Ozzie Smith camp grows local talent
Published 11:05 pm Thursday, July 24, 2014
Youths from the area have been enjoying the blend of expert baseball and softball training and fun found in summer camps provided by Ozzie Smith’s Sports Academy after the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association brought such a camp to the city for the second straight year.
The Academy, named after the Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinals shortstop, was founded by David Randolph, who did so to help athletes excel in their sport of choice.
The Academy started administering camps in Virginia, but SYAA baseball/softball commissioner Rob Carpenter noted they have been hosted in other parts of the state.
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“We’re the only one on the Southside that actually does it,” he said.
Carpenter said Shelby Pendleton, a former Lakeland High School and Chowan University softball player, serves as an instructor for the Academy’s camps and convinced Randolph to try to bring them to this area.
Liking the idea of local youths receiving extra instruction from a fresh source, Carpenter came to an agreement with Randolph.
Carpenter said as many as 35 youths signed up this year. He was hoping for more, but figured tournament schedules interfered, and he said, “I think people are kind of burnt out on baseball right now.”
Nevertheless, his 13-year-old son Nathaniel is among those enjoying what the camp has had to offer this year.
“It’s just a lot of fun; you meet new people,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of new things, too. The drills and stuff have been a lot different from what I’m used to.”
His favorite thing about the camp has been its lead instructor, Brandon Vick, who is a rising senior and starting pitcher at Longwood University.
“He’s just a lot of fun,” Nathaniel Carpenter said. “He’s a nice guy.”
Vick, a five-year veteran as a camp instructor, said his goals with the campers have been to get their fundamentals right, teaching them good habits at the beginning of the week and “then advancing those skills as you go through the week, covering all the different aspects of the game.”
Twelve-year-old Sawyer Watkins said as an outfielder, he learned “to turn glove-side when we’re throwing to second for the cut-off.”
He also highlighted the scrimmages that end each day.
“The games we’ve played are exciting and a lot of fun,” he said. “We learn new stuff every game.”
There are several participants in the “Mini Hitters” sub-division of the camp, which includes youths ages 4-6, but only a couple of softball players.
“My two are the only girls that are out here, so it’s been like one-on-one (instruction), which has been great,” said Dede Mandara of Smithfield.
Her youngest daughter, 8-year-old Maggie Mandara, was learning to slide.
“Literally, all those marks on the field yesterday were Maggie,” she said. “She was just learning, so she already knows how to do like a slide-by and all these other kinds of things. She’s loving it.”
The camp concludes today at the SYAA Complex on 501 Kings Fork Road.