Among the 200 or so kids who participated in this year’s NAIA baseball clinic at Harris Field was 12-year-old Ahmire Jackson — who enjoyed himself so much that he had a request for those putting on the event.
“This is my first time (at the camp),” said Jackson during a break in action on Wednesday. “But next year, I’ll be 13 and hopefully they change it so you can be 13 and still come, because I really like this camp.
“It’s really fun.”
And not just for the kids participating in the event.
“When we were their age, we would try to copy as much as we could from college kids and high schoolers,” said St. Thomas’ Jackie Urbaez. “So just to be able to give back, it’s a great experience.
“We’re happy to be here, happy to enjoy time with these kids and happy to help them out any way we can.”
Bellevue University pitcher Russell Rockwell felt exactly the same way.
“This kind of stuff’s awesome,” Rockwell said. “To get the kids out on a beautiful field like this, getting to meet guys from all over the place; when I was their age, I would’ve loved doing this.
“This is so cool. And I think it’s pretty awesome they do this.”
Several of the players putting on the camp put themselves in the kids’ shoes for a moment — and recalled what it was like when they attended similar camps growing up.
“When I was a little kid, I looked up to (high school and college baseball players) like they were professionals,” Freed-Hardeman pitcher Tyrek White said. “They were my role models and I wanted to be just like them.
“And now we’re here and I want to give back.”
Added Indiana Tech pitcher Seth Sorensen, “I do remember when I was this age. Baseball was so fun and that was such a pure time to play baseball and it’s so gratifying — me ending my career — getting to be out here and see all these kids just starting to enjoy the love of baseball.”
That would certainly describe Jackson.
“I’ve never played baseball before, besides with my cousin at the school I go to. I’m mostly a basketball and football person,” said the Centennial Elementary student. “But baseball, it’s really pretty fun. And this camp is making me want to play baseball more.”
There’s another benefit to the camp, added local father Kyle Helm, who had two kids participating.
“The kids get an opportunity to engage with the players and kind of see them from a different perspective,” Helm said. “It’s just nice for them to meet the players and just be able to personalize the players to the game, for when we’re watching them (at the NAIA World Series).”
Added White, “we try to get to know all the kids, so they’ll remember us when we play, remember us and remember our faces.”
And maybe even remember some of the skills they learned.
“I learned how to throw a fastball,” said Lewiston 12-year-old, Daniel Rothfusz.
How to bunt was the main skill Lewiston seven-year-old Hoyt Stigum took away from the camp.