Slid­ers camp was a home run

The Delhi News-Record - - SPORTS - JACOB ROBIN­SON

Court­ney Gil­bert has played in the NCAA and rep­re­sented both On­tario and Canada on the soft­ball di­a­mond, but the Delhi na­tive never for­got where she started.

With some time off for Christ­mas dur­ing her fi­nal year of un­der­grad at the Univer­sity of Detroit Mercy, the DDSS alum, along­side boyfriend/Lon­don Ma­jors hurler Brae­den Fer­ring­ton, held the first ‘Back­door Slid­ers Baseball Camp’ in Nor­wich on Dec. 29.

“When I first went away to col­lege I al­ways knew that I wanted to give back to my com­mu­nity specif­i­cally,” said Gil­bert. “I had played for the Brant­ford (Bob­cats) or­ga­ni­za­tion for quite some time but I ini­tially started out in a ru­ral set­ting and there are a lot of kids in the Delhi, Nor­folk County and Ox­ford County area that don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the op­por­tu­nity to train at a higher level at this time of year.”

So along­side Fer­ring­ton, Gil­bert ad­ver­tised a one- day camp for young­sters at the Nor­wich Com­mu­nity Cen­tre. All 31 spots filled up quickly – so much so they’re al­ready think­ing about a sec­ond go-round.

“We were amazed, we ac­tu­ally ended up hav­ing to turn kids away which is un­for­tu­nate but we’re look­ing for­ward to the sum­mer be­cause we can take a few ex­tra kids into an out­door camp and get a lit­tle bit more help and be able to help more kids,” said Gil­bert.

Gil­bert, Fer­ring­ton and fel­low helpers (Emily Camp­bell, Jake Mans­field, Jaime Rolo­son, Ron Rolo­son, and Mark McCal­lum) fo­cused on pro­vid­ing a fun-filled day and show­cas­ing drills campers could try at home.

She and Fer­ring­ton also aimed to mo­ti­vate the next gen­er­a­tion.

“I just wanted to in­spire the younger kids to con­tinue to im­prove and get bet­ter and give them the re­al­iza­tion that they can ac­tu­ally get to (a high) level if they want to,” said Gil­bert.

Fer­ring­ton may be a Lon­don na­tive but he knew the ma­jor­ity of campers through his work at Home Run Sports – an all-baseball equip­ment store – in the For­est City.

“It’s kind of nice to see fa­mil­iar faces and good to see them smil­ing at the end of the day know­ing they ac­com­plished some­thing rather than do­ing noth­ing over the Christ­mas break,” Fer­ring­ton said.

“I know with my ca­reer I’ve gone through ups and downs, it’s been a roller coaster ride but I’ve learned in my later years to just have fun and en­joy ev­ery mo­ment. That’s what I told the kids. When I did the pitch­ing side of it, some of the kids threw a lit­tle wild but I was like ‘that’s al­right, you hit the mas­cot’ and they would laugh…I know they had a good time with it.”

Gil­bert is cur­rently pre­par­ing for her fi­nal sea­son with Detroit. She’s also mulling over where to study to ob­tain a masters in be­havioural sciences. That ex­tra work­load will likely bring her play­ing ca­reer to an end but Gil­bert hopes to keep the camp go­ing and hasn’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of coach­ing in the fu­ture.

“I am def­i­nitely go­ing to keep my mind open to it,” she said. “I know I want to for sure get my PhD in the fu­ture but if coach­ing were ever an op­tion, I wouldn’t pass that up.”

Court­ney Gil­bert

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