Learning From The Pros

Diamondback summer camp returns to Rim Country

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A much-anticipated summer camp that has been a fixture on the Rim Country sports scene for the past eight years has long allowed local young baseball and softball players the opportunity to fine-tune their diamond skills.

The opportunity to become a better ball player arrives again July 8 to 13, when the Arizona Diamondback Training Center is held at Rumsey Park.

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Arizona Diamondbacks staff, including pitcher Doug Slaten (45), who has a 2-0 record for the team this season, were among those to visit Payson for a winter mini-clinic. The Diamondbacks will return to Payson July 9-13 to host a five-day Training Center Camp.

Sessions are conducted 8 to 11 a.m. and are open to children ages 6 to 12.

Last year, about 40 aspiring athletes turned out for the Payson camp.

During the practices, Training Center coaches -- some former professional baseball players and hand-picked by the Diamondbacks organization -- taught the campers the nuances of the game.

Lead instructor at the 2006 Payson camp was Jim Caruthers.

Present at a Diamondback-hosted, youth mini-camp held in January at Payson High School was Diamondback minor league prospect, Neil Medchill.

Although Medchill had been drafted by the California Angels, drove home the winning run in the Michigan High School All-Star baseball game and starred for the Chandler-Gilbert Community College baseball team, being in Payson was a thrill for him.

"It's always fun teaching the young kids," he said.

Medchill did not know if he would be returning to the Rim Country for the summer Training Center.

Diamondback officials say they do not yet know who the coaches will be at the upcoming Payson camp.

The fundamentals

Diamondbacks Training Center representative Jeff Swanson said the camp curriculum is 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 children each year, an instructor-to-student ratio of no more than 1:10 is maintained, to provide the best learning environment possible.

An estimated 12,000 young athletes statewide have participated in the training camps.

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

The registration fee is $150, which includes 15 hours of instruction, a Diamondbacks hat and T-shirt.

A portion of the proceeds from the camps will go to the Arizona Diamondbacks Charities Youth Baseball/Softball Fund.

For more information or to register, visit www.dbacks.com/camps or call (800) 821-7152.

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