By Dave Hart
This week several of those players are providing the same opportunity to local youngsters by sharing their knowledge at the four-day “Clipper Kids Camp” at Marsh Field.
The camp, now in its eighth year, was original run by Extra Innings, a local baseball/softball training facility. The Clippers took it over three years ago.
Clippers hitting coach Keith Williams is the lead instructor.
“This is a good way for the players to use their free time to give back to the community,” Williams said. “They get a chance to repay the past players who helped them in their development as they grew up in baseball.”
This year Clippers players Cameron Bair, Brandon Melchert, Jared Burton, Andrew Null, Logan Fleener and Tyler Trovinger are helping local kids improve their skills and learn more about the game. The camp is focused on hitting and bunting, pitching and throwing, base running and fielding.
On the last day the kids put everything they’ve learned together for a scrimmage at Marsh Field.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Fleener, the Clippers first-year shortstop. “These kids hustle a lot, which makes it easier on us coaches, and there has already been a lot of improvement after just two days.
“It’s a great game and we want to make it fun for them.”
Melchert, a relief pitcher for the Clippers, said he volunteers because he understands how much young players look up to older athletes.
“I’ve learned a lot about giving back,” said Melchert, a graduate of Mason County Central High School. “I always used to look up to role models when I was younger. I wish I had come from a community like this where I could play travel ball at a young age.”
This year 20 kids signed up for the camp, including one girl.
“My family saw the signups and I figured I had nothing else to do,” said 11-year old Ainsley Skinner, who is home schooled. “I like baseball and the guys are treating me nice. I’m having a lot of fun and I’m learning a lot, like lining up my hands on the bat.”
Some kids gain so much from the experience that they return for multiple years.
“This is my third year doing it,” said 12-year old Aaron Piasecki, who goes to school in the Mona Shores district. “It has been pretty fun all three years. These older players help us out a lot.”
Ten-year-old Mitchell Slade came all the way from Hart to participate in the camp. He said he’s hoping to learn how to be a switch-hitter, like Detroit Tigers players Victor Martinez and Jarrod Saltalamachhia.
“I found out about this from one of my friends,” said Slade, whose favorite baseball player is Miguel Cabrera. “My mom signed me up online and let me do it. My favorite part about the camp is learning new tips about baseball.”