It’s not exactly every day that a child starting his first season of Little League has the opportunity to be taught the game of baseball by multiple varsity-level head coaches, not to mention one that has minor league experience.
But that is exactly what is being offered this week to more than 120 local kids age eight to 16 as part of the Eastchester Summer Baseball Camp at Dunwoodie Park.
The camp, currently in its first of two sessions, runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and has been around for more 20 years. It's run by many of the same organizers and coaches that started it, including Eastchester Baseball League Co-President Mike Morgan. The registration fee for both sessions is $225, and includes lunch, as much Gatorade as kids can feasibly consume, and almost personalized coaching by a number of area high school head coaches, including Tuckahoe’s John D’Arco, Eastchester’s Dom Cercere, and Pleasantville’s Anthony Cervini.
Campers range in both age and experience levels, from children just being introduced to the game of baseball to varsity athletes. No matter how good or how old you are, however, the part of the game of baseball that is stressed the most at the Eastchester Camp is always the same and is taught with the same attitude.
“Essentially, what we do every day is concentrate on the basics, the fundamentals,” said Tuckahoe Head Baseball Coach John D’Arco. “Our youngsters will learn how to hit, field, run, throw, slide…. You name it, we’ll teach it. In that sense this is more of an instructional camp than a performance camp. We want youngsters to learn how to play baseball the right way, to enjoy playing baseball. As they get older, competition will come.”
Each day, after the fundamentals of the game are taught to all players together, campers break off into age-specific groups to do more specialized drills and scrimmage. Groups never exceed 25 campers and are each assigned at least two coaches and an aide. For Pleasantville Head Coach Anthony Cervini, the attention his campers receive every day is something he could only have dreamed of growing up playing the game.
“There’s so much more out there for them today,” Cervini said. “When I was a kid, it was you did it on your own or you weren’t getting it done. I think it’s great. You get a lot of kids from the community coming back, which is great because they keep hearing the same stuff to make sure they’re doing it correctly.”
For players like 15-year-old Ryan Aquino, who has been attending the camp since he was 8-years old, the chance to have fun with friends while at the same time being taught the game of baseball by some of the best in the area is simply too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“They know what they’re talking about,” said Aquino, who will be a sophomore at Rye Neck this fall. “Anything you need work on, anything you can improve on an inch here or there, they can help you with because they’ve been around for a long time. You get to have fun while someone corrects you if you’re doing anything wrong.”
Besides serving as a one of a kind instructional clinic for local players, the Summer Baseball Camp also functions as a fund-raiser for the Eastchester Baseball League, which runs an “in-house” league for local players between the ages of 13 and 18 and is a member of the Westchester Baseball Association. Eastchester Baseball League games are set to get underway later this week.
However, campers aren’t the ones having all the fun at the Summer Camp. For many coaches involved – including those that won state championships this year – these next couple of weeks are some of the best the entire year has to offer.
“This is something that I literally look forward to all year round,” D’Arco said. “Coaching at the high school level, coming down with the eight, nine, and 10-year olds is a breath of fresh air for me. And you know what? Are there going to be any major leaguers out of this group? Probably not. But the main thing is that the kids of Eastchester, Bronxville, and Tuckahoe love to play baseball. They enjoy playing baseball, and we’re trying to teach them how to play the right way."
Applications for the Eastchester Summer Baseball Camp's second session, going on from July 11-22, is available at the , the T, 's athletic department, or online here.