Badges for Base­ball held at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium

Maryland Independent - - Front Page -

More than 70 mid­dle school stu­dents scat­tered around the grounds of Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium last week on the open­ing day of Badges for Base­ball, a three-day long camp that fo­cuses on base­ball skills while reit­er­at­ing the im­por­tance of sports­man­ship and team­work.

South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs hit­ting coach Jake Opitz led prac­tice in the bat­ting cages, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease.

Each hit­ter re­ceived six pitches. Af­ter Mat­ta­woman Mid­dle School sev­enth grader Cameron Cof­fey solidly con­nected with the first two, Opitz asked, “You play base­ball?”

“Yeah,” Cof­fey said in the re­lease. “You should,” Opitz an­swered.

Then Bryce Djos­sou, a sev­enth grader at Theodore G. Davis Mid­dle School, was up. His swings sig­naled time spent on Lit­tle League di­a­monds. “You play too, don’t you?” Opitz asked, earn­ing a nod to the all-busi­ness Djos­sou.

Badges for Base­ball has been hosted in the county for six years, said Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice Sgt. Bill Welch, a school re­source of­fi­cer with Charles County Pub­lic Schools (CCPS). He was the early co­or­di­na­tor of the pro­gram; now Cpl. Mike DePaulo over­sees it.

“There’s a struc­ture in sports that leads to struc­ture in [a stu­dent’s] stud­ies and vice versa,” DePaulo said. “At camp, they fo­cus on their own abil­i­ties, but also rely on team­work. They re­al­ize they can’t do it all on their own.” That re­al­iza­tion can trickle down to the way stu­dents view school, as well, he said. A stu­dent isn’t on his own — there are teach­ers, tu­tors and peers that can help out when things get tough.

The camp is free for county res­i­dents be­tween the ages of 10 to 13 and is hosted by the Cal Rip­ken Sr. Foun­da­tion, Di­a­mond Dreams Base­ball Academy, the sher­iff’s of­fice, CCPS and other or­ga­ni­za­tions. It offers a camp-like ex­pe­ri­ence to some kids who may not have the op­por­tu­nity to have one, in­tro­duces novices to the game and al­lows those who aren’t so new to work on their skills, Welch said in the re­lease.

With some mem­bers of the Blue Crabs man­ning var­i­ous sta­tions — in ad­di­tion to the cages, there was a stop to prac­tice pitch­ing, field­ing and base run­ning, among other need-to-know ba­sics — ad­di­tional sup­port came from for­mer Bal­ti­more Orioles cen­ter­fielder Al Bum­bry and for­mer Wash­ing­ton Se­na­tor and Ori­ole out­fielder Fred Valen­tine and oth­ers who are mem­bers of Di­a­mond Dreams, said Joe Walsh, first base coach for the Blue Crabs, who is on the board of di­rec­tors of Di­a­mond Dreams.

The first two days of camp is spent de­vel­op­ing and im­prov­ing skills; the fi­nal day will be full of tour­na­ment games, DePaulo said. When the kids aren’t play­ing on the field, they will bide time at a games trailer, the sta­dium’s play­ground and on the bumper boats. Cam­pers are glad they signed up for Badges for Base­ball.

“One of the po­lice of­fi­cers at my school said I should try new things,” said Gabriela Ro­driguez, a sev­enth grader at Davis. “So I signed up and I’m hav­ing fun.” Nolan Wing­field, also a Davis sev­enth grader, isn’t a base­ball player, although the pro­fes­sional play­ers at the camp sug­gested he has a tal­ent for it that should be de­vel­oped. It’s Wing­field’s sec­ond year tak­ing part in Badges for Base­ball. “It’s fun,” he said. “And you learn things.”

Hai­ley Car­roll is a vet­eran soft­ball player. “It sort of runs in the fam­ily,” said the John Han­son Mid­dle School sev­enth grader, adding that her fa­ther in­tro­duced her to the game. It’s her first year at camp, where her bat­ting skills im­pressed Opitz. “This is a chance to learn more and have some fun this sum­mer spent with friends,” she said.

South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs in­fielder Zach Wil­son watches John Han­son Mid­dle School sixth grader Lo­gan Brown par­tic­i­pate in the home run derby sta­tion dur­ing the Badges for Base­ball pro­gram at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium.

South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs hit­ting coach Jake Opitz goes over some tips be­fore cam­pers take their turn in the bat­ting cages dur­ing the Badges for Base­ball pro­gram at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium.

Cameron Cof­fey, left, a Mat­ta­woman Mid­dle School sev­enth grader, and Hai­ley Car­roll, a sev­enth grader at John Han­son Mid­dle School, are no strangers to the game. Cof­fey plays base­ball and Car­roll is a soft­ball player. Both worked on their skills dur­ing Badges for Base­ball at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium.

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