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Baseball camp turns up the heat on skills at Sweetwater

For 24 years Robert Sapp and his staff have sought to teach boys and girls America's pastime.

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Robby Bray, a nine-year-old Briarwood Academy student, throws from the mound.

Last week, the Gainesville-based camp bearing his name took the more than 60 boys through rugged paces in heat and humidity to help them get better at the game they love.

Briarwood Academy player Price Chalker said he got better because of the weeklong camp.

"I'm a lead-off hitter and am depended on to start rallies," said the 13-year-old second baseman. "I tend to swing for the fences. But here, they helped me to see swinging level is best. We also worked on fielding, bunting and other parts of baseball."

Mr. Sapp said getting things right in the player's routines was a big part of what the camp, in its fifth year of coming to the area, sought to do.

"The number one thing we see a weakness in is throwing. We work to help them develop the proper mechanics of throwing. Once we get those in place, the player can get better," he said.

Another aspect of Mr. Sapp's direction is taking away bad habits.

"Some of these kids played t-ball, where they are taught to hit it far and run fast," he said. "The parents love it when the kids load up their body in a big stance and try and knock it. The coaches usually tell them to hit it toward third base as the best way to get on base. That causes bad habits and we try and show them a more productive way to play."

The 65 boys forked over $105 for 30 hours of baseball instruction, various accessories and souvenirs and last week, a lot of sweat. With a heat index of near 85 degrees and the humidity at 76 percent Friday morning, the last day of camp was a sizzler.

Mr. Sapp said he knew the boys would probably rather be in front of a video game in the cool.

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Reid Edenfield concentrates on taking a swing at a pitch.

"That's one of the things we tell them is that to play baseball, you do it in the heat, so they might as well get used it," he said. "They get breaks and we watch close and really pile the PowerAde into them."

Robby Bray took his sweaty hat off and wiped the sweat from his forehead and said it was "just plain hot.

"I drink a lot of water and they give us breaks, so it's not so bad," said the rising Briarwood fourth grade pitcher and outfielder.

One of the favorite parts of the camp was when the radar gun came out and the boys got a chance to see their pitch speed.

"I threw one 39. I can do better, but I was happy with that," said nine-year-old Justin Adkins, a Briarwood outfielder.


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Trey McAvoy squares up to bunt.




Web posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004


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