Playing baseball the right way is what it's all about. That's what dozens of young boys learned from instructors at the 30th Annual Robert Sapp Baseball Camp held last week at the Thomson-McDuffie Recreation and Leisure Services' Sweetwater Park.
Coach Sapp, former head baseball coach at the University of Georgia and a former prep coach, too, emphasizes instructional baseball. His camps are held every year in Thomson, Dublin, Warner Robins, Richmond Hill, Saint Simons Island, Brunswick and Flowery Branch.
During last week's four-day camp at Sweetwater Park, youngsters were taught things about the game such as throwing, catching, and hitting. They also were taught bunting techniques.
"All of the things we teach these boys and girls is aimed at helping them become better baseball players," said Coach Sapp, who compiled a 915-210 record during his 35 years as head coach at Middle Georgia College and UGA. "We try to teach them a lot of things during our camps. We hope it will benefit them as they grow and develop into future middle and high school baseball players."
Coach Sapp doesn't teach all by himself. He relies heavily on the coaching abilities of several persons on his staff. They include: Tim Harris, Wilcox High School; Mark Estes, Northside-Warner Robins High School; Jimmy Brown and Charles Skipper, both from Brunswick High School; Jimmy Lawler, Flowery Branch High School; Jason Brett, Houston County High School and Mitchell Curry, Richmond Hill.
At Sweetwater Park, some of the instructors and an assistant actually live in Thomson. They included Scott Swann, Evan Howard and Hunter Brinkman. Coach Derek Luton from Aiken High School also served as a local instructor.
The boys attending the Robert Sapp Baseball Camp last Thursday received some invaluable lessons from Coach Sapp.
"All of you players look like you're going to be good players someday," said Coach Sapp, noting he wanted to encourage them to work hard at the game and maintain a positive attitude.
He emphasized them going to the plate with one sole thing in their minds: Get a quality at-bat.
"When you go to the plate, you need to get a quality at-bat," said Coach Sapp.
"Don't take bad swings and a lot of strikes."
It's also important to have a positive attitude.
"You can't let negativism get to you," he added. "You need to stay as positive as possible."
Coach Sapp talked to the youngsters about the importance of getting on base and what to do when a player reaches base.
"When you get on base, the objective is to score," he pointed out. "When you score for your team, it's the ultimate."
A batter must first learn how to reach first base.
"When you are batting, you've got to figure out how to get to first base," said Coach Sapp. "And when you're running to first base, go full speed. You get out of that box as fast as you can. Get out of the habit of stopping at first base. Work on running through the base."
Another important note that players should remember when batting "is to put pressure on the defense," he said.
Coach Sapp also reminded the youngsters, "Do what you can to help your team."
Base running is another key skill, he said.
"It's important to learn good base running," he said. "It's all relevant. You've got to run hard whether you're a slow runner or a fast runner."
Coach Sapp also stressed the importance of knowing how to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
"Bunting is important late in a ball game, especially if you have runners in scoring position and the game is tied at 2-2," said Coach Sapp.
"You might be called on to bunt so that a base runner can move up."
A batter planning to bunt should always make sure the pitch is a strike.
"Don't bunt balls," said Coach Sapp. "It's not a good habit to get into."