OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — He played baseball growing up and in high school, but when he went to college at Missouri State University, Nate Hemphill decided it was time to focus on his education. He wanted to be a Division I baseball strength coach.
“That was the dream,” he said. “And of course the major league level was the biggest, highest dream.”
He tried his hand at training at two schools on the West Coast but didn’t feel a connection. So he returned to the Midwest, first to Springfield, Missouri, then to Overland Park, Kansas.
That’s where he opened PSP3, a gym specializing in training young athletes, from middle school through college. And in the case of some returning clients, into their professional careers.
That includes Connor Kaiser, who played baseball at Blue Valley West High School, and three years at Vanderbilt, before being drafted as an infielder by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Play in the big leagues, win a World Series. That’s the goal,” said Kaiser, now home in the offseason and training again at PSP3.
Also training with Hemphill and his staff: Jon Coots. The Belton native lifted weights with the football team in high school but couldn’t play with them on the gridiron. He’s paralyzed from the waist down.
“I have a disability, but I have different abilities,” the 21-year-old said. “That’s how I look at it.”
In high school, Coots powerlifted in competition with able-bodied athletes — and won. He even took the bronze in para-powerlifting competition in Kazykstahn two years ago.
“It gave me a thrill. It still does. But there’s that thrill you don’t want to lose,” he said.
So he’s training now with Hemphill, alongside able-bodied athletes like Kaiser, hoping to qualify for the Paralympics in 2024.
“Honestly, it’s not something I ever though I’d get involved with, but their stories and the amount of motivation and drive and sheer amount of strength these athletes have is unbelievable,” Hemphill said.
In fact, Hemphill now trains para-athletes in person and some virtually, from Hoxie, Kansas, to St. Louis, Missouri. He’s had to adapt his techniques and learn new approaches but loves the challenge.
And so do the able-bodied athletes, who look on in awe as they train beside Coots.
“You stop and you put your stuff down and you watch for a little bit,” said Mason Green, a former University of Central Missouri pitcher now in the Colorado Rockies minor league system. “It’s fun, it’s awesome, it’s inspiring.”
Kaiser agrees: “That certainly helps me when I see him in here. I’m like, ‘OK, I shouldn’t be complaining about anything. He’s not making excuses. He’s getting after it.’”
And that motivates Coots even more. Limitations, yes. But not in his drive to compete and succeed. And to be just one of the guys:
“I have a disability, but every day I work around it,” Coots said. “I accommodate myself and make things happen.”
His coaches and fellow athletes at PSP3 couldn’t agree more.