Fun in the sun:

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 7, 2002

Campers at Troy Baseball Camp enjoy fun filled day of swimming and baseball instruction


Sports Editor

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Evan Strother of Brundidge didn’t have much time to talk Wednesday at Ron Pierce and Steve Garrett’s Troy Baseball Camp.

It was high noon.

Swim time.

So Evan, who’s your favorite ball player?

"I don’t have one really," Strother said. Then he was gone, breaking into a run as he headed toward Pierce’s house, following the sounds of splashing water. By lunch time, the pool was full of little boys.

It stayed that way until one of the campers found a dead tree frog and the rest clambered out to get a look for themselves.

Boys being boys.

Pierce, whose land features a batting cage area and baseball field, started the camp along with Garrett last year. This season the numbers have grown to include players from Troy, Brantley, Elba, Tallassee and Luverne. Over 20 children, ages 8-10, have been a part of this first camp which concludes on Thursday afternoon.

The June 10-13 camp will be for 11-12 year olds.

"Last year we didn’t do a whole lot of advertising for it or anything. That was our first year so we were kind of learning how we wanted to do it," said Garrett. "This year’s been real good. We’ve got some good kids out here that are working hard. It’s been hot and these kids that are staying here for two sessions, morning and afternoon, they’re hanging in there. I know I’m tired at night."

Garrett and the campers spend almost eight hours a day working at baseball.

"They haven’t gone crazy and lost interest yet," he said. "We focus on the things we really want them to learn well and mix in other drills as well so they don’t get bored."

Pierce and Garrett like to keep the numbers low. Garrett offers personal videotaped instruction with every participant. Drills are held both morning and afternoon.

"What sets us apart," said Garrett, "is that as a parent, you don’t know what someone’s teaching your child at camp. That’s where the tape comes in so the parents can see firsthand what we do here."

On Wednesday, a majority of the late-morning session was spent videotaping Garrett with each camper. Balls were placed on tees, allowing the players to practice their swings. Garrett directed most of his comments at the parents of each individual player, telling them what their child needed to work on as far as proper batting stance and making contact with the ball.

He also offered words of encouragement.

"He’s going to be a slugger," Garrett said of one player.

Another, from Elba, he described as "very coachable."

"He listens and does what you want him to do. In fact, we need you (the parents) to move on up to Troy so he can become a Trojan at Charles Henderson," Garrett joked.

All tapes also feature Garrett, his son Gaige, and Pierce’s son Brett, demonstrating proper fielding and hitting techniques.

"On fielding we show the backhand, fielding in the front and the ready position on defense," said Garrett. "Some of the things I just wanted everybody to know."

Garrett coaches the CHHS varsity baseball team and said the thing one has to do when working with children this young is to "keep them busy."

"They’re easily distracted," he said. "They can’t pay attention quiet as long. We try to get one drill and take 15 minutes, allow each kid to get 10 cuts (swinging) or whatever and keep them in groups. Because they’ll lose interest pretty quick. We try to change up the drills as much as we can."

Richard Sims, a camper from Brantley, said baseball was

"his favorite sport."

Sims plays shortstop. He likes Atlanta’s Chipper Jones and Chicago’s Sammy Sosa.

"But after I saw The Sandlot I really liked Babe Ruth," he said.

Adam Hill, also from Brantley, said Jones is his favorite player as well and said he enjoyed all aspects of the Troy Baseball Camp.

"I like both the hitting and fielding," he said.

Of course, both players couldn’t talk long.

After all, it was swim time.

Before lunch, Garrett watched assistant instructor Scott Stetson lead a number of the campers into the outfield.

"Look at them," he said, with an equal amounts of humor and seriousness. The boys were running and laughing. "We’re filling their lives with the joy of baseball."