Strengthening the future

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The pool of baseball talent in Prince Edward County got a bit sharper last week with help from the Prince Edward-Farmville Area Summer Baseball Camp, which grew in its second year.

Held at the Prince Edward County High School baseball field, the three-day evening camp featured approximately 30 campers, about 10 more than last year. The participants ranged in age from rising fourth-graders to rising sophomores, according to Prince Edward Head Varsity Baseball Coach Brandon Kenny, who coordinated the event.

The younger group of participants at the Prince Edward-Farmville Area Summer Baseball Camp practice throwing Thursday evening. Pictured is Josh Simon.

“We had the chance to see some young kids locally,” Kenny said, after noting he thought the camp went well. “We gave out a couple prizes the last day, and I think the guys had fun and learned something along the way. Promoting the game and getting more kids involved is what it’s all about.”

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Kenny just finished his first season leading the Eagles varsity team, and through the camp he is aiming to strengthen the Prince Edward baseball program in the long term.

“With high school kids now, we kind of know what we have,” he said. “So if we can get any fundamentals down to these kids, hopefully it’s a little bit less we have to do years down the road.”

He estimates that 90 percent of the campers were Prince Edward students.

Running June 6-8 from 5-8 p.m., the camp once again enjoyed some elevated appeal due to the presence and instruction of Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) coaches.

“To have the H-SC coaches Jeff Kinne and Robbie Bailey out here means a lot, and we really appreciate it,” Kenny said. “Mark Simon is very involved with (Prince Edward-Farmville Youth Association), and he came out and helped as well. I would love to get more PEFYA coaches involved next year.”

Simon brought his PEFYA regular house league team to the camp to participate and was pleased with the experience.

“The camp was a huge success,” he said, noting there was a great turnout, “and the fact that it was free for Prince Edward County students shows a lot about the character of Coach Brandon Kenny — he really cares about the kids in this community. As far as the benefit, there were several knowledgeable baseball coaches who gave great instruction, and every kid went away better than they were before the camp.”

Prince Edward rising sophomore Aliq Walker said he worked on a variety of things, including power hitting, defense, outfield play and pitching mechanics.

Citing something new he learned, he said, “On the mound each side you stand on, it determines which way the ball goes. If you stand on the right side, then you’re probably going to throw it more at an angle going outside, and if you throw on the left side and you’re a righty, it’s going to go at an angle more to the inside.”

As for his favorite thing he had done through two-plus days of the camp, he said it was “probably just really helping the little kids and stuff get better and everything, because they’ve got a chance to come out here and play and everything when they get older.”

This was Walker’s second year attending the camp, and the same was true for 9-year-old Josh Simon, who said his favorite thing to work on at the camp through two days had been hitting.

He also said he learned to follow through when he throws, and he highlighted the presence of new coaches helping run the camp, one of which was H-SC Pitching Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Robbie Bailey.

The campers were split up into two age groups — 12 and older and 11 and younger. Bailey said he worked mostly with the younger group, teaching them proper throwing and catching. Later, he worked with outfielders, helping them hone their skills.

“And then when we played games on the third and final day, just certain baseball situations that would come up — cut-off men, where to be, all that kind of stuff — (we were) just working on game sense a little bit,” Bailey said.

He also taught pitching to a group comprised of both age groups.

“I’ve been around baseball my entire life, so being able to give back and teach the younger kids, it’s always a blessing and a cool thing to do,” he said. “They seem to have so much fun, and it just reminds me, like, ‘OK, when I’m coaching college, we need to play sort of the same way and just make sure the game’s still fun for us.’”