The Camp

March 7, 2011

It was Wednesday night, 7pm. Andrew and two friends were miles from home. In fact they had traveled 40 miles on frozen Wisconsin roads. They would spend the next 90 minutes in a vacant warehouse-like facility.

 They were at a once-a-week baseball camp – the Bigler Baseball Camp and Academy. Bigler has taught and instructed young players for years. These three boys were among a “class” of six, ages 12-9.

There are millions of youth “camps”, “classes” and “academies” catering to all interests and topics. Kids are participating in all sports, technologies (engineering camp), performing arts (ballet), and music (orchestra). These programs have purpose and intent. The kids aren’t going to camp to play soccer. They are at soccer camp to focus and improve their play. And the parents, at a minimum, support the purpose.               

Heck, we one time took week-long summer vacation combining lush, enjoyable Wisconsin and Andrew’s participation at Violin Camp. He had just begun playing. The “camp” was brutal. We had gone to relax. We quickly learned most “campers” were willing to travel any distance to attend. It could have been located in Gary, Indiana. I recall a rigurus schedule and very little laughing. In fact I remember several kids looking pained, pleading “Help me.”

We left after 2 days.

Bigler’s training facilities is located in a large open unit in a one-level commercial building in an remote business park. You entered in the back through an unmarked door. It is spartan. You have to really want to find it. The space could accommodate 2-3 pitching “mounds”, a wide area for throwing or fielding ground balls, and, of course, 3 batting cages. It looked as permanent as grounds used by a visiting circus.

But the boys seem not care. They are playing baseball. And the coaches were giving individual instruction.

How much does baseball training cost? The Bigler instruction is $500 for 12 weeks and once a week. Is it too much? I’m not sure. I think I hit 100 ground balls a weekend when Bill wanted to learn how to play. It cost me time, two good gloves, a bat and a field. Of course, that was 20 years ago and only pro ball players went to camp. But Bill wanted to practice and learn from his Dad. I’m not sure Andrew is in the place. How many times have you heard a parent say “They/he doesn’t want listen to me”?  The a good coaches’ experience and instruction is worth it.

 But what about practice? You can practice violin in your room. Instruction can happen in a church basement. There is no seasonality to Irish dance. You can dance all year. There is a weather component to year-long baseball development. There is a reason why LSU, Arizona State, and Texas have successful Division I programs. Kids in Wisconsin have 7 good months a year. Dad’s going to have to put a tarp up in the basement to retain the instruction.

 Of course, it could be a lot worse. We have friends immersed in youth ice hockey. Never.

But I love baseball. At this point, Andrew loves baseball. So despite the cost, time commitment, equipment and instruction, it’s what he wants. He has a passion – at this point. And parents should support their children’s passion.

Until the first time he strikes out looking. Then he’s out of the will.


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