On Friday and Saturday, kids from ages 7-13 gathered at Oestrike Stadium for the annual Eastern Michigan University summer youth camp put together by baseball head coach Jay Alexander and Detroit Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones.
The camp started in Detroit in 2004, while Alexander was the head coach at Wayne State University and moved to EMU when he took over as coach of the Eagles in 2009.
“Joneszy [Jeff Jones] wanted to do something to give back to the community a little bit and he wanted to get me involved,” Alexander said. “It helped me and put my name in the community given that we have a really great relationship.”
The two-day camp was highlighted by special appearances by Jones as well as closer Joaquin Benoit and starting pitcher Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers.
Porcello shared some thoughts about the camp and was impressed with what he observed on the field.
“This is what it is all about to come out here and watch kids outside playing ball, being able to talk them, and ask any questions about us,” Porcello said. “Obviously a lot of them are big Tiger fans, so we are happy to be here and help out any way we can.”
Benoit talked about his experiences as a kid in getting involved with the game back in the Dominican Republic.
“On the streets in the Dominican Republic, you will see kids including myself when I grew up playing like this playing every single day,” Benoit said.
Overview Of The Sessions:
Before each session, Alexander and newly named assistant coach Eric Peterson registered all of the participants.
Peterson was named assistant coach on Aug. 12 and has experienced a problem-free transition so far.
“The transition has been easy thus far,” Peterson said. “It is now more about understanding where EMU is as a program.”
After registering, each participant received an EMU baseball t-shirt and shortly after, began their conditioning drills before being split off into two groups— one practicing and working their stances in the batting cage with Alexander and other assistant coaches, while the other set of kids focused on base running skills with Peterson and current players/volunteers.
The two groups of kids switched areas after an hour to make sure everyone participated in each drill and to learn the fundamentals of baseball.
“A lot of times, us parents love our kids, but we really don’t have the technique and it is okay to pass your kid along to someone who does know,” Alexander said. “I just want to make sure guys understand that you have to hit a certain way to be able to hit effectively when you get out to college. If you can learn that [technique] at a younger age, then you are going to be good and better than everybody else.”
With the sun beaming directly on top of them and no clouds in sight, Peterson would allow the campers an opportunity to take short breaks every ten minutes to rehydrate if they needed it to ensure their safety and well-being.
Once the final session ended, the campers glazed from the field to the stands where they saw Benoit, Porcello, and Jones.
The campers were excited see two of their favorite players up close and with the ability to ask them and Jones questions about the game of baseball.
Everyone gathered into center of the bleachers where home plate is located and after an introduction from Alexander, the campers engaged in a 30-minute question and answer session with the players and pitching coach.
The highlight of the session was a question from one of the
campers directed to Jones about the status of shortstop Jhonny Peralta once he returns from his 50-game suspension.
“We haven’t talked about what we will do with him when he returns,” Jones said.
More From The Q & A Session:
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Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.