BURBANK — For more than a decade, Burbank High baseball coach Bob Hart has run his Bulldog Baseball Camp at Burbank High, where he helps teach the fundamentals of the sport to the younger generation.
As Hart entered his 12th year directing the youth camp, the coach still has ideas up his sleeve to keep the drills interesting and, most importantly, fun for the players who attend one of several sessions offered during the summer.
The camp’s various sessions regularly feature players from 6-14 years old.
At the camp, players take part in drills that teach how to communicate with one another and help improve baseball fundamentals.
“The kids just light up,” Hart said. “You see a kid go from not hitting the ball at all to, at the end, making contact. You can just see his self-esteem start to rise.
“That’s the joy of coaching to me. It’s great to win, but it’s also great to watch these guys develop and their self-esteem and self-image improve. It’s some intangible stuff and I happen to love that.”
With the help of nine of his varsity players and four other baseball coaches, Hart and his crew oversaw a group of 16 kids for one session.
After the athletes stretched and completed their warm-ups, the coaches separated the players into three groups for three exercises: a speed ladder drill, a fly-ball catching routine and an over-the-line session.
One of the key elements in one of Hart’s catching drills is the catcher yelling out “mine” or “yours.” If someone catches it, the others have to do a mix of sit-ups, push-ups or burpee exercises. If no one catches the ball or does not yell out the appropriate phrases, the entire group works on conditioning.
“There’s some value in the drill,” Hart said. “It teaches them to communicate. It teaches them teamwork … They’re learning, too. It’s not like just chasing butterflies. I want them to get better. They leave here and feel good.”
For the youngest attendee in one session, Aidan Casey, the 10-year-old’s favorite part of camp was taking part in the over-the-line game. Hart said because of Casey’s baseball ability he was able to put the player up with a group of 11- to 14-year-olds.
“The scrimmages are fun,” said Casey, who was recommended for the camp by Bulldogs varsity pitcher Ryan King. “You got to hit and you the feel of the people there. You got that feeling that it doesn’t matter what happens.”
The coaches also taught the players the basics of base running, with lessons on running to first base, darting toward second on a double, squeezing home from third and scoring a run from second base.
Among Hart’s varsity players helping out was senior Oaklee Spens, who helped run the speed ladder drill to help improve athletes’ agility and gave advice to the kids running from second to home base. The session concluded with a soft-toss scrimmage.
“The best part about today was just getting to interact with the kids,” said Spens, who has helped out camp operations the last three years. “I liked finding out who plays what and the connections with some of the kids who play your same position and getting to know them more.
“Also, seeing them have fun and trying to incorporate the fun with something that could be taken as punishment, in a way.”