Baseball players flock to Falcon winter camp

NORTHEAST GLENDALE - A lingering winter chill and a soggy diamond weren't about to deter nearly 45 participants from learning some of the essential fundamentals of baseball.

From Glendale to La Crescenta and across neighboring towns, children 7-14 flocked to Stengel Field on Thursday to take part in the 17th annual Falcon Winter Baseball Camp, which is spearheaded by Crescenta Valley High baseball Coach Phil Torres.

Many of the basics were covered, including hitting, fielding, running and agility during the two-day camp, which will conclude Friday.

With local Little League baseball and softball tryouts set to take place in January, the campers put on their thinking camps Thursday while absorbing information provided to them by Torres, his assistants and a host of his former players lecturing on the finer points of each fundamental.

"It's about getting them tuned up for their upcoming seasons," said Torres, who guided Crescenta Valley to the Pacific League championship last season. "It's about giving back to them and seeing what they can learn.

"Maybe there will be something they remember from the camp when they are playing for their team."

Torres put the campers to work on the field, which remained wet following a rain storm from earlier in the week.

The camp was divided into several stations, including one that featured a base-running drill in center field.

With their cleats off, the participants raced about 40 feet to home-plate replicas several times.

Their jerseys had multiple grass and mud stains, but none of the participants seemed to mind while they ran through the whipping wind.

"You can learn all kinds of different things when you do a drill like this and then apply it to the game," said Will Smiley, 13, who has taken part in the camp several times. "I want to learn how to be a better base runner and find different ways that you can be safe.

"You never stop running and just try to improve in all areas of the game."

On the fringe of the warning track in center field, 14 campers took part in several drills geared for catchers. Using tennis balls in place of baseballs, the catchers learned how to block balls in the dirt and position themselves to catch pop-ups under the guidance of former Falcons standout Chad Nacapoy, who was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 38th round in the 2012 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft in June and was a member of Team Philippines in the World Baseball Qualifier in November.

Jake Jilizian, 11, blocked several balls, something he said could be vital during a game.

"I like catching the best because you are in the game all of the time," said Jilizian, who played last season for the La Crescenta Storm. "You need to be ready all the time.

"If there's a guy on third base, you need to be ready to block a pitch. Pop-ups aren't easy either. You have to know how to take off your mask and position yourself to catch the ball, especially in fair territory."

While Torres hosts a similar camp during the summer, the winter version provides the campers a final chance to brush up on their skills.

"They can learn some things and have it broken down one last time," Torres said.

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