POWHATAN – Summer baseball had one more chance to shine on a bright and sunny Wednesday at Fighting Creek Park as the youth put their running, fielding, throwing and hitting skills to the test in the scrimmages that capped off Powhatan’s three-day summer baseball camp led by Ott Mullins.
The 56 campers visited various stations located across and in between the different baseball fields, sharpening their skills and focusing on aspects that included fielding, hitting in the batting cage, tee work, pitching, catching, base running and the proper way to bunt.
That late morning on Wednesday, the campers divided into three groups and took each other on in three different baseball games – and it was serious business.
“They were going at it!” Coach Mullins said. “It’s good to put those age groups together – a lot of times, during the Rec League season or maybe Travel Ball season – for the younger guys, they’re placed with guys that are exactly the same age, so you’ve got 14-year-olds playing with 14-year-olds. But out here, we had 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds playing against one another, and….those younger guys, they really get after it, and that’s good. Bringing that competitive spirit out, I think that’s a great thing that this camp does overall.”
Throughout the camp, they learned from some of the community’s best, including Nathan Mullins, Duane Partusch, American Legion Post 201 Seniors head baseball coach Eric Mead and longtime coach Bob Baltimore, of whom Mullins said: “Everybody looks up to him – he’s just such a staple for Powhatan Baseball.”
“They’ve been a good group of kids, good campers,” Coach Baltimore said. “They’ve been extremely attentive.”
But the coaches also had plenty of help, as several players from the Powhatan High School baseball program pitched in, helping with stations and working with the young participants.
Some of those players had once come through the camp as campers themselves.
“It was fun – I remember all the older varsity guys helping out,” said Powhatan Baseball player Jack McMinn, who first came to the camp as a second grader, and with this camp got to be that older player for the youth to look up to.
“It was very special because it was just fun seeing them when they’re younger, and seeing them really just improve over the week and see them get better,” McMinn said, “and then know that I was just like that when I was younger.”
“I remember when I was a kid and coming here and playing with the varsity guys, I learned from them,” said Powhatan Baseball player Caleb Kersey. “It’s just kind of cool that they will have memories of us…”
“It was cool to watch all the kids and how I used to do that too and how I can teach them now…it was cool to see,” said Powhatan Baseball’s Jake Burton.
“It just reminds me of me as a kid learning from all these older guys,” added Powhatan Baseball player Hayden Wasson, “and just trying to give them as much knowledge as I can [so] they get better.”
Powhatan’s players could be seen smiling and lightheartedly chatting with their varsity teammates while also vocally encouraging the campers.
“I know they’re out here, just having a good time with their buddies and everything - there’s no pressure on ‘em or anything like that,” Mullins said of the players, “but they get to come out here and I know just from experience that, when you get out, and you get an opportunity to do some instructing on things that you’ve learned over the years from different coaches and that kind of thing…for some of the guys that are coming into their sophomore, junior or senior year in high school…or even going on and playing at the college level, it helps you kind of figure out what you need to do and some things that you can improve on as a player because you’re instructing these other guys to do just that.”
And the younger kids – they just look up to those older ball players so much, Mullins said.
“It’s cool to see them interact with one another,” he said. “It’s good all the way around.”
Coaches Baltimore and Mead could be heard telling the campers that they enjoyed the camp and enjoyed working with them. Following camp-ending ice cream, multiple young campers said “Thanks, Coach!” to Mullins as they left.
“I think the guys that came out to the camp really got a lot out of it,” Mullins said. “It’s some things that they can take along with them…I told everybody that our focus would be on fundamentals and having fun, and I think that’s the basis of the game really.”
No matter where you go or where you wind up – even if it’s the major leagues, it starts somewhere, Coach Baltimore said – “and it starts on a field like this, with little kids coming out and learning how to play baseball and enjoying themselves.”