Baseball camps teach basics

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001


LAPLACE- All the kids are between 5 and10 years old. They behave like normal 5- to 10-year-old boys – that is to say, they run around, making noise, looking to get into trouble, or maybe for trouble to find them. Except when St. Charles Catholic baseball coach Paul Waguespack calls to them. “Fall in! Line up shoulder to shoulder, like you’re in the army,” he shouts. The boys obey. “OK, we’re going to do batting practice. Half of you go inside the cage to hit off the tee. The rest of you will hit outside.” He divides them into two groups, and then assigns assistant coaches and Comet players to watch over two or three boys while letting them take turns swinging the bat. Then Coach Waguespack walks among them, taking individuals aside and giving them pointers on how to hit the line drives which one day might make them heroes for their ball club. To the boys hitting outside of the batting cage: “Don’t hit up. I don’t want to see a single ball hit up out here,” says Coach Waguespack. The advice is sage on both a fundamental and practical level – balls hit up are usually popped into the outfield, and are easy outs. Wiffle balls hit up usually end up on top of the batting cage, and are difficult to retrieve. “We want to teach them a little,” says Coach Waguespack. “They’re 7 to 10 years old. We try to teach them how to hit the ball and catch the ball. If you leave here and you’ve had a good time, then we’ve been successful. We do that for two days and they’re excited about baseball.” This is the fourth year St. Charles Catholic High School has held a summer baseball camp, though it is Coach Waguespack’s first time teaching it. Waguespack has coached the Christmas camp and the tune-up camp held over the Easter holiday. St. Charles Athletic Director David Lowry jokes about having a strange notion that teaching children baseball would be fun. “I’ve always loved baseball. When Paul Waguespack got the head coach’s position, he didn’t have any assistant coaches on staff.” With his wife’s permission, Lowry came on and joined Waguespack as an assistant. “It’s fun. Coach (Waguespack) and I talk about this all the time. When we were kids, we didn’t have this (baseball camps). There were a few around the colleges, but they were expensive. Now every high school coach has his own camp. Baseball has come so far. It is so much different from 20 years ago.” Lowry goes on to explain some of the pros and cons of this gradual change in youth baseball. The children learn the fundamentals earlier, but the competition becomes a lot more intense. In some cases, to an unhealthy level. “There are a few bad apples, but most of the parents understand that it’s about playing the game. The good side outweighs the bad.” “This is about playing together, about having other people rely on you and you learning to rely on other people.” Michael Bonura pitches for the Comets, and during the summer plays for Cretin Homes American Legion Team. Today, he is helping Waguespack with the kids. “My favorite part is to take what you have learned and show the kids. Bonura believes that the most important part of baseball is to have fun – even if you don’t get it right. “Its OK to mess up every once in a while.” Eddie Zeringue took a few days off of work to watch his son Adam get a few pointers from Waguespack and his staff. “This is his first baseball camp. We got the flyer through school and I asked him if he wanted to learn a little bit more about the game.” Zeringue coaches his son’s little league team, the Mimosa Bulldogs. Watching the boys play pitch and catch he says the drills were good, and that this was the right sized camp. “You always worry about having too many kids, but this has been good.” The day ends with the boys being split into two teams, the Braves and the Yankees, and having a game. Waguespack pitches while Lowry watches from the dugout. The kids yell and cheer each other on, and eventully the game ends on an 8-8 tie. Edie Triche watches from the behind the backstop. “I think its wonderful to see them enjoying themselves so much. It’s fantastic.” Triche’s two sons play for the Comet’s summer teams, but this morning she is there for her nephews. After the game Triche collects them, beaming while she states how amazing it is that her younger nephew, Nathan, who is only 6 but is having a blast. She had been skeptical about him hitting off the tee, but now he has learned how to bat and throw. Nathan knew what he liked. “My favorite part was the baseball game.” He also has a pair of role models to look up to: “Sammy Sousa and Todd Linden of LSU.”