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The Licking Gators: “These guys are good”

Left to right: Lucas Bates, Weston Elliott, Keirum O’Daniel, Logan Kuhn, Parker Huff and Gage Mesger.

Coach Huff going over strategy with the Gators.



Coach Stoops and Logan Kuhn


Parker Huff


Colin Kuhn


Colin Kuhn and Parker Huff

Lucas Bates


Knox McCloy


Knox McCloy


Logan Buckner


Knox McCloy

The Essence of Sports

By Rick Duncan, Publisher

What is “the essence of sports?” Our definition is: one that applies themself in such a way to achieve excellence in every aspect of the game and at the same time applies everything they learn to real life.

One example is a Licking native named John Huff. He comes from a family with a history of sports in Licking and he is carrying on the tradition with the Licking Gators. Huff is the coach of the Gators youth baseball team that travels to regional games and tournaments.

This year Huff will be coaching 14U and seven of these kids have been under his wing since T-Ball and the age of four.

“Being a part of the Gators over the last eight years has been very rewarding as a coach and a parent. We started back in Tee Ball with a group of young boys and have been privileged to see them grow up into a fine bunch of young men who come to practice hungry to learn the game and get better, both individually and as a group. These boys work extremely hard and are very competitive, both in practice with each other and in games vs. whatever competition we throw at them. We had our first practice as a 14U group last week and plan to play five tournaments this fall; win or lose we expect a good attitude and hard work, and that formula has shown some success for these boys in the past. Last year we went 35-9, with six tournament wins, and we’re looking to build on that this year,” said Coach Huff.

The Gators played in many venues last year, from St. Louis to Kansas City and all over southern Missouri and in Arkansas. Along with their exceptional record, they also won 26 straight games. The team does not play under one particular entity, but some tournaments are sanctioned by USSSA/UTRIP and Game 7, who publish team and player stats. The primary philosophy, and being an alternative to Little League, is that these young athletes have the opportunity to travel regionally and by doing so, they compete against a diversity of other teams. As opposed to other youth leagues, where the teams play on the same fields all season, this concept of travel and playing under differing conditions better prepares youth athletes for a higher level of play.

I was fortunate enough to watch their first practice at the Triumph facility in Licking, prepping for the 2023/24 season, and it took me back to my days of Little League and high school baseball. But, while watching the level of athleticism of these young men, I was amazed by their dedication, commitment and love of the game. Given that recipe, I watched in awe at their abilities during batting practice, pitching and catching. Their swings and bunting techniques were precise, the pitchers’ techniques were all individually based with techniques and extensions reminiscent of Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, and the catchers demonstrated an intellect and spot on catching abilities of Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.
One might think I’m exaggerating, but I was a catcher for many years throughout school and while witnessing this practice, all I could say is “these guys are good.” Are they ready for the big leagues? No, not yet, but you never know.

The other mixture in the recipe is Coach Huff and all the assistant coaches. Watching Huff work with the pitchers to make small adjustments, then seeing the immediate improvement, proved that he had studied each player individually; he knew their technique and understood their execution. You have to express a true passion for the game in order to create better execution in a player, whether it be an adult or a kid. What kind of individual has the willpower to work with the same children for ten years with such dedication, while working a full time job, being a parent and never losing the passion for the game? Coach Huff does, and he, along with the Gators, exemplify the essence of sports.
The Gator’s first game is scheduled in Lebanon, on September 9, 2023. Stay tuned to The Licking News for full schedules and updates.

1 Comment

  1. Janette Taylor on August 25, 2023 at 8:12 am

    Very impressive. Looking forward to more reading on the Gators.

    Go Gators!!!!!

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