Jayhawk camp making pitch for America’s favorite pastime

Football season is winding down and basketball season is picking up momentum, but the sounds at Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark this week are those of baseballs popping into gloves.

Nearly 100 boys ages 7 to 18 are taking part in a three-day baseball camp taught by college coaches with an emphasis on the game’s fundamentals.

“Use your feet! Use your feet! Use your lower half!” KU head baseball coach Ritch Price called out as he watched more than two dozen of the boys practice the long throws they might make from infield positions.

Price and other local and area coaches assisting him, however, were not running a boot camp. They also administered a healthy dose of encouragement.

Aaron Barratt, 11, of Columbia, Mo., left, waits for the pitch, as he and other young catchers partake in a series of defensive drills for blocking low pitches at Hoglund Ballpark. Local and out-of-state youngsters gathered at the ballpark Wednesday for a Kansas University baseball camp.

“We try to get these kids to have fun,” Price said later. “Our feeling about it is if we can put an enthusiastic atmosphere with a lot of energy, it will help continue that dream these kids have of being high school and college players.”

The camp began Tuesday and concludes today. While most of the boys are from Kansas, some traveled from Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and even Arizona, Price said. Many of them are visiting relatives in the area for the holidays.

Several of them, such as Michael Sinks, have attended other similar KU baseball camps. He said he’d learned how to be a better bunter.

Kansas University head baseball coach Ritch Price works with Michael Sinks, 9, of Lawrence, Wednesday afternoon on fielding drills at the KU baseball camp.

“It’s hard work, but it’s a lot of fun,” the 9-year-old Lawrence boy said. “I love baseball. It’s one of my favorite sports.”

Landon Hay, 12, of Baldwin, echoed those sentiments.

“I’m having fun, and I’m learning a lot,” said Landon, who was working out with the catchers. “I can block (home plate, errant pitches) a lot better because they’ve been teaching a lot about blocking.”

Price said he wouldn’t be surprised if someday he is making a recruitment pitch for some of the boys attending camp.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is improve the quality of baseball in the area and make this a dream where some of these kids will want to grow up and be a Jayhawk,” he said.