LYNN — It seems as though sports are following a trend where it becomes increasingly important to learn the basics at younger ages. Each July, local youth baseball players come together to learn those basic skills and fundamentals from former pro catcher and current St. Mary’s baseball coach Derek Dana.
The annual Spartan Baseball Basics Camp, in its fourth running this summer, began Monday and continues through Friday. Youth baseball players and hopefuls from ages 7-13 attend the camp at Pine Hill’s Gallagher Park to learn fundamentals and skills. The list of areas covered ranges from hitting mechanics, infield and outfield mechanics, proper throwing and baserunning.
Dana, who coached the baseball team at St. Mary’s to a Division 3 state championship in 2015, is a former Spartan player himself. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 28th round of the 1991 MLB draft and spent three seasons in the organization.
The idea to start a baseball camp came about four years ago and Dana feels as though things have gone well since then.
“I like coaching baseball,” Dana said. “We’re teaching kids the fundamentals when they’re young, the right ways in throwing, fielding, baserunning. We try to cover as much of the game of baseball as we can while still having fun.”
For Dana, the goal is to give players a foundation they can build on as they progress through their baseball careers. The weeklong camp covers a wide range of areas, all of which are important for players looking to learn and improve.
“When they’re this young you try to teach them how to field the ball correctly, how to throw the ball correctly,” Dana said. “The hitting aspect of things, you try to teach them where the hands need to be when going through the strike zone. We keep things simple while giving them a foundation.
“Each kid is different,” Dana added. “Some kids learn at a faster pace. We’re trying to do the whole sport of baseball. We touch on baserunning situations, hitting, bunting, footwork, proper relays. Some kids are more advanced than others.”
In addition to honing in on the basics, the camp makes it a priority to build a fun, enjoyable environment for participants. Players from all over Lynn and surrounding areas usually account for the bulk of each year’s group and many of them participate each year.
“We have kids who started when they were seven years old and have been here every year,” Dana said. “You see them grow and their skills improve each year. We work with kids who haven’t been here before. We’re pulling kids from all over Lynn, Saugus, Beverly. The kids help one another out and they have a good time. We’re trying to work on fundamentals and building a foundation while having fun at the same time.”
The camp also serves as a reunion between Dana and a handful of his former Spartans players. This year’s coaching staff includes two former players in Brent Lozzi and Victor Molle, and one current Spartan in Kyle Ouellette.
Lozzi was a catcher and team captain for the 2015 Division 3 state championship team. Molle, who pitches for the baseball team at Endicott, captained the 2013 St. Mary’s squad that reached the Division 3 North final.
“We’ve had multiple people in the program that come down and help out,” Dana said. “Some of them help us out for a day, some of them help us for the week. The kids like it and they enjoy seeing new faces.”
The camp will continue through the end of the week, with a pizza party to celebrate its conclusion Friday afternoon.
“I’m a coach and a teacher,” Dana said. “I like to see kids gain more and more confidence. Some kids are at different levels skill-wise. When you see a kid smile because he learns something new or he’s doing something better, that’s what it’s all about. When a kid learns a skill and he becomes proud of himself, that makes it all worth it.”