Learning To Play Ball: Diamondbacks Offer Week-Long Baseball Camp To Local Youth

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A throng of about 40 aspiring athletes turned out yesterday, Monday, to learn how to play baseball the Luis Gonzalez way.

The youths were participating in the week-long Arizona Diamondbacks Training Center Camps that have been a fixture on the Rim Country summer sports scene for the past six years.

Daily sessions, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., are to be held at Rumsey Park.

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Young campers in the Arizona Diamondbacks Training Center work on their hitting strokes.

During the practices, Training Center coaches -- some former professional baseball players and handpicked by the Diamondbacks organization -- taught the campers, ages seven to 12, the nuances of the game.

Lead instructor at the Payson camp is Jim Caruthers.

At the first camp held in Payson, in the summer of 2000, former Arizona State University and Seattle Mariners player Ricky Nelson was the lead instructor. He went on to coach in the Oakland A's organization.

Diamondbacks Training Center representative Jeff Swanson said the camp curriculum was designed to match the age and skill level of each player.

Skills to be taught during the five days of camp include hitting, fielding, throwing, base running, specific position play and strategy.

Throughout the camp, coaches will mix in contests and competitions to keep the instruction lively and interesting.

Swanson said even though the camps draw thousands of kids each year, an instructor-to-student ratio of no more than 1:10 is maintained in order to provide the best learning environment possible.

"That's why kids keep coming back," Swanson said.

An estimated 12,000 young athletes statewide have participated in the training camps since they first began in 2001.

The Training Center offers close to 200 camps annually in more than 40 Arizona towns and cities.

All campers receive a Diamondbacks T-shirt, cap, backpack and two tickets to an Arizona home game. A portion of the proceeds from the camps will go to the Arizona Diamondbacks Charities Youth Baseball/Softball Fund.

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