Published 12:00 am Friday, January 30, 1998

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / January 30, 1998

I never try the hide the fact that I am a baseball nut. I enjoy just aboutany sport, but baseball has always been my first love. Give me a game on abeautiful spring afternoon or a warm summer’s night and I am one happycamper. And perhaps one of my biggest thrills is seeing the youngergenerations keeping the spirit of the game alive.

I spent an enjoyable morning at Destrehan High School last Saturdaywatching a number of youngsters participate in the LSU baseball camp.

LSU assistant coach and camp director Dan Canevari and players Mike Daly,Josh Dalton, Jeremy Whitten, Brad Cresse and Weylin Guidry, a HahnvilleHigh School graduate, conducted the camp and it was hard to determinewho had the most fun, the youngsters or the players.

Instruction was a goal of the camp but so was having fun. The players,themselves just a few years out of high school, instructed in a way thatwould help the youngsters understand and keep their attention.

Canevari opened the session by introducing the players and giving anoverview of the camp. One of the unique features of the camp was that theparents, many of whom coach in Little League, were allowed on the fieldso that they too could pick up a few pointers.

The youngsters were divided into three age groups. Whitten, slated to bethe Tigers’ starting center fielder this season, taught the fundamentals ofbaserunning, one of the most overlooked aspects of the game. Whitteninstructed his group the proper way to get out of the batter’s box, the wayto lead off and what to do once the ball has been hit. Whitten stressed theimportance of baserunning, giving experiences of how it has won and lostgames in the past.

Cresse, battling for the starting catcher’s spot, and Dalton, slated to bethe successor to Brandon Larson at shortstop, taught battingfundamentals. They went through swing mechanics and the drills theylearned with the Tigers. Cresse and Dalton then conducted soft toss drillswith the youngsters while also teaching them how to hit inside andoutside pitches.

Daly and Guidry were responsible for instructing the participants in thelong-lost but all-important art of bunting. The players went through thefundamentals of using the bunt both for sacrificing and for a hit.

Considering the way I have seen some major leaguers try to bunt, I wasrefreshingly surprised about how well these 10-18-year-olds knew howto put the ball down.

The campers were then divided into their positions, with Cresse takingthe catchers, Dalton and Daly the infielders, Whitten the outfielders andCanevari and Guidry the pitchers. The camp concluded with the playersconducting an autographed session for the campers.

Credit should go to Destrehan High School and coaches Mark Willoughby, Kenny Montz andKenny Haydel for holding the camps. To coach Canevari and the players fortaking the time, getting up early on a Saturday morning on a day when theyhave practice in the afternoon, to remember where they came from andhelp a group of youngsters improve their own game.

Credit should also go to the parents of the campers, for taking the timeand money to send their children to these kind of camps to help themimprove on something they enjoy doing.There may be complaints about what is wrong with the game of baseballtoday. But for a few hours on a sunny Saturday morning, all that was rightabout it was on full display.

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