By Chris McCarthy
Local youngsters no longer must commute to Birmingham, Huntsville, Auburn or Tuscaloosa in order to hone their softball skills with a top-flight instructor.
Danielle Cox Brock, a former Glencoe resident and Florida State University softball standout who recently moved from South Florida to Hokes Bluff, brings impeccable credentials as a private softball instructor at the Northeast Elite Training Facility located at 2345 East Greenview Avenue in Rainbow City.
“I was on the phone with a friend from the area about this time last year, and I told her that I was ready to come home and be with my family,” said Brock. “She told me that she knew someone who was starting a sports training facility in Rainbow City and that there were a lot of girls in the area who needed help from someone like me.
“I have a two-year old son, Jaxson, and I felt that we needed to come home. It just made a lot of sense for so many reasons. Plus, since I’ve been back I’ve found that there are so many people in this area that are passionate about softball.”
Brock ran a mini-camp while she was in the area during this past Christmas season and met several of the people who were part of the facility. It was at that point that Brock felt that it would work. She submitted her resignation as Director of Development for the Broward County Boys & Girls Clubs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and began lessons at the Rainbow City facility on June 1. Brock previously was Director of Operations for National Fast Pitch Softball in Denver, Colo., and Coordinator of Sports Marketing for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Brock pointed out that many competitive softball players in the area must attend out-of-town camps.
“I wanted to do something for our kids so they didn’t have to travel,” she said. “A lot of those camps are more than one day, so the kids have to stay overnight and it can get expensive.”
Brock will conduct a camp on Aug. 20 at Saks High School. Instructors include Samford University head softball coach Mandy Burford, Jacksonville State University head coach Jana McGinnis, Samford assistant coaches Michelle Multrie and Erin Arevalo and Wallace State head coach A.J. Daugherty.
Believing that the social component of a camp is very important, Brock’s Saks camp will feature an “icebreaker” bar-b-que and Q&A for the camp participants and parents. One of the reasons for inviting the parents is to discuss the ins and outs of the college recruiting process with Brock and the other camp instructors.
“A lot of parents have no idea what recruiting entails, so we want to be open and honest with them,” she said. “One thing we do stress is that their girls have to play some type of travel ball at some level, and here at Northeast Elite we want to get these travel teams up to a certain level so that these kids get noticed and have the opportunity for scholarships.”
Elite softball sessions include hitting, slapping, bunting and drag bunting; speed and agility; throwing mechanics; outfield play; and base running.
“This is exciting for me because I’m not only helping these kids with softball,” said Brock. I’m tea-ching them about how not to give up and balancing sports with academics. My goals are to get these kids into college and making them better people.
“I tell my kids that I didn’t start playing fast-pitch until I was a sophomore in college, and that after my practices were over I continued to practice in order to get better. So if I can do it, they can do it, too. You just need that drive and passion.”
A Saks High School gra-duate, Brock attended Calhoun Community College in Decatur before transferring to Gulf State Community College in Panama City, Fla. That was where she made the switch from slow to fast pitch.
The decision paid off, as she soon drew interest from schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida State. Brock became a standout outfielder for the Seminoles and set several school and NCAA records.
“I felt that Florida State was a good fit for me,” she said. “I got there and worked my butt off and wound up having a really amazing career.”
Brock said that that transition from slow to fast pitch ball was not as extreme as one might imagine.
“It was definitely a change, but I was up for that challenge. In slow pitch, you get probably triple the amount of balls [hit into] the outfield, so defensively that was like a piece of cake for me. I could see when the ball went off the bat and how many bounces it would take. Because of my speed, not only did I learn how to hit, but I learned how to slap. Plus, it was the first time in my life that I could steal, and I went crazy on stolen bases.”
Indeed she did. Brock still holds the NCAA Division I record of single-season stolen bases with 73 and is No. 1 on the FSU career batting average at .366.
Brock was named a first-team All-American in her senior year of 1999 and is a member of the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame. She also is the only player in the history of the FSU softball program to be invited to the U.S. Softball National Team tryouts.
After graduating from FSU in 1999, Brock played four years in the Women’s Pro Softball League, where she was an all-star every season. Brock played with the Columbus (Ga.) Pride and the Akron (Ohio) Racers.
In 2003, Brock was selected to play for the National Fast Pitch All-Star team, which toured with the U.S. National Team and played exhibition games around the country. In 2004, the WPSL partnered with Major League Baseball and visited 17 MLB ballparks.
“That was a wonderful time,” said Brock. “Besides the games, we signed autographs and threw out first pitches and went through the stadiums giving out high-fives. We also met so many great players and legends. It was really hard to describe.”
Northeast Elite Training Facility plans on hosting an instructional softball camp at the Gadsden State softball fields on either the first or second week of October.
“I’m excited because teams from Birmingham are going to come to us instead of the other way around,” said Brock. “That’s going to have an economic impact for our area, so we’re going to make sure that [the fields] will be in top-notch shape.”
Brock said that she’s gradually re-connecting with people from her time growing up in Glencoe, where she attended elementary school through the fifth grade. Although she’s been away from the area for several years, her parents live in Hokes Bluff and she has extended family throughout Etowah County.
“Sometimes I’ll be at Wal-Mart or Old Navy and someone will say, ‘Hey Danielle, I’m so-and-so from Southside.’ It’s definitely been fun. People ask me why I would move here from South Florida, and I tell that them there’s no beach that can compare to family. I think that life’s about living and giving, and that’s what I’m coming back to do.”
Visit www.EliteAcademyTraining.com or the facility’s facebook page for more information abput Brock’s traning sessions.