Friday, July 26th, 2019
A light breeze and intermittent clouds helped somewhat cool nearly 130 players, coaches, and volunteers on a sunny Friday in late July at the Police Athletic League fields in north Tampa. Players rotated every 20 minutes among clinics led by volunteer coaches on proper hitting, fielding ground balls, throwing, and pitching. The campers took frequent water breaks both during drills and intermission stops in-between the four activities. Girls and boys appeared in good spirits despite the heat to learn from the best coaches in our strong baseball market within the Tampa Bay Area.
First-year attendee and camp leader over the past four years at Forest Hills Park, Henry Simmons, said “Hopefully I can be here next year. Even my two kids are here, son Aamre (age 10) and daughter Aja (age 12). They know basketball and are here to expand their minds to learn baseball.”
Next, first year on staff with City of Tampa Parks and Recreation at Rowlett Park, and a participant in the City’s programs since 3rd grade, Jalynn Alexander, shared, “the kids are having fun and learning… hopefully, they take this and do something with it. I played softball and basketball… maybe they can make a career from it, especially at a young age... you can teach kids and pass it on.” Alexander brought seven boys and one girl from Rowlett Park. At Rowlett, there are 20 girls and 55 boys with five (5) coaches; “It is different environment here, new sport the kids are learning ...at Rowlett, we have basketball courts, football fields, and computer lab. There is no indoor gym. They shocked themselves being here today, trying something new, and hear from successful players.”
Coach Knight, teaching ground ball skills, weighed in, “I love it… the kids, teaching life lessons, and to help the kids keep learning through baseball and apply it to life...the kids are learning... I have been coaching for the past 10 years; I love it, especially teaching life lessons.”
Coach Mitch Wilkins, Head Softball Coach at Land O’ Lakes High School has been doing these Mulry baseball clinics since the foundation started. “I love to see it grow… it is incredible to me and giving back to Coach Mulry is rewarding.” Wilkins said that he loves to see his players working with the kids, it is so rewarding to Wilkins. Wilkins won a softball state championship in 2017, runners up in 2018, making the playoffs the last four years. Wilkins has coached a player on the Junior National Team against France. This year, player Shannon Saile averaged 13 Ks within 7 innings at Land O’ Lakes High School. Nehanda Lewis committed to FSU; Haylee Fernandez committed to Pasco Hernando College. Wilkins added, “the opportunity to work with our community fills our tanks.”
As the morning continued and more buses unloaded from the neighboring City of Tampa Parks, John Radice counted 110 kids as of 10:41 am.
Alex Sobczak, a member of the Wharton High School baseball varsity team — co-teaching the throwing clinic — agreed that it is great to get kids exposed to something new. Sobczak said the kids are having fun and enjoying themselves.
Coach Jimmy Pitisci said, “if you touch one kid today and impact his or her life, it is worth it.” Pitisci knows as he has 37 years supervising camps with the City of Tampa. “We try to help everyone out and it is important.” Doug Hoover, the coordinator for the last 13 years, added, “When a parent walks up to me and says ‘I was at Carrollwood and remember you. I say ‘thank you’ as it means so much.” Pitisci shared “I am a Bucs season ticket holder; at one game, a kid with curly hair at the game leans over and says to Pitisci ‘you kept me out of jail...I got a scholarship and I was in Port Tampa...you coached me ...thank you.’” Pitisci continued by stating that all kids need a role model, and some kids do not get direction; in fact, some have no male figure at home to guide them.
Clouds at 11:00 finally started passing through providing some relief.
Coach Lori Greer who has served with the City of Tampa for 20 years and with Coach Mulry now five years and counting said: “It went well today introducing the kids to softball is awesome, as some kids do not get the opportunity to play and it is amazing how many athletes are out here today.”
During closing ceremonies at 11:30, Coach Mulry spoke to the children and then asked for questions from the young audience —- “did I (Coach Mulry) play baseball? Are you the one in charge of these camps? Do you work here? How much money do you make? (Answer: Zero) Why doesn't everyone have a camp shirt? How many years did you play baseball, Coach?” Mulry countered in stating he played for 15 years and how all of these instructors are here as volunteers and here to help you. Coach Mulry then asked all the coaches and instructors to introduce themselves and tell where they coach, what sports they played.
Coach Mulry then introduced Coach Matt Kennedy at St Leo University. Kennedy stated “Growing up and staying on the right path is key. Through teams and camps like this, kept me on the right path...I love sports and playing; I played baseball, basketball, and ran track.” Kennedy confirmed via the “avenue through sports” you can graduate from high school and go on to college. Kennedy used baseball to do that; then asked questions of the students —- “what do you do after playing? Get a real job...keep playing? Yet not everyone can play, I could not do this without my degree, giving back and coaching is the only thing I want to do right now. If you can manage your time, you will be pretty successful in what you do, academics #1 and athletics is #2.” Kennedy told the children that a strong work ethic, via athletics and youth sports can set you up for life.
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