Pierce hopes to have year-round baseball school

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

Sports Editor

Ron Pierce envisions much more for his 40 acres of land then just a seasonal summer camp.

Pierce, owner of Ron Pierce Enterprises, hopes to one day have a year-long baseball school devoted entirely to the promotion of ‘America’s Pastime’. He has the baseball field, its infield clipped to perfection and an outfield starting to green from constant watering, but Pierce is in the process of purchasing a 1500 square-foot building to be used as an around the year batting cage.

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"I hope to have two cages in it and probably a little softball machine," he said. "That way the kids will be able to take batting practice when it’s January or February and the weather’s real nice and nasty. I want to eventually get to a baseball school and use people in Troy, such as the fifth-year players at Troy State, to come out and work with the kids on the afternoons and evenings. There are several baseball camps around that I know of, but the closest one to here, I think, is Birmingham."

And as Pierce puts it, becoming a good player in the game of baseball takes consistent practice.

"It’s a year-long sport and the kids that really want to play baseball need to anticipate that," he said. "You can’t go out there once or twice a week and expect to hit .600. Or .300 even. And .300 is a good average to hit, but you’ve got to work at it. Your swing has to become a natural swing where you don’t even have to think about it. If you start thinking about it while you’re up to bat then you’re in trouble."

Pierce and Charles Henderson head coach Steve Garrett are offering two sessions of the Troy Baseball Camp this summer. The first is June 3-6 and is for ages 8-10. The second starts a week later on June 10 and is for ages 11-12.

Pierce limits the number accepted to 20 per session. That way he and Garrett can work individually with the players.

"We feel with only 20 kids, and we work with them for four days, giving them 16 to 20 hours of training, they’re going to start to get into a habit," he said.

Pierce said the biggest complaint he hears from parents is that most of the baseball camps start when the season is basically over. The age categories that Pierce and Garrett instruct are in the process of wrapping up city recreation league play with only a fraction of those players moving on to play on tournament teams.

"People say it’s not going to help that much because the kids will forget what they’ve learned by next year," Pierce said.

Pierce said that’s why he wants to establish a permanent baseball school.

"Next year we’re going to take it a step further," he said. "We want to have some preliminary camps in December and January…some Saturday all-day training camps before the kids get into March and rec ball."

A typical day at the Troy Baseball Cam starts with Garrett directing the players in hitting and fielding techniques. A pre-programmed videotape is also presented to all campers, demonstrating various baseball-related skills such as the proper stance when swinging a bat or the correct way for fielding a ground ball.

"Steve teaches them that," said Pierce. "Steve’s the head instructor. He knows fundamental baseball and I’ll work with the pitchers. The kids get a lot of hands-on experience."

Along with the summer camps, Pierce is also actively involved with American Legion and fall baseball. Autumn is usually referred to as football season, but the concept of fall baseball lends itself to Pierce’s year-long philosophy.

"We do the fall ball for the kids that don’t play football," he said. "We played 18 games last year and traveled to Georgia to play in an East Cobb tournament. Up in the stands there were 30 college scouts with radar guns. They didn’t come to see us. They came to see the East Cobb kids. But it gave our kids the exposure and we had several scouts come up and ask for our roster. The experience they gather is just tremendous."

And although, even with the new building in place, Pierce admits his idea of a baseball school may not fly as far as he hopes.

He’s optimistic though.

"If all else fails, I’ll use it as a storage shed for things around the house," he said. "But I said, ‘well, I have all of this acreage, I might as well do something with it.’"