Fundamentals with the Falcons

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Never underestimate the motivating power of Gatorade on a hot summer day.

With each victory in a competition or heads-up play performed in a drill, the attendants of the second annual Falcons Summer Baseball Camp would rapidly scurry across Stengel Field to claim their liquid reward.

But it was far more than just the chance to win free sports drinks that lured a sizable group of youth ballplayers ages 7-12 to Stengel Field for the camp, which began on Monday and concluded Thursday.

The primary draw of Falcon clinics, which began as a winter program and last year branched out to include a longer summer session, remains the opportunity to learn the finer points of the game under the tutelage of veteran Crescenta Valley High baseball Coach Phil Torres and the vast number of coaches and players who frequently turn out to assist him in running the camp.

"I've got tons of coaches out here, so it makes it really nice," said Torres, whose camp offers the rare ratio of 40 coaches to about 90 campers. "It's great because my CV kids are doing some of the teaching. I think both sides get something out of that."

Current Falcons such as pitchers Elliott Surrey and Kyle Murray were among the high school age coaches on hand, along with numerous college players to help monitor pitching and fielding clinics in the bullpen and outfield, batting practice and infield fundamentals on the diamond and games that incorporated skills from base running to throwing.

"I learned how to slide and how to pitch," camper Brooke Beer said shortly after finishing a modified game of pickle, in which four bases were arranged in a square with coaches attempting to throw out runners stranded between the bases. "It was fun."

Elsewhere on the field, a pitching machine arced upward, launched balls high into the air to simulate pop flys next to a group of older campers warming up with some short toss.

"We've moved all around the first two days, did some fundamentals," Torres said. "[Wednesday and Thursday] it's some competitions for some fun."

Guest speakers included former Falcons basketball Coach John Goffredo and current Cal State University of Northridge baseball Coach Matt Curtis, who made an appearance Thursday.

Ty Hill, 12, won a throwing game called 21 earlier Thursday to earn a free CSUN baseball cap donated by Curtis as a prize.

"I love it, it's a great experience, I do it every year since I was 7," Hill said of the camp. "[My favorite part is] the hitting, they have great coaches for hitting and all the college players help."

Appearances by former area players now in the big leagues is always a favorite part for the campers, although the line of questioning from the campers turns more often to such burning queries as, "Who's the biggest player in the majors?" or "What road ballpark has the best food?" than to batting stances or curveball grips.

"This is really well organized with the stations and everything," said Leo Rosales, a Glendale resident who pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season and stopped by the camp Wednesday and Thursday. "It's pretty nice, that's why I came by."

Current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reliever Trevor Bell and recent draftee John Alexander, both out of Crescenta Valley, paid visits to the camp throughout the week.

"It's nice to give the kids maybe a message they can take home," Torres said.

Bell appeared briefly on his way to an afternoon home game on Wednesday to accept a shirt autographed by all the campers and he later e-mailed Torres a picture of the shirt in his locker.

"He said he wore it around [the Angels clubhouse]," Torres said. "They won [on Wednesday], so he's got to wear it again."

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