ST. PAUL - Nearly 100 youth, some just learning about the sport and others who had several years of experience behind them, gathered in St. Paul for the Lakeland Minor Ball Development Camp, April 22 to 24.
The camp was put on by HiTek Sports and Young Baseball Development, along with the help and partnership of three Lakeland minor ball associations - St. Paul, Bonnyville and Cold Lake.
Chris Leroux is an owner/instructor with HiTek and was in St. Paul for the weekend camp. He said about 95 players came out to the camp from across the area. While a similar development camp was held last spring, this year's camp was different in that it brought associations from across the Lakeland together, and it also included some of the younger age groups.
For three days, baseball and softball players were exposed to a wealth of information from coaches with impressive backgrounds in their respective sports.
St. Paul's Joe Young and Bonnyville's Reg Rivard are both known across the region for their experience. Young was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, was part of a Canadian World Jr. Baseball Championship team, and is now the owner of Young Baseball Development. And Rivard had a 10-year professional career, playing with the Texas Rangers/Milwaukee Brewers, and Team Canada.
On the softball side, Miranda Holod and Blaire Taylor brought their unique experiences and skills to the camp to share with young softball players also.
This year, the Rally Cap (baseball) and Timbits (softball) groups were included in the camp, along with the 9U rookie group. The focus for the youngest ball players was more fundamental, such as running, body movements, and awareness, explains Leroux.
For the older athletes, there was pitching, hitting and fielding sessions.
Leroux says the camp had "excellent" staff and while it can be tricky to get all the right people in the right place on the same weekend, things seemed to line up for the Lakeland camp.
"It’s hard to get all those people that can commit to the same weekend, but it worked out perfect.”
He noted that last year, when St. Paul hosted a similar camp, there was lots of interest from the Bonnyville area, which is why the three associations decided to pool their efforts this year.
Leroux also gave credit to St. Paul Minor Ball president Justin Blackburn for spearheading the camp and bringing the other associations together. He acknowledged that there is a lot of volunteer time that goes into hosting this type of development camp.
The Lakeland camp also offered local coaches a chance to stop by and observe the sessions taking place, acting as a bit of a coaching development too, says Leroux.
Positive feedback from parents and plenty of smiles on kids' faces means the camp was a success, he adds. The weather on Saturday and Sunday also helped, with ball diamonds drying up just enough for some of the sessions to take place outdoors.
Looking ahead, Leroux is happy with how the camp was put together with a "Lakeland focus" and he's hopeful that numbers will allow for the camp to continue to be something the area can expect, year after year.