monihan offered his services as often as possible during the team's Monday, Wednesday and Friday after-school sessions.
"They are a good bunch of kids who want to be better, but need a lot of work," Monihan said.
The ex-pro said his focus has been on assisting head coach Jerry Daniels and assistant Maurice Sweet, Jason's father, teach the fundamentals of hitting fielding and "the mental side of baseball."
The presence of all three coaches and 15-plus players has generated a new enthusiasm among the team.
"I'm really excited because I think we have something going here," Sweet said. "Things are looking good for the baseball program right now."
In addition to participating the local practices, Sweet and Levac played summer baseball on the Phoenix-based Arizona Pilots and Arizona Curve.
"We probably played 60-plus games," Sweet said "I think we have both improved so much; Levac has been hitting the heck out of the ball all summer and is batting in the three hole."
Sweet said he is the leadoff batter for the two Phoenix teams and both he and Levac are hitting over .400.
Last season, Levac posted a team-leading .392 batting average playing in 16 of the Horns 27 games. He missed much of the early season recovering from an injury. After his return, he contributed 10 RBIs, scored 11 runs and slugged two home runs.
Sweet, a sophomore, hit .349 and had four doubles that tied him for the team lead with two other players.
At the conclusion of the season, Daniels expressed his displeasure that neither of the two were selected for all-region honors.