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ASU team helps younger players

ROD GUAJARDO | The Natchez Democrat — Jerome Timmons throws a ball to home plate during T.M. Jennings youth baseball camp featuring the Alcorn State University baseball team.

NATCHEZ — With baseball season right around the corner several local youth baseball players hit the diamond at Chester Willis Field Saturday morning to get some instruction from some champion baseball players.

Approximately 20 children, ranging from 9- to 12-years old, practiced basic fundamentals of base running, hitting and defense from coaches and players of the Alcorn State baseball team, who last season brought home the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship and appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

Alcorn State head coach Barret Rey said he wants the Braves’ to use their success as a tool to help reach their community, and the camp is one way they are doing that.

“We are teaching basic skills to the kids, and we wanted to put ourselves in the community,” he said. “After winning a championship we thought it was a good opportunity to put ourselves out in the community.”

Rey said he wanted to focus on the basics with his young campers.

“We are working on the base aspects of fielding, bunting and hitting,” he said. “We are doing basic fundamentals which are what the game has lost. It’s huge (to teach fundamentals early), because it cuts down on what you have to teach (the players) later (in their careers).”

Despite a few weeks of spring-like weather, the campers and the Braves’ players and coaches had to deal with winter temperatures and tough winds Saturday morning, but Rey said that is part of the game too.

“I think we would have more kids had it been warmer, but that comes with the territory,” he said. “They seem to be having fun.”

Rey said he thought his players might have learned more from the camp than the young players.

“I think the older guys get more than the younger guys,” he said.

Alcorn senior pitcher Steve Easter said he’s had experience working with youth players since his high school baseball days, and he enjoys working teaching children the game.

“We want to show them the fundamentals and get them excited about the game,” he said. “We want them to learn about it, especially the black community where it’s harder to find kids that want to play baseball.”

Easter said the campers were all very enthusiastic despite being cold at times.

“They are real excited,” he said. “They listen to everything we tell them and have no complaints.”

Braves’ senior first baseman Eduardo Gonzalez said he wanted to help the players focus on defense and hitting.

“With them being at an early age we want them to learn proper mechanics (of hitting),” he said. “So when they get to our age they have learned the basics and can work on different things.”

Eleven-year-old T.M. Jennings player Christopher Scott said he was learning a lot from the Alcorn players.

“It’s really great,” he said. “It’s a good experience.”

Scott said he kept up with Alcorn’s SWAC Championship season a little bit last year, but he hopes to follow the Braves more this season.

“I would like to go to one of their games over the season,” he said.

Ernest Woods Jr., 11, said he is a shortstop in the T.M. Jennings baseball league, and he wanted to focus on defense during the camp.

“(I want to work on) catching ground balls,” he said.

Woods Jr. said he enjoyed the camp experience.

“It’s fun, but it’s cold,” he said.

One of the men responsible for bringing the Braves to teach the local players was T.M. Jennings coach Deselle Davis. Davis said having Alcorn State there was great for the children.

“It was a blessing to even talk to Coach Rey,” he said. “I met him, and he said he wanted to do something for the kids. First of all they are learning how to play the game the right way and to love the game.”

Davis said having college players do the instructions was a benefit for the children.

“It’s actually great to see people not much older than (the children) doing something positive,” Davis said.

Rey said Saturday’s camp was the first time they have come to Natchez to instruct young players, but it’s something they would like to continue to do.

“It’s something we want to do on a yearly basis,” he said.

Davis said they are working on having another camp next year and possibly having a camp in the fall as well.