Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to tap into a handful of top-level U.S.-based baseball coaches, about 50 or so local youngsters are busy developing their baseball prowess at the Terry Fox Sports Complex this week, taking part in the 2013 Baseball Academy Camp.
Coaches Cal Bailey (West Virginia State), Rick Smith (Jackson Community College), Lawrence Nesselrodt (West Virginia Tech U), Corey Mercer (North Lake College - Texas) and Eric Roof (Michigan State University) are joined by Marc Picard(Ontario Youth Team) and Kyle Shepard (Toronto Mets), all with the hopes of raising the level of baseball being played in Northern Ontario.
“I think the key is to give them some tangible things that they can work on, whether it's inside over the winter time or outside in the summer,” said Mercer.
Coaching and working clinics in the southern United States, where the sport can prosper easily 12 months of the year, Mercer insists that at the core, being in Sudbury is not all that different.
“Baseball is baseball and kids are kids, no matter where they are at,” said Mercer. “The level of play might be a little different, but the willingness for these kids to learn is really something. They just jumped in and were like sponges, just soaking it up.”
A member of the Sudbury Shamrocks Mosquito team, 11-year-old Ethan Corcoran is enjoying his fourth summer of baseball, competing with the rep squad for the very first time.
“My friend, Justin, kept on talking about it (baseball) at school and he convinced me to play,” said Corcoran.
Taking part in the Baseball Academy Camp also for the first time, Corcoran is hoping to improve all aspects of his game, serving primarily as a third baseman with his team but also dabbling with some pitching experience this year.
“I've just started pitching,” he said. “It's just catch, but you're trying to get it in a zone. Where the catcher puts his glove, you want to put the ball there. It's a bit tough at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll put it right in the target.”
Mercer and company, it seems, are making a difference.
“The key for these kids is to get good instruction,” said the Texan. “People that have played the game at a higher level. And the kids need to watch baseball, watch games with the intention of learning something.”