WALLA WALLA - There was no shortage of enthusiastic youngsters and good times when the Whitman College men's baseball program hosted its second annual Spring Training Camp at Borleske Stadium.
A total of 55 young ballplayers from ages 8-13 descended on the recent camp, which had Borleske buzzing for nine hours on three consecutive weekday evenings.
The turnout represents a big jump in numbers compared to the first camp, which attracted 15 youngsters at this time a year ago.
"As long as you give the kids a good experience, there's no reason why participation shouldn't go up from year to year," Whitman assistant coach and camp director Mark Michaud said.
"This was an amazing camp!" he said. "It was all about helping the community and giving kids the chance to learn baseball fundamentals, hang around with college players and coaches, and learn how to have fun playing the game the right way."
Michaud, along with Whitman head coach Jared Holowaty and assistants Sean Kinney and Brian Kitamura, ran the camp, although every player on the Whitman roster was on the field helping youngsters with a big assortment of drills.
"We had a lot of parents and family members tell us how great our players were with the children," Michaud said.
"They were impressed with how much motivation and fun our players brought to the camp.
"They said it was such a great camp precisely because our guys truly wanted to be there and were having such a good time working with the kids."
Mendy Hiebert, mother of one of the campers, sent an email of thanks to coaches and players.
"This is probably the best investment I have made for my son (Jacob Plesencia) concerning baseball," she wrote.
There's no question that Whitman coaches and players had as much fun as the youngsters, Michaud said.
"We definitely had a great time," he said. "Working the camp is also a valuable experience for our players because they were taking the skills they have learned in our program and teaching it to the campers. It was a learning experience for everyone involved."
In addition to running campers through an array of skill-sharpening drills, the camp focused each evening on one of three main topics.
Opening night showed youngsters how to put themselves in proper athletic position for hitting, fielding and throwing.
Communication, on and off the field, was a second theme, and the concept of T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) was the third.
In a nutshell, Michaud said, the camp stressed the importance of learning baseball skills as well as team concepts.
"We try to teach and emphasize the two keys to baseball and life - attitude and effort," he said. "Having a good attitude and giving a great effort are the keys."
Their names won't be added to the official team roster, of course, but the young campers should consider themselves part of the Whitman baseball program in a larger sense, Michaud said.
"The kids went through all of the same drills and routines we put our players through. They are part of the Whitman baseball family now, and it was great to have so many of them join our program all at once."