The best way to learn a skill is to receive guidance from a professional. And Trent Mummey is, by definition, a professional hitter.
The 22-year-old Orioles outfield prospect returned home from an injury-riddled 2011 campaign split between Class A Delmarva and Class A Advanced Frederick and was faced with a dilemma common to all ballplayers: "What am I going to do with myself this offseason?"
Fortunately, the answer was close at hand. The Jasper, Ala., native and Auburn University product set about constructing a fully equipped stand-alone hitting facility in the backyard of his childhood home, and soon, "Trent Mummey Baseball" was born. He's now building up a roster of dedicated pupils, ranging in age from 9 to 17.
"I thought it would be a good way to give back to the community, to let the kids come to my place," said Mummey, Baltimore's fourth-round Draft pick in 2010. "Not too many people from this area have gone on to play in Major League Baseball or even the Minors, so I wanted to create a positive place where these kids can come learn and have confidence going into next season.
"And in the long run, this helps me as well, because I'm learning how to communicate with these kids," he continued. "It's going to be upsetting to tell them that I've got to go off [to Spring Training], but at this time, this is something that I'm giving my heart and soul to."
Though Mummey concedes that high school kids are easier to work with, he said "the younger they start out, the better. If I had been taught these things at their age, then I'd be a much better hitter."
In a nutshell, this comes down to "getting the most out of their swing with their body, using their whole body to generate power." But there's also a strong emphasis on situational hitting, preparing for specific game situations and altering one's approach according to the count.
"I'm always teaching kids about counts," said Mummey, who hit .293 in 29 games this season. "It's 0-0 when you step in the box, and if the zone you want to hit is middle-in and [the pitcher] throws outside, you don't have to swing at it. Even if it's a strike, oh well, it's only 0-1 and you still have two more strikes to go. ... There's just so much mental stuff that goes on when you're up there at the plate."
As a local sports star who went on to excel at nearby Auburn before playing professionally, Mummey is finding his students have been particularly receptive to his teachings.
"It's pretty cool that they look up to me and that I can be a positive influence on their lives," he said. "I'm just a small-town kid. I was never the greatest athlete, but I worked hard. I think they see that in me, and realize that they have to work hard too."
And through it all, Mummey retains a hands-on approach.
"I don't think [a lesson] goes by where I'm not in there, with my bat and batting gloves, demonstrating what it is I'm talking about," he said. "I'm the sort of person who learns by seeing, so it's important that I show them these drills and how I prepare for a game."
When not teaching, Mummey is likely to be in the cage himself. After missing much of the 2011 season due to a concussion and a torn hamstring, he's eager to make up for lost time.
"I don't have any numbers goals, except to play 142 games," he said. "I just want to stay healthy and have a great year. ... I want to prove to the Orioles just what kind of player I can be."
But no matter what happens, it's likely that Mummey will continue to teach his craft for a long time to come.
"I'd definitely like to do this through the offseasons, and maybe one day build a big hitting facility. It's just like anything else -- you've got to start small and work your way up. ... But even while I'm teaching how to hit, I'm still learning how to hit. Even a guy who's 40 and playing in the big leagues, he's still learning. If you're not learning, then you don't need to play anymore."