Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

July 28, 2012

Youngsters flock to Bowen for Jays’ clinic

BLUEFIELD — Despite the wet grounds and cloudy skies, more than 40 boys and girls descended upon Bowen Field, Saturday morning to take part on the Blue Jays Youth Clinic.

Usually an annual affair, the event wasn’t held last year and interim Bluefield general manager George McGonagle rushed to make sure one was on tap for this season.

“Man, I love doing these. We’ve done them for years, normally did two a year and we’d get anywhere from 40 to 60 kids. Unfortunately we didn’t do it at all last year and there was nothing on the schedule this year, so when I came back the first thing I did was try to look at some dates and work with (manager) Dennis Holmberg on getting it going,” McGonagle said.

“Today the field is very wet, so we’re having to redo our schedule a little bit,” McGonagle pointed out. “We’re doing a lot of stuff in the outfield since we can’t do anything in the infield, but thank goodness we’ve got the indoor batting cage. All the kids have made their passes through the batting cage and that in itself is probably a thrill for them because that’s a five-star batting cage with field turf, well lit. We let the parents walk over there and peek in, we don’t get them in there, it distracts the kids, but let them look through the door, see what’s they’re doing in the cage.

McGonagle said Holmberg and the players work great with the kids who range in age from 16, down to five or six.

“We go from 16 down and we’ve got a couple of real little tykes,” McGonagle said. “Holmberg and those players, they’ve been around, they’ve done camps and know to take them over here, or over there, throw them some balls, put them on the tee in the batting cage. You just have a good time and adapt to whoever is here.”

Holmberg, who usually instructs players anywhere from 5 to 10 years older than those at the camp, believes holding such events are a part of the game of baseball.

“I think baseball camps should be a part of every professional baseball team and town, just to get the kids out and to try to teach them a little something about the sport, how to rip a ball, how to stand and hit,” Holmberg said. “Today we had an infield station and outfield station. We had a bullpen pitching station and we had two hitting stations and gave them a chance to rotate, about 20 minutes, and learn a little bit about something. If they can pick up one thing today, that’s great. And if they were to have another clinic two or three weeks from now, they could just keep building.”

The Blue Jays were represented at the camp by 17 ball players and Holmberg believes it is important for the players to take part in community activities throughout the season.

“Everybody here has to do something whether. I think we’ve got a couple of events up at Grants Supermarket and I think the Princeton Rays are doing the same thing. We had some boys go do some reading he other day. It’s like the Christmas tree that we have, giving back to kids and going places to expose yourself and get involved in the community.”

Dave Childress of Tazewell, Va., helped bring a group from the Tazewell Little League.

“We brought up 15 kids from the league and my son is one of the 15,” Childress said. “I think it (the clinic) was great. I actually did the camp when I was small, with the Orioles when they were here years ago. I think it is a good opportunity for instruction to these young kids. These guys are somebody the kids look up to.”

Luke Childress is six years old and a player in the coach pitch league in Tazewell.  He said, “It was pretty much fun. I learned how to hit, catch and throw.”

A catcher, Luke will be entering first grade at Tazewell Elementary this school year.

Matt Dean was one of the Blue Jays who assisted with the camp.

“It was fun. Whenever you can get kids from the community to come out and allow us to help them and give them what we’re taught every day, it’s fun and I really enjoyed it,” Dean said. “I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did and they learned something today.”

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